► We drive the new hot Corsa VXR
► Performance Pack brings LSD, bigger wheels, Brembo brakes
► Slicker, more refined and cheaper than before
The new 2015-flavour Vauxhall Corsa VXR recipe’s unchanged. Pluck one of the UK’s biggest-selling hatchback bodyshells from the production line, drop a turbocharged 1.6 in the nose and bathe the rest of the car – brakes, suspension, even gearshift mechanism – in hours of motorsport-inspired, enthusiast-focused go-faster R&D. This time around the result is an altogether more refined fast Corsa, a keen, rewarding hot hatch that works with, rather than in spite of, its torquey turbo engine.
Inside, the new car’s a significant forward step over the old Corsa VXR, with the now-familiar Vauxhall dash – all tasteful chrome and glossy black finishes – and its crystal clear and intuitive touchscreen interface. VXR touches include unique dials, sports pedals, a nice flat-bottomed sports wheel and a pair of fantastically grippy Recaro bucket seats.
The basic price is pleasingly down £1000 over the old car, to £17,995, and there are some nice standard features, including bi-xenon headlights, Intellilink connectivity, LED running lights and some classy chrome bodywork accents (though you can undo all the latter’s hard with the £150 carbon trim pack. Don’t, is our advice).
Click here for more on the general 2015 Vauxhall Corsa range.
Has the the Corsa VXR gone the way of the Renaultsport Clio?
Hardly. While the four-door hot Clio’s embraced a paddle-shift transmission, with mixed results, the Corsa is pure, almost Luddite mechanical hot hatch: two-door ’shell, slick manual gearbox – much VXR-specific effort’s been lavished on the mechanism, and you feel it – and, on cars fitted with the £2400 Performance Pack, big brakes (330mm Brembos up front), big wheels (18in rims wearing Michelin Super Sport rubber) and a mechanical limited-slip differential. Simple stuff, lovingly deployed.
And the turbocharged engine?
An evolution of the previous Corsa VXR’s 1.6 turbo four, with tweaks to the fuel injection, air intake system and exhaust (for reduced back pressure) to usefully reduce emissions while increasing performance. Peak power is up a little to 202bhp, but the big difference is broader spread of useful torque; 181b ft from 1900rpm to 5800rpm as opposed to the previous car’s 2250rpm to 5500rpm.
An overboost function unlocks a further 26lb ft for a maximum of five seconds for overtaking bursts. It’s not an engine to fall in love with – its delivery is too flat for that, its voice too uninspiring – but it is willing, smooth and always on-hand with useful grunt.
Any clever tech?
The ESC stability control offers an intermediate Competition setting, which disables the traction control and loosens the stability control’s threshold while retaining a safety net should things get out of hand. VXR development kingpin and former DTM star Volker Strycek is proud of the system, claiming it was added only after the chassis’ mechanical set-up had already been developed to its full potential – the electronics are no sticking plaster – and that it’s intelligent, giving you more leeway if your mad flailing tallies with the system’s idea of calm, measured inputs. It works effectively, letting the rear of the car wander usefully but stepping in should you run out of talent.
The Corsa VXR rides on bespoke Koni dampers with bypass valves that allow for both firm low-frequency damping, for good body control, and increased pliancy on high-frequency movements, for some semblance of ride quality. Performance Pack cars use the same technology but run a firmer set-up.
And how does the Corsa hot hatch drive?
Like a car honed over many more months than the 18 put into it. The less boosty, more flexible engine sets the tone. It goes without great spikes of tyre-spinning torque, and majors instead on solid grunt, giving you and the chassis an easier time.
On Performance Pack cars the ride’s firm but not painfully so, and the fine body control, exceptionally accurate steering and oodles of sheer mechanical grip make for a rapid cross-country device, even in the wet. Like the engine, the diff’s less aggressive than the previous model’s too, more subtly working its line-tightening magic when you get back on the throttle mid-turn.
Better than the old Corsa VXR? Undoubtedly. It’s slicker, quicker and cheaper (PP cars come in at £20,395, £2k less than the old Nurburgring edition). But if you own the previous Corsa VXR then try before you buy. You might just miss the rough edges – those brutal kicks of boost, the wheel-tugging slugs torque and the diff very tangibly going about its business – that Vauxhall has so adeptly ironed out.