The car of idiots enters its fourth generation
Day 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.
Day 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.
Day 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.