Give me the lowdown
This is the all-new Corsa, a car Vauxhall vows will banish the Corsa's traditional reputation of being pretty but underwhelming. It's longer and wider than today's car and weighs a little more, but some models cost a little less and in 200bhp, turbocharged VXR trim it will be the fastest Corsa ever. The Corsa has a funky new cabin with more room and a bigger boot, and Vauxhall predicts the hatchback will score a maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests.
Go on, surprise me…
First off it looks brilliant. British design chief Mark Adams led the team behind the new Corsa. Gone is the so upright it-might-topple-over look, replaced by a far more squat, muscular car that has a great stance, particularly in three-door form. And for the first time in history (probably) someone has robbed a styling cue from Vauxhall's old Nova – the blade-shaped crease over the rear wheel-arches. That's where the similarities end, thankfully. The new Corsa has presence but then so it should - it's much bigger than the car it replaces.
So it looks good. But is it any good to drive?
First up, CAR Online tested a Corsa with the optional sports suspension (part of the £900 SXi pack). Bung it down a twisty road and the signs are good. The variable assistance power steering weighs up nicely, there's good feel through the wheel and the front end grips like a hot hatch's. The gearchange is positive and very precise and the throttle is quick to react. Problems start when you slow down and drive the car as most owners will: around town. The ride with the SXi pack - which is fine when you're going for it - feels too firm. It jiggles when it should be soft and cosseting, which makes it tiring to drive. The 'comfort' suspension set-up is better, with a more fluent ride that glides over bumps rather than skipping them. Save your money and stick with this standard spec, which is pretty firm anyway. Upgrade to Sport and the Corsa is probably no quicker: it's so firm that the car gets knocked off course, making an SXi car difficult to position precisely on the road. The 1.4-litre petrol engine will be the top seller. It's willing but lacks torque and could do with a sixth gear. Aside from the 1.4's engine noise, the Corsa is superbly insulated with minimal road noise filtering through to the cabin. You're better off going for the 88bhp 1.3-litre diesel, if you can stretch to £11,295. This CDTi engine is fantastically willing, and coupled with the comfort suspension, it's our pick of the range.
I presume it's grown...
You bet. The Corsa is 160mm longer, 67mm wider and 44mm taller than the old Corsa. Much of the growth is at the back, with the boot growing by 25 litres (around the size of a suitcase). Fold the seats and the overall capacity is 40 litres bigger than in today's car. The spacious Corsa feels like it belongs in a class above, both in terms of cabin space and its motorway stability.
The old car's cabin was drabber than my gran's wardrobe. Is this any better?
It's pretty exciting. You sit behind a chunky three-spoke steering wheel, staring at cool, sporty dials. New circular vents finished in piano black (also known as shiny black plastic) lift the plain, trad Vauxhall dash. The highlight (literally) is illuminated controls that lend the Corsa the appearance of a fruit machine at night. All the key controls and the gear lever are nicely placed, well within easy reach. The Corsa feels massive inside, almost like an MPV, because the windscreen is huge and the dashboard pushed right back. And there's decent room for two adults in the back seats. But there's a flipside to all this space. Like an MPV the Corsa needs a very thick A-pillar to support all that glass, only interrupted by a tiny quarterlight. To look around it, you have to crane your neck, so pull out with care.
Vauxhall has distilled a branch of Currys electrical into the Corsa. Along with standard active brakelights that trigger the hazard warning lights in an emergency stop, you can opt for adaptive headlights that swivel according to the wheel's direction (£250), ESP traction control (£250) and rear parking sensors (also £250). Sat-nav costs a reasonable £975 as part of an upgraded stereo package.
Talk me through the range...
The Corsa has a choice of three petrol and two diesel engines. The petrols are: 59bhp 1.0-litre; 78bhp 1.2-litre; and 88bhp 1.4-litre petrol engines; a storming 180bhp, 1.6-litre turbocharged VXR version is due in late 2007. The diesel 1.3-litre CDTi engines come with either 73bhp or 88bhp. A 123bhp 1.7-litre CDTI engine will join the range in the winter. The two top diesel engines get six-speed gearboxes as standard, while the rest of the range makes do with five-speed manuals. Prices are set to start at £7495 for the 1.0-litre three-door.The all-singing 1.7-litre CDTi five-door tops the range at £13,795. The big seller - the 1.4-litre – will cost from £9905, just £300 more than the model it replaces.
This Corsa is a substantial step forward over the old model but fails to convince in some crucial areas. It's handsome, good value, much better packaged, fine on long journeys and better built than ever before. But the ride can be choppy in Sport trim and visibility poor. Overall, the new Corsa is fun, funky but flawed.