A week with a Vauxhall Corsa

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The car of idiots enters its fourth generation

AWWCorsa1Day one: Here comes the Corsa, wrapped in a deep green colour that looks utterly vile on the configurator and absolutely delightful in real life. You might have seen the ads for this car. They’re everywhere, busily boasting about various features and claiming this car is new. Which is a bit of a fib. The front end engineering is new, the suspension has been re-done and the whole lot has been re-skinned and re-trimmed but the hull is from the old model. There’s a big giveaway on the back doors of this five door model. The window line kicks up at the back where it was flat on the old car, but they’ve kept the same glass to save money so from the inside the kicked up metalwork has glass behind it. It’s not a bad looking car. The interior is inoffensively smart and feels quite well put together. On first acquaintance you could same about the driving experience. But here’s the thing: In my experience, Vauxhall are really good at cars that feel passable at first and turn out to have hidden depths of dismalness that quickly make you want to hack at your own wrists with the hand jack. So let’s not be hasty.

Day two: It’s a cold morning. This Corsa is an SE model which means it gets heated seats as standard. They’re the sort that are either on or off rather than offering levels of arse toastery. This turns out to be a bit of problem because, rather unusually, the one setting is simply far too hot. Honestly, you put it on and it’s cut through the thickness of a normal pair of jeans in less than a minute with the kind of bum scorchery you’d get from leaning on a radiator. So you jab the button to turn it off, wait until you get a bit chilly, switch it back on again and repeat the whole strange cycle again.

AWWCorsa2Day three: A run out into the countryside. The Corsa isn’t bad at scuttling around in a lively way if you attempt some bitch spankery. A Fiesta would be more fun but a Polo wouldn’t. I can’t tell you anything outstanding about the Corsa, but nor can I pinpoint anything bad about it. It’s happier in town, of course, where its ride is really decent and the engine is quiet. It is, in fact, a surprisingly refined car.

Day four: It’s a frosty morning. But no matter because all new Corsas come with a heated windscreen as standard. The reason for this is that people who owned the old car complained that the demisting was shit. And since the guts of this car are carried over including the heater, this is the quick fix. Unlike the heated seats, the heated screen is not too hot. This trim level also gets a heated steering wheel as standard, also not too hot. Whatever else you think, you can’t accuse Vauxhall of skimping on heating elements.

Day five: If you’re really bored, go to the Vauxhall website and attempt to get your head around the Corsa range. There are eight separate trim levels, which aren’t listed in ascending order, and then a giddy hierarchy of engines you’d need an applied maths degree to unpick. This test car, for example, has a four cylinder 1.4 turbo petrol making 99 horsepower. But you can also have a 1-litre three cylinder turbo petrol which has 15 more horsepower but less torque and almost identical economy figures. Worse still, lower down the range there’s a 1.4i and a 1.0T that both have 89bhp for no readily apparent reason. How does anyone get their head around this? Especially since, judging by the general standards of driving seen in old shape Corsas, the average buyer can barely understand what a steering wheel does, never mind fathom the differences between a Corsa Excite A/C 1.4T 100PS Turbo EcoFlex and a Corsa SRi VX-Line 1.0i 115PS EcoFlex.

AWWCorsa3Day six: There are a lot of gadgets on this test car. Lane assist, park assist, blind spot warning and all those sort of things manufacturers think cars should have and customers probably don’t bother with. As long as they’ve got their heated screens and can cook an egg on the heated passenger seat, they’re happy. Today, driving along minding my own business, a light appears on the dash. It’s green, so I presume it’s nothing bad, and it’s in the shape of a car viewed head on. I have no idea what it means. I assume it’s related to one of the techy systems but which one? I have no idea. And I’m in too much of a hurry to stop and RTFM. So it remains a mystery.

Goodbye: Bye bye Corsa. I’ll be honest, based on experience of previous Corsas I was expecting this thing to feel dispiritingly shit by the end of a week. But it doesn’t. It’s quiet, it’s refined, it has a nice interior with plenty of equipment and a slick, intelligently organised touch screen. A Fiesta is more sporty and a Polo more grown up but the Corsa gets unexpectedly close to both. It’s not especially exciting but nor, crucially, is it found wanting in performing the basic functions of being a car. And also, as it turns out, a griddle. For three generations, the Corsa has been a crap car driven by blithering idiots. Now the blithering idiots are getting a car that’s quite good.

The car talked about here is a Vauxhall Corsa SE 1.4T 100PS five door. It has a 1.4-litre four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that makes 99 horsepower. Top speed is 115mph, 0 to 62 takes 11 seconds. In this spec it costs £13,840.


  1. 99 hp out of a 1.4 turbo engine? How do they make it so underpowered?

  2. It’s a good point. Rover used to get that out of a normally aspirated 1.4, and that was 20 years ago.

  3. Maybe the 99 BHP claim is artificially on the low side to suit GM’s global marketing requirements? Considerations like lower insurance group/taxation rating in some markets – or even just so it dosn’t encroach too much on the next engine up in the range.

    Wouldn’t be the first time power-output was played-down, especially on a turbo. Skoda’s original Fabia VRS is a good example with a claimed 130 BHP, which felt meatier than expected – not surprising when they all seemed to pump-out nearer to 145 as standard when tested on a rolling road …

  4. The turbos are so low to allow for colossal levels of remappinz innit.

    “Lane assist, park assist, blind spot warning”

    Yes indded, god forbid we should actually USE OUR EYES AND BRAINS

  5. How come when I go to the Car Reviews section:

    The latest reviews take ages to appear there?
    The most recent I can see there is the Passat one.

  6. This review is extremely unfair and very poorly researched and for someone who works on the world’s most important car show, that is inexcusable.

    The engine situation is very simple – Old people who used to buy the Metro Vanden Plas still want a 1.4, because in 1987, a 1.0 was for the bottom of the range model, but at 96, they do not want much power, so they are catered for.

    The 1.0 has more power, but less torque and is a great 1st car for parents to buy for their privately educated children. They will think it has no power and must be cheap to insure as it is only a 1.0. Their children know it has more power than a 1.4 and POWEEER is good, because Chairman JCRC says so. The insurance underwriters know that the lack of torque might keep it out of the hedge once the L plates come off, so they are catered for.

    As for the heated seats, we are back to appealing to old people again. They like simplicity and they like the heating on at home at full blast always, so they will ask the salesman to switch on the heated seats when they take delivery of the car and leave them on, until the car is sold as part of their Estate, when they die, about 3 months later, so there is no need for multiple settings.

    Jeans are inappropriate for a proper test. Next time, try wearing a thick woollen coat, proper trousers with sharp creases down the front, from Greenwoods, proper Y fronts and an incontinence pad and then pee your pants. The temperature of the leaked urine will be perfect with the heated seat on.

    Mr Porter’s comment about the heated windscreen is also unfair. Vauxhall asked their loyal customers what was wrong with the old model, and as it was such a perfect car, all that they could come up with was that using some de-icer and a scraper was a little inconvenient in winter so Vauxhall has addressed that problem.

    Only recently, Mr Porter was testing a battery powered Golf, and complaining because he had no de-icer and dare not turn on the demister in case the Durexcells went flat. The Corsa has that covered and allows the owner to drive away in winter, in full view of the neighbours, without having to scrape the screen, and allows the proud owner to adopt that smug look, often practised by JCRC.

  7. Excellent ^^^^^^^^

  8. The thing about Opel, as we know them over here, is that they were built the old school german way: heavy and solid. Our Opel was never going to win any race, but you could throw it from the first floor window and you’d really be unlucky if the metal had crumpled a bit. I’d be curious to know if they are still built along the same principle or if one of this car’s ancestors has successfully mated with a Twingo 15 years ago and today’s offspring are all about crumple zones and “sorry-mate-that-insect-you-hit-was-a-bit-tough-we-need-to-change-the-front-the-sides-the-back-haaa-screw-it-get-a-new-one-it-will-be-cheaper”.

  9. I find myself having to embrace hitherto unknown heights of ambivalence at the concept of a new Corsa. Now if I was a student, an elderly person, an elderly student, or in receipt of some kind of care allowance, I would probably be experiencing levels of excitement akin to finding one last After Eight mint in that box you swore was empty last time you checked.

    The motoring equivalent of Call The Midwife.

    It will sell by the transporter load(s) and they will continue to manufacture Corsas for the rest of time.

  10. I think it is very unfair to make unfair accusations about unfair reviews. The whole point of an unfair review is complete unfairness by the unfair reviewer. Being unfair is not always unfair and when fair reviews are made it can be unfair too. Its fair to say that there should be equal amounts of fair and unfair in a review but there is always an imbalance which sometimes can be viewed as being unfair.

    I hope that’s cleared that up Vauxhall_Useless_Reviewer’s_Corrections_Department

    “Proud owner”, “smug look” and “Corsa” all in the same sentence, top marks!

  11. Does it come in Beige?

  12. What a strangely styled dash. Is that binnacle based on Edna Everage’s spectacles?

  13. Foghorn, I think it’s styled so as to securely hold a pair of bi-focals.

  14. How are heated windscreens to live with these days? The last time I experienced one was in a 2006 Mondeo and I couldn’t drive it because it made my eyes go funny. It was like driving whilst peering through a sieve.

  15. I for one hope there will be a “limited edition” version of this particular Corsa as I was unable to get my hands on one of the 4.6 billion produced in the old model.

  16. Learner drivers are in for a proper treat.

    I learned to drive in my instructor’s brand-new Mk1 Corsa, and it was utterly, utterly charmless.

    Even as a 17 year old know-nothing yoof, I could tell the difference between a deeply mediocre steer and something a lot better… Like my first car, a 1971 Mini Clubman.

  17. I have a question about the heated steering wheel. When you say not too hot, do you mean barely warm? I turned mine on for the first time last night, the seats too, and my ass was toasty (loved it because it got previously frozen by the sudden drop in temp) but my hands not so much. I felt a slight difference in temp on the steering wheel but it wasn’t warm, it was barely lukewarm. Is this normal?

  18. Not a very helpful review, basically goes on saying the new car is alright it does X,Y,Z. The old model is for idiots who drive like idiots, and they will still be idiots driving the new car.

    Well I can safely say whoever wrote this is an idiot and clearly couldn’t be bothered to write a decent review!

  19. Which reminds me, ST soft spot.

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