Do you feel a nagging sense of déjà vu when you look at the new Vauxhall Corsa? If you do, it’s hardly surprising, for while this is said to be an all-new car, there are bits of it that aren’t quite, well, all new.
Those windows look familiar because, aside from the addition of a dark plastic flick on the glazing’s trailing edge on three-door models, they’re carried over from the outgoing Corsa, as is its body architecture as a whole – the A, B and C pillars haven’t moved.
This, the fourth-gen Corsa, is more a thorough overhaul of its predecessor than a blank-sheet design then. But with the seven-year old outgoing model still shifting a dizzying number of units last year, Vauxhall’s evolution-not-revolution business case might just hold water.
New 2015 Vauxhall Corsa: which bits are actually new?
From the A-pillar forwards, more or less everything. Behind that, less so. At the front, there’s a redesigned crash structure (which Vauxhall says has helped the Corsa drop between one and three insurance group rungs across the range) and new suspension pick-up points, while much of the roof and floorpan is the same as before.
An Adam-esque grille and LED-eyebrowed headlights front a body with a new set of panels, including a diagonal crease running from tail-lamps to door handle as per the Astra GTC on three-door models.
As before, the Corsa’s suspended by MacPherson struts at the front and torsion beam at the rear, but with new geometry and damping rates for the former, a ‘fully revised’ design for the latter and new components throughout. Overall centre of gravity is lower and the power steering’s now gone electric (the old Corsa was hydraulically assisted).
The updated engine range is quieter, more efficient and meets Euro6 emissions regs. One engine is all new – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo to compete with the likes of Ford’s Ecoboost unit. Also found in the Adam, it’s paired with an also new lightweight six-speed manual gearbox and offered with a choice of power outputs, 89bhp or 113bhp. We’re testing the latter here.
What about the interior?
If you’ve driven a Corsa before, you’ll feel right at home because the basic architecture is the same. Happily, the overall ambience isn’t. New surfaces throughout, including soft ‘polymer cladding’ atop the dash and glossy piano black plastic across its front have lifted the Corsa’s cabin by echelons. But some scratchy, low-rent plastics still lurk and an overriding sense of cheapness that Vauxhall products can’t quite seem to shake off remains.
There’s plenty of kit available, though. All but the cheapest models get Vauxhall’s ‘IntelliLink’ touchscreen multimedia system (already familiar from the Adam and Insignia) with DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. A heated windscreen is standard across the range (Corsa owners criticised the previous car for being slow to demist) and depending on which trim level or options box the dealer persuades you to tick you can also enjoy cornering headlights, a self-parking system, rear camera and traffic sign recognition. In short, the Corsa’s kit list doesn’t want for anything.
What’s the new Vauxhall Corsa like to drive?
The new 1.0-litre turbo isn’t a buzzy bundle of revs in the manner of Ford’s EcoBoost or some other triple-cylinder powerplants, but is instead markedly smooth and quiet, especially at a cruise. Far quieter than the rest of the car in fact, which lets just enough boomy road roar into its cabin to make you want to turn the radio up another notch. Despite a broad torque curve the motor feels a little lethargic, without enough pep to fill you with confidence for overtaking; steep hills necessitate a downshift or two.
UK cars get a different suspension and power steering setup informed by 12 months of testing on British roads because, in Vauxhall’s Vehicle Dynamics chief Michael Harder’s words, they are ‘very demanding. If it works here, it works everywhere.’
Certain models with 17-inch wheels (like the vaguely sporty SRi VXLine mouthful tested here) get a lower ride height and ‘sports’ suspension. Low-speed ride around town is fine but at greater pace on bumpy roads the firmer-sprung Corsa is a bit too jiggly for its own good, skipping and skimming its way over bumps rather than absorbing them smoothly. If you can live without the VXLine’s flared bumpers and sills you’ll have a more comfortable time in Corsa models with the regular suspension setup.
There’s little to criticise on the handling front, although equally there’s little to get animated about. The Corsa’s blessed with a nice, commendably neutral balance but it’s missing some of the eager nimbleness of the pin-sharp Ford Fiesta. Not that that’s likely to bother most Corsa buyers.
Vauxhall has priced the new Corsa more aggressively than before, with pricing lowered by an average of around £1,000 trim-for-trim compared with the old car. The range still kicks off from just under nine grand, though.
Ultimately, it remains a difficult car to recommend. It’s not a poor product by any means, and with all the changes made for the right reasons this is not a case of the emperor’s new clothes. But the Corsa still lacks any kind of sparkle to mark it out in a segment that’s as tough as it’s ever been. An average car for average buyers, then. And therefore probably another sales success.