Much of the publicity on the new Corsa may be on the electric version, but the petrol model is still going to be the big one in sales terms
On the road
On the road
The new Vauxhall Corsa is a big step in a whole series of ways, not least in introducing full electric cars to the Vauxhall range. But the electric version isn’t quite launched yet, and will only make up around 10% of the volume, so the main models still come with an internal-combustion engine.
And it’s not just with the powertrains that Vauxhall has made changes, with the new Vauxhall Corsa being made to look more sporty thanks to changes to the dimensions that make the new car longer and wider than the previous model, but not as tall, giving it what Vauxhall says is a design that “emphasises sportiness”, helped by the black roof and pillars on all bar the entry trim level.
1. It’s great the climate controls are still separate from the touchscreen system, although you can also control the temperature through the screen.
2. Having to hold down the start button rather than simply pressing it to start or stop the car is an unnecessary complication.
3. Apple CarPlay being standard without future payment or subscription on all trims is good. It’s something premium brands could learn from.
Also helping this new sense of sportiness is the fact that the new car is up to 108kg lighter than the last car despite its extra length and width. Other nods to a more entertaining driving experience include efforts to make the car more stable in higher-speed direction changes, and a less intrusive stability protection system, as well as a lower seating position than before; the brand describes it as “more embedded into the car” than the old car’s more van-like driving position. The SRi trim also gains a Sport mode setting, which increases steering weight, adds a noticeably enhanced engine sound and, on the automatic, moves the gearshift patterns to aid performance.
Vauxhall has moved to simplify its model line-up with the new car, and it launches with just three engine options and four trim levels.
The three engines will be dominated in sales terms by the middle one – the 100hp 1.2 Turbo. It’s flanked by a non-turbo 75hp 1.2 that’s linked to a five-speed gearbox and offered just in entry SE trim, and a 102hp 1.5 diesel that isn’t worth the £1210 over the manual 100hp petrol. It doesn’t offer enough extra efficiency for the price tag, and the 1.2-litre is a lovely engine. For an extra £1730, you can have an eight-speed automatic gearbox with your 100hp petrol engine.
Trim-wise, the lengthy price list of Vauxhalls of old is now neatly condensed onto a single page, helped by the streamlined engine choice. There are four main trim levels of SE, SRi, Elite and Ultimate; the top one can be ignored because it’s a massively over-specced luxury model that will sell in tiny numbers, costing nearly £4000 more than the Elite trim. It does have massage seats, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and many other niceties, but is a ridiculous amount of money for a Vauxhall Corsa.
However, the rest of the range is far more sensibly priced. On top of the basic trim levels, the bottom two also have a ‘Nav’ add-on, and all three of the lower trims have a ‘Premium’ add-on, all as part of the price list so they have the residual-value benefit. The cost varies by trim because the extra equipment varies, but they’re well-priced add-ons to an already decent level of standard equipment that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on all models (Vauxhall says this is important to the Corsa’s target market), along with cruise control, alloy wheels, LED headlights, speed sign recognition and autonomous braking. The SRi is the more desirable trim visually, thanks to its sports styling on the outside and an impressive visual array in the cabin, including sports seats and the aforementioned Sport button.
Elite Nav, which costs slightly less than SRi when you factor in that it gets navigation as standard, has heated seats and steering wheel, a rear parking camera, blind spot sensors, front parking sensors, folding mirrors and a clever flank guard system that warns about high kerbs or obstructions to the side of the car when turning, that SRi doesn’t get, so it’s a straight choice of sporty styling or better equipment for the same sort of money.
Working backwards through the cabin, the increased length has liberated another 24 litres of boot space, although on paper it’s still well below average in the class. However, it does feel bigger than the numbers suggest, offering plenty of space for luggage or the weekly shop. It is noteworthy that the boot features no handy additions such as bag hooks, split floor or cubby stowage for smaller items.
It’s also not the most small-family-friendly of superminis, with the rear doors not opening particularly wide, combined with fairly small rear access to make for a car that larger people won’t find it too easy to get in and out of. And when they’re in, rear headroom isn’t great.
Up front, the story improves significantly, especially in the SRi trim that gets visual adornments to lift the cabin, and sports seats, although the regular ones in the Elite trim are also pleasingly comfortable. There’s a big stowage area in front of the gear lever and a much smaller one under the armrest, while the door pockets are adequate in size. It’s pleasing to note that despite Vauxhall being owned by the PSA Group, parent company to Citroen and Peugeot, the climate control buttons have remained separate from the touch screen system, unlike in most of the French PSA models. The central display is also angled slightly towards the driver.
To drive, the Vauxhall Corsa is certainly a big step on from its lukewarm predecessor, which was still Vauxhall’s biggest-selling car last year, with comfortably more than double the number of the second-placed Mokka X, despite not being the most entertaining of cars.
The weight loss is very obvious from behind the wheel, and the 1.2-litre 100hp turbocharged engine is a corker. The chassis feels nimble, the gearlever feels neat and precise as you shift through the ratios and although the ride is a little on the firm side, it’s not obtrusive enough that you dread every thump in the road. There is more road noise than some others in the class, but again, not a huge negative point, and overall it’s a nice advance from behind the wheel.
The whole-life costs equation is also a step forward, with the new Vauxhall Corsa now firmly ensconced among the best in class. Residuals are about where they needed to be, even if others such as the Seat Ibiza are a couple of percentage points better, and emissions are good, although how that changes come April’s introduction of the WLTP test regime figures is still to be determined. For now, things look good from an efficiency point of view, and SMR cost is good, although the insurance group is surprisingly high, with our SRi test car sitting in group 15, five higher than the corresponding Ford Fiesta or Kia Rio. But that’s the only real sour note among the stuff that the financial director will be interested in.
The new Vauxhall Corsa looks much better, and is the same step forward from behind the wheel than it is on the design front, while increased efficiency, technology and lower running costs are also big ticks. It’s not the most practical of superminis, with others better for owners who need to carry adults or luggage, but otherwise it’s a very good level of improvement for Vauxhall’s biggest-selling model.
The Corsa is a big one for Vauxhall, and not only because it’s the brand’s biggest-selling car, ranking fourth for new car registrations even in its final year of sales before this all-new model arrived.
As well as all that sales pressure, it’s also the model that is described by the brand as “not just the next step in generation, it’s the first in a new journey for the marque”. Which is down to the fact that Vauxhall’s first full electric car comes in Corsa shape in the next few weeks.
But despite the electric focus, 90% of new Corsas this year will be petrol or, to a lesser extent, diesel, a number that will gradually shift towards plug-in in the coming years.
But the Corsa’s huge numbers make it vital to the European Opel/Vauxhall operation under the ownership of Citroen and Peugeot parent firm PSA Group. Crucial to the brands, 14 million Corsas have been registered across Europe since the nameplate appeared in 1982, although the first car was called Nova in the UK, only switching to the Corsa name 11 years later when the second-generation car (pictured) arrived. The new car is the sixth generation to wear the nameplate.
What they said
What They Said
"The all-new Corsa is bigger, better and more stylish than ever, and features ultra-efficient powertrains (petrol, diesel and for the first time, electric) and is designed to deliver low Benefit-in-Kind costs.
The all-new Corsa has a high-quality interior packed full of technology, including a colour touchscreen entertainment system. This is complemented by advanced driver assistance systems that provide the driver with comfort and convenience, while enhancing safety.
Petrol and diesel versions are in Vauxhall showrooms now, with the Corsa-e in plentiful supply from March."
James Taylor, fleet sales director, Vauxhall
Need to know
Three things we like...
The voice activation is accurate and gives handy on-screen suggestions
The looks are a big improvement – lower and more sporty than before
The padded armrest on the door is a neat comfort touch
...And one we don't
The pedals are just a little too close together for larger and more clumpy feet to be comfy
The weight reduction can be felt from behind the wheel, where the car feels more nimble and fun.
That weight reduction is one measure to help the Corsa to some decent efficiency figures. All models beat the best numbers the old Corsa could offer.
The boot is small for the sector and the rear seats are trickier than others for adults to get into, and less roomy once they’re in.
More streamlined trim levels offer logical walks, although the only options are therefore bundled into packs that cold be seen as pricey if you only wanted some elements.
Much-improved looks helped by more squat dimensions that succeed in giving the car a sportier and lower appearance.
Comfort and refinement 7/10
The ride is on the firm side and road noise isn’t particularly well dulled, but they’re fairly minor complaints.
Quality is decent enough and the SRi’s cosmetic improvements work well in lifting the cabin.
Voice-activation system is very user-friendly and the touchscreen works well enough although could be more logical to the new user.
Whole life costs 8/10
Swings and roundabouts - good pricing, emissions and SMR on one side, but on the other are RVs still a touch off key rivals and a high insurance grouping.
CCT opinion 8/10
The new Corsa is another success for new owner PSA Group, moving the car on significantly to become a contender in the sector.
The improvements are across the a for the new Corsa, with looks and driving dynamics the most obvious ones, as well as more efficiency and new tech.