Vauxhall Corsa VXR Arctic Edition (2009) review | CAR Magazine

Vauxhall Corsa VXR Arctic Edition (2009) review

Published: 30 April 2009 Updated: 26 January 2015
Vauxhall Corsa VXR Arctic Edition CAR review
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By Stephen Worthy

Former contributor to CAR magazine

By Stephen Worthy

Former contributor to CAR magazine

The Corsa VXR isn’t the subtlest of hot superminis at the best of times, although now it’s just got lairier, mainly due to an exhaust that will have the neighbours’ curtains twitching whenever you drive by. But can you live with a car that’s not so much in your face as in your ears?

What’s the difference between the Arctic Edition and the bog-standard Corsa VXR?

It’s chiefly the Remus exhaust, which is about as in-your-face a piece of automotive kit as any major manufacturer has used in recent times. More of which in a moment, but let’s just say it’s so noisy, it’s like driving around with Basil Brush and Brian Blessed in your boot (not that Brian would fit in the boot of a Corsa).

On top of the stock VXR kit – like the ridiculously proportioned gearknob that’s the proportions of Ricky Hatton’s right knuckle – there’s ‘Glacier White’ paintwork, black 18-inch alloys with 225/35 low profile tyres, electric sun roof, tinted windows and black-painted roof and door mirrors. In other words, lots of black and white. It’s unlikely to sell well in Wearside.

Why Arctic?

Because it’s ‘cool’, perhaps? We have no idea. But that nomenclature is a little ironic, isn’t it? Here we have the Corsa with the range’s highest emission figures (at a whopping 190g/km C02, the VXR Arctic is some 63% higher than a Corsa Design 1.3 CDTi Ecoflex). It’s an ‘Arctic’ Edition and it’s been clad in ‘Glacier’ paint. That’s sure to get the environmental lobby’s backs up. This isn’t a car for those who favour the open-toed sandal and live on mung bean salad.

And whatever you do, don’t drive it in sandals, because it is on the quick side of spritely. The exhaust, says Vauxhall, can add up to 15bhp on top of the 189bhp of the standard VXR. Over 200bhp for a car weighing in at less than 1200 kilos sounds like too much power and the reality nearly proves that.

>> click next to read how fast the Corsa VXR Artic goes

How fast is the new Vauxhall Corsa VXR Arctic then?

With a top speed, should you care to try it, of 140mph and a 0-60mph time of 6.8 seconds, it’s rapid. And it can be a handful. The steering wheel may be of chunky, bratwurst-like proportions, but the Corsa VXR Arctic is far from lumpen – its quick responses will need your full concentration. Press too hard on exiting a corner and the torque overload on the front wheels will have you scrabbling around to correct yourself.

The ride, naturally, is on the firm side, but it’s not intrusive – the excellent Recaro seats see to that. But what is intrusive is that sound. The Remus exhaust is not for wallflowers or those who like to fade into the background. It’s a Vauxhall, so it must be legal, but boy is it noisy – it’s the sort that can probably set car alarms off.

Put your snobbery aside for a moment, however. Work your way up through the gears, changing up as you head towards the redline, and you’ll be entertained by a raucous, throat-clearing report from the exhaust and the full burble and pop musical accompaniment on the overrun. If you love cars, it can’t fail to make you grin, but it may make you a little red-faced too. People WILL stare. 

So it sounds brash and ballsy… but we bet Vauxhall aren’t so vocal about its price, are they?

Only 500 of the Corsa VXR Arctic (we’re getting bored typing all of that now), all individually numbered, are being sold in the UK. This is a car with some charm, no matter how annoyingly cocksure it is about itself – but what it can’t be so brazen about is its price.

Our car, as tested – loaded with a highly unsatisfactory sat-nav which had no map and something called a sight and light pack (which includes rain sensitive wipers and an anti-dazzle rear view mirror) – took the price up to £18,380. Basic is still a hefty £17,225.

Just think, a brand new Clio Renaultsport 200 costs just £15,750 basic. A dip into the classifieds showed us that for the same sort of money, you can bag a fully-loaded 08-reg Mini Cooper S with less than 10k on the clock. But if you are the sort of person who really wants the Corsa VXR Arctic, you’re unlikely to be put off by thrills elsewhere.

>> click next to read the verdict on the Corsa VXR Artic Edition


Ridiculously entertaining fun it may be, but it’s difficult to envisage who the Corsa VXR Arctic’s potential buyer is. The sort of people who will like the crash-bang-wallop of this diminutive little street fighter are probably unable to afford the insurance – group 16 – let alone the car itself. And if you can extend to paying more than £17k for a supermini, are you really going to be able to live with that swaggering, come-and-have-a-go image every day?


Price when new: £17,225
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1598cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 189bhp @ 5850rpm, 169lb ft @ 5850rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 6.8sec 0-60mph, 140mph, 35.8mpg, 190g/km
Weight / material: 1194kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3999/1713/1488

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  • Vauxhall Corsa VXR Arctic Edition CAR review
  • Vauxhall Corsa VXR Arctic Edition CAR review
  • Vauxhall Corsa VXR Arctic Edition CAR review

By Stephen Worthy

Former contributor to CAR magazine