IAIN ROBERTSON 

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Despite the carefully managed PR emerging from PSA Group, writes Iain Robertson, the latest electrified Corsa model is a pale shadow of the Corsa that preceded it, as both accommodation and detailing have been allowed to slip.

Next generation versions of everything, from chocolate bars to white goods, and motor vehicles to property, carry a distinct responsibility from their manufacturers, in that they should improve tangibly. Not to meet exacting expectations constitutes a ‘fail’ and introduces market criticism. It is a factor that occurs rarely, because market-aware companies are understandably wary of introducing the potential of losing leverage.

Traditionally, French manufacturers do follow market trends, although they can be shockingly slipshod, when introducing evolutionary changes. In many cases, Gallic next models always try to be ‘different’ from their predecessors, usually by radical means. It can work in a fashion-centric field but the next-best-thing does not always reproduce market success and the French response to critique generated is seldom more than a cliché shrug of the shoulders.Vauxhall-Corsa-e-7

French carmakers are an unique breed. They can innovate to a point of annoyance but, when they get a package right, they often wreck their own market, either by ignoring traditional model life expectancies, which leads to tedium, or by spearing off elsewhere, which leads to trust issues. As a result, even with a strongly supportive domestic market, their sales charts can fluctuate violently. Peugeot-Citroen has endured these problems throughout the individual brands’ histories, an aspect that almost led to PSA’s collapse only a few years ago…and not for the first time. If you seek a recent example, just look at DS.

It is only Chinese funding that has enabled PSA to expand its empire, which includes the acquisition of Vauxhall (and Opel, in Germany) and its more recent strategic alliance with the failing FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automotive, the US-Italian combine). With China emerging from its financial crisis, bolstered by its status as an immense manufacturing state, upon which the entire world relies, while beneficial (apparently) to PSA Group, a ‘cars-as-white-goods’ principle is being landed at potential customers’ doors and this is never more than obvious through what is happening at Vauxhall.

While electrification is the motor industry’s current hot spud, being among the first to market with a fully electric mainstreamer could be termed as ground-breaking but it can only be so, if the new/replacement product is better. In Corsa e’s case, it is not so. PSA platforms have already been criticised for poor packaging. Based on the same Common Modular architecture as the Peugeot e-208, the previously accommodating Corsa is now cramped and uncomfortable, factors that will negatively afflict any potential sales success.Vauxhall-Corsa-e-9

All but identical below the exterior bodywork to the Peugeot e-208, by which a 50kWh lithium-ion battery pack, complete with cooling system, resides between the front and rear axle lines, a 134bhp electric motor drives the front wheels through a single-speed transmission. However, the package is space-robbing and it is far from lightweight, Corsa e tipping the scales at slightly more than an unfortunate 1.5-tonnes. To be fair, it does not blunt the acceleration massively and the Corsa e will still blast from 0-60mph in around 7.9s, although its maximum speed is restricted to 93mph in order to squeeze some extra range from the ‘tank’.

Personally, I feel that BEVs are going to be responsible for erasing individual brand characters. In essence, they all offer the same sort of power, dependent on class, engineered in similar ways, which results in similar non-descript whirring noises and notional ranges of around 200-miles, in the case of the compact sector. While claims of ‘zero emissions’ are spurious in countries where the ‘blame’ is only being shifted from fuel pumps to power stations, it is only a matter of convenience that warrants poorly educated consumer support, which remains at a low ebb, despite manufacturer assurances and PR flannel to the contrary. Although Vauxhall claims a range of up to 209-miles, practicality suggests that the anxiety will reel in enthusiasm at around the 150-miles mark, which may, admittedly, be enough for some people.

Of course, 0-80% recharging of the Corsa e can be carried out at a 100kW rapid-charger in the customary 30-minutes, or 45-minutes at a regular charging point. A full recharge, which draws into use the Corsa e’s 7.4kW on-board charger plugged into a domestic wallbox occupies 7.5-hours, which is par for the course. Corsa e owners benefit from a free wallbox and six months of free recharging through BP Chargemaster (thereafter top-ups will cost around £7.00). Ironically, there is no storage area within the pokey 267-litres boot for the Type 2 charging cable and a three-pin plug is not supplied either.Vauxhall-Corsa-e-8

Another common thread for EV owners lies in the £30,310 price tag for the Corsa e in Elite Nav trim, which is a hefty toll to pay for awkward access to the rear seats, where space is sorely compromised. There is adequate space up front, as long as the driver and front passenger are not over six feet tall. However, the quality of the plastic mouldings has also been reduced, even though there is plenty of equipment in Elite Nav specification, with the customary range of driver aids and connectivity options.

On the driveability front, the suspension inherited from the e-208 is nuggety at best and lacks compliance. While the steering is positive and well weighted, the car struggles to conceal its amidships bulk, especially in longer corners and surface bumps can upset composure. It is slight but will be felt regardless. The brakes work strongly and, even with regenerative braking, do not allow the Corsa e to be driven as a ‘one pedal’ car. At lower speeds and around town, the Corsa e feels like every other electric vehicle; quiet and spirited, when necessary.

Conclusion:       While BEV justification can lie in affordable daily running costs, even lease rates (c.£290/month) for the Corsa e are relatively steep. The Corsa e is not as advanced as some of its rivals, which is a disappointment, especially when the other annoyance factors are included. Personally, I would not bother with the Vauxhall Corsa e, as there are better EVs available from rival brands.