You don’t have to go far to find people with a soft spot for the Vauxhall Corsa. It is a chummy little car that tends to muscle in on drivers’ motoring lives at an early stage. It has long been a popular driving school car, and it is natural that many ex-learners, once safely through the driving test, still tend to cling to the familiar. So the Corsa is often the first car for a recent L-plate shedder.
Older drivers like them too. The perky little Vauxhall is friendly to drive, roomy for its size, and relatively cheap to run. It is also in plentiful supply as the third best-selling new car in the UK (after the Ford Fiesta and Focus). All of which has appeal for an empty-nester. What’s not to like? It’s the right size to be sought-after as a second car too.
There is a new Corsa just starting to appear on the road, and it maintains the same theme in freshened form. The size is unchanged but the engines are new or updated, the styling has been given a minor makeover, and the interior has undergone a big upgrade. At the same time, equipment levels have been improved, and the price of the car has been reduced to undercut the arch-rival Ford Fiesta. Vauxhall is in predatory mood with its smallest model.
It is a matter of debate whether this new one is the fourth or fifth generation of Corsa. It is the fourth Vauxhall model to wear the name, but there have been five generations of Corsa from the sister company Opel of Germany. Back in 1982, when the first Opel Corsa appeared, parent company General Motor was squeamish about how the name might roll awkwardly off a British tongue. They reckoned it would be sneered at as ‘coarser’. So Vauxhall brought out the Nova instead. Same car, different badges.
By the time the second generation car appeared in 1992, the name doubters had got over it, and it became the Corsa here too. Confusion over.
Recent Corsas have been known for having a lot of space packed into modestly sized body, and the car has long been known for being roomy. For a small car, it has good headroom, enough for a six-footer. Rather more than that, actually. One young driver we know is a keen owner of a Corsa, and he is also six feet seven inches tall!
Roomy, yes, but the Corsa has also had a reputation for not being as well equipped as some of its peers. That changes with the latest car, which has had its standard kit list upgraded to a more generous level.
These are some of the desirables that are now included with the list price across the range: multi-function steering wheel, CD player, electric door mirrors, cruise control, stability control, CD player, USB connectivity and LED daytime running lights. Not a bad list for a modestly priced little model. Corsa prices start at £8,995.
Safety seems well covered too, with six airbags as standard, a pair of Isofix child safety seat tethers on the outer rear seats, and pre-tensioners on the front seatbelts. It is a bit of a pity, then, that the Corsa didn’t fare as well as some of its key rivals when crash-tested under the Euro NCAP new car safety programme. Ford’s Fiesta and Skoda’s Fabia both hold five-star NCAP ratings, but the Corsa was only awarded four stars. That gives it a disadvantage that Vauxhall will doubtless want to address.
One big feather in its cap, though, is the new one-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine that is likely to prove highly popular for the Corsa. This frugal little engine is unlike other three-cylinder motors, with their unmistakably thrummy sound. Instead, the Corsa’s three-cylinder engine is remarkably smooth and quiet. If you weren’t told what lurks under the bonnet, you would never guess.