To say it’s been an odd few years for Vauxhall would be something of an understatement. After an initial merger with the PSA (Peugeot/Citroen) group, that new company then merged with the FCA group, making them part of the world’s fourth largest car maker The ultimate embodiment of these tumultuous times must be the Corsa, Vauxhall’s ever-popular-if-slightly-dull entry into the supermini market.
Just as the last new Corsa was about to be released into the world, the chaps at PSA, possibly realising that they were far better at this supermini game decided to pull the plug. In its place is this; the All-New Corsa, and it probably won’t come as any surprise that there’s a lot of Peugeot 208 under the skin.
Many 208 parts
This means it shares almost exactly the same proportions as the 208, so it’s grown in terms of length, width and wheelbase. The new Corsa stands almost 50mm lower than the old one, though, so it naturally looks more squat, more ready for action. It may not look much like the rest of the current Vauxhall family, I’d expect future Astras etc to follow suit, though.
Squint a bit and the Corsa’s ‘face’ is reminiscent of the Mk1 from 1993. The C-pillar is a large shark fin, probably in homage to the shark easter-eggs that have found their way into Corsas since 2004 – this one being no exception. It may be subtle, but the most pleasing Vauxhall feature is the ridge that runs the length of the bonnet. Vauxhall isn’t a brand exactly swimming in styling cues, but that ridge you can still see from the driver’s seat harks back to greats like the Firenza, Victor and….erm….Chevette.
Still a bit dull inside
Vauxhall interiors of old were always up there with my least favourite from any manufacturer. It was as if they had had gone out of their way to suck any potential soul out of them and leave you with swathes of dullness. The good news is, the new Corsa at least has a few interesting features, especially in this SRi trim with its go-faster seats. Step away from the SRi, though, and it’s still fairly unimaginative if we’re honest.
Being spawned from the 208, it made sense to fit the same 7 or 10 inch infotainment screen from the Peugeot in the Corsa. So they did. It’s by no means the worst system we’ve ever used, but it’s not the best either. Another 208 feature that won’t be overly welcome is the rear door aperture shapes and the space when you manage to get into the back seats, or lack of it. At least the shrunken steering wheel Peugeot are so keen on hasn’t found its way over. Unfortunately Vauxhall has somehow managed to put the stalks too high up on the steering column, though – but that’s nothing to do with the 208, it’s just bad design.
Being based on the 208, it’ll probably come as no surprise that the new Corsa is now available as an electric Corsa; the Corsa-e. This one isn’t though – this is the Corsa SRi Nav Premium, and it comes with the same 1.2 litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine that you’ll also find in, you guessed it, the 208. SRi used to mean boy-racer hot-hatch, not any more. Yes, you can only have your SRi with the turbo attached to the engine, giving you 99bhp and it’s only available with a 6-speed manual ‘box, but there’s not that much else that signifies it’s an SRi, not even a badge.
Great petrol engine
The good news is, this 1.2l petrol engine is a corker. It captures the character a 3-cylinder should be blessed with perfectly and pulls far more eagerly than you may expect. This SRi version even has a sport mode that, amongst other things, pipes exhaust tones into the cabin. On top of all this, it’s economical too, returning the claimed 51.4mpg on our times with it easily. The only fly in the ointment is the 6-speed manual transmission the SRi has had foisted upon it. It’s vague and doesn’t match the excellent engine, even the gear-knob feels too big and unwieldy.
In total there’s 11 trim levels to choose from, although many of them are simply the trim level below them with either ‘Nav’ or ‘Premium’ or, indeed, both bolted onto them. Other trim levels also offer the chance to spec your Corsa with either this 1.2l petrol without the turbo (74bhp) or a 1.5l diesel (101bhp). The lesser petrol comes with a 5-speed manual only, the diesel is the same 6-speed as this SRi. Everything but the SRi variants are available with an 8-speed automatic mated to this 99bhp 1.2l unit.
There’s plenty of room for the suspension to sit lower on the Corsa, should Vauxhall decide to give us a Fiesta ST rival in the future. Even at this more comfortable height, the new Corsa’s handling is superb, even in the wet; further evidence of Peugeot’s influence there we feel.
Should I buy an All-New Corsa?
This new Corsa represents such a major improvement on every version to come before it, there’s a reasonable argument for the Corsa name being ditched and the birth of a whole new model. It’s not perfect; there are some irritating niggles and the cramped rear seats it’s inherited from the 208. It’s taken more good things than bad, though.
By Ben Harrington
All-New Vauxhall Corsa SRi Nav Premium Specifications:
Engine – 1.2l petrol, Transmission – 6-speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 99bhp, Torque – 205Nm, Emissions – 135g/km CO2, Economy – 51.4mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 119mph, Acceleration – 10.2s 0-60mph, Price – £21,330 OTR