► CAR's Corsa diesel test
► 1.3-litre claims 78.5mpg
► Corsa still 2nd best-selling ’mini
Stifle your yawning, please, and stay with us on this one. Although it’s probably safe to say a diesel supermini is far from interesting to an enthusiast, the fact that this one’s a Corsa should be enough to interest plenty of potential car buyers. That’s because as of May 2017, the Corsa is the seventh best-selling car in the UK and the second best-selling supermini after the ubiquitous (yet very old) Ford Fiesta.
The diesel is admittedly a niche choice, as it turns out. You’d have thought the headline economy figure of 78.5mpg would be enough to tempt more than a few supermini buyers, but just 3% of all Corsas sold in the UK in the first quarter of 2017 were oil burners. And that figure’s barely changed since the same period in 2016.
Still, we at CAR would be blinkered if we were to disregard it, so read on for our findings. The car we tested was an SRI VX-Line model (not pictured – click here to see what it looks like) with the 94bhp 1.3-litre diesel.
What’s the diesel like?
It’s engineered primarily for economy and little else. Stated efficiency figures stand at a fairly generous 78.5mpg combined, and while we never hit that figure, we did manage around 65mpg despite an occasionally heavy-footed approach to the accelerator pedal.
As you’d expect, torque is the order of the day with this engine choice. It’s capable of high-gear, low-revs overtaking manoeuvres which would leave some petrol superminis floundering.
A 0-60mph launch time of 11.9 seconds won’t set your pulse racing but it feels at least a little quicker than the time suggests. Since the engine is all about economy, however, the five-speed gearbox feels amiss. A six-speeder would help reduce a bit of engine noise and probably further help economy if you have to venture out of town.
How is the Corsa from behind the wheel?
Let’s not beat around the bush: the CDTi engine is about as refined as a three-course gourmet meal cooked by The Hulk with a headache, and sounds like a bag of hammers falling down a fire escape. It’s the absolute antithesis to the turbo petrol models, which manage to be hushed and smooth on the move.
The harsh engine note coupled with boomy road noise at speed will irritate on long journeys, while the firmer springs on our VX-Line car made some journeys on rutted roads a bit of a pain, too.
All of the controls are light to use, making the Corsa easy to drive around town, but overall handling isn’t as sharp as a Fiesta – although for many buyers that won’t be a deal-breaker.
What do you get for your money?
If you choose the sporty SRI VX-Line trim, quite a lot. Standard equipment includes Vauxhall’s IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus big car tech like automatic headlights and wipers, a heated windscreen and cruise control.
Vauxhall’s OnStar system is available too, which enables you to call up the good folk at Luton for navigation or servicing assistance or even access an on-board 4G hotspot if you’re willing to pay a regular fee for data allowance.
Will my family fit?
If there’s a total of four of you, then yes. Squeezing five in the rear will be cosy – particularly if you go for the three-door version. Headroom will raise complaints from tall teens on anything other than short journeys.
Boot space is rated at 280 litres with the rear seats up, which is the same as a VW Polo but 10 litres shy of the Fiesta.
It’s not hard to see why the CDTi-equipped Corsa is a niche option: it’s a very coarse engine that commands a hefty price premium over the smooth and quiet petrol engines on offer.
We’re inclined to believe the claimed economy figure if you drive it carefully, but you’d have to regularly stretch the car’s legs on motorways to get the best out of it – something that isn’t necessarily an attractive prospect due to the Corsa’s iffy at-speed refinement.
Check out all of our Vauxhall reviews