Vauxhall's Corsa is oft forgotten as Ford's Fiesta is a sweeter drive, the cabin quality of Volkswagen's Polo is peerless, and the likes of Hyundai offer better value and better warranties – hence the reason Vauxhall launched its 100,000-mile warranty last year to compete with Koreans.
However, while the Fiesta topped the UK sales chart in 2010 (103,013 sold), the Corsa was in fourth place (77,398) with only the Astra (80,646) and Focus (77,804) ahead. It's an important model, and one that's just been treated to a mid-life facelift. Read on for CAR's first drive review of the new facelifted Vauxhall Corsa.
How can I spot the surgeon's tweaks on this new facelifted Vauxhall Corsa?
Most obvious is the new Meriva-influenced nose, with more shapely (and chromed-ringed) headlights, lots more chrome on the upper grille, a much bigger lower grille, and vertical rather than horizontal fog light surrounds with, of course, chrome-trimmed fog lights.
There are new colours too, including the Guacamole of our test car (not pictured) that's a slightly grubby but very pale green and looks like it'll glow in the dark.
Is that it?
Sort of. There are other various trim tweaks, but Vauxhall actually upgraded the engines and chassis of the Corsa at the start of 2010 so this is more a cosmetic update in line with last year's under-the-skin updates.
The 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine we tried gained 10bhp and 4lb ft in 2010, so it now produces 98bhp at 6000rpm and 128lb ft at 4000rpm. But along with more power and torque came fewer emissions (now 134g/km) and an improvement from 46.3mpg to 49.6mpg. It's not one of Vauxhall's eco-friendly, Ecoflex models so there's no stop/start system to artificially improved the figures.
It's brisk and refined and quiet enough at low revs, and there's a little kick just below the 4000rpm torque peak, but that's also almost precisely the point where the engine becomes rather raucous and further progress towards the redline is somewhat noisy. With only five forward gears, an 80mph cruise also equates to around 4000rpm, so you won't top 40mpg on a motorway cruise. It needs another gear, or at least a galactic fifth.
Hold that thought, because that's exactly what Vauxhall offers. For £115 less you can buy the same 98bhp model but with longer gear ratios, which drops the CO2 to 129g/km while the fuel figure improves to 51.4mpg; the 0-62mph time takes three-tenths more, and the in-gear times are slightly tardier too. Hyundai's 1.4-litre i20 offers 52.3mpg and 125g/km, VW's more expensive 1.2 TSI Polo manages 53.3mpg and 124g/km, and Ford's 1.4 Fiesta trails with 48.7mpg and 133g/km.
What about the rest of the facelifted Corsa?
Impressive. Inevitably it gives second best to the Polo, but not by as much as you might think; quality and cabin solidity is comfortably ahead of the Fiesta (the Ford's air-con controls grate, while everything you twist and twiddle in the Vauxhall is first rate), and it feels like a grown up supermini with real depth, even if the orange backlighting is a little old-school.
Our test car came in high-level SE trim, and for your money you get a particularly well-specced Corsa. Electric folding mirrors, central locking, CD player with aux input, a multifunctional steering wheel, rake and reach adjustment, air con, auto lights, rain sensitive wipers, cruise control, plus a heated wheel and heated front seats. All the kit you'll ever need on a supermini, but also a total of £15,255! However, go online to Vauxhall's own site and you'll get nearly £2k off that price, so head down to the dealer and haggle hard.
On top of that lot our car featured adaptive cornering lights (£275), 17in alloys in lieu of the standard 16s (£360, but the ride is a little lumpy) and a touchscreen sat-nav/Bluetooth/USB connectivity combo (simple and clear and easy to use with a 5in screen and 2D and 3D maps, but it's £750 so buy a TomTom). Total? One hundred pounds under £17k.
The electric power steering weights up heavily in the absence of any feel, and lacks the clarity of the Ford Fiesta. It impresses as a solid, safe, secure handler, but despite chassis and steering tweaks in 2010 it still lacks the fizz that permeates through the Fiesta. Tthink of it as a more mature model to that offered by the Blue Oval. Wind noise from around the A-pillars and door mirrors at motorway speeds is intrusive.
The 285-litre boot is inconsequentially bigger then than the Polo's and just smaller than the Fiesta's, but with seats down it's comfortably bigger than both. The high-rise roof means decent headroom, too.
The previous Corsa was pretty crap, but when the current car came along it dramatically improved things. The facelift freshens up the looks, but everything else remains as was: cabin quality is very good, cabin space is good, and it's a decent drive. Try and remember it if you're in the market for a supermini – you'll be surprised at just how decent it is.
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