The Vauxhall Corsa was a game changer back in 2006 and remains a firm fixture in the UK's bestselling cars list – and for good reason, even though key rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and Volkswagen Polo have now caught up and passed it in terms of quality and driver enjoyment. The Corsa remains a spacious supermini that offers practicality and comfort within its modest dimensions on a par with its rivals. You get lots of interior storage, including a large glove compartment and an optional two-tier boot floor for secreting away valuable objects that you have to leave in the car. The Corsa was brought more up to date in 2010, when it got new mechanical parts, a completely new exterior and a series of interior refreshes that made it more competitive with its modern rivals. Getting down to brass tacks, it's not as good to drive as a Ford Fiesta, but it is comfortable and handy when driving around town. The small petrol engines feel undeniably underpowered – as does the basic diesel – but if you do choose a bigger engine, then the Corsa becomes a decent motorway cruiser.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
You’d expect any supermini to be cheap to run – so it is with the Corsa. Low insurance, excellent economy and tax-friendly emissions make it pretty much a bargain to keep on the road. The 1.3-litre CDTi ecoFLEX diesel model is the most efficient and economical, emitting a very low 88g/km of CO2 to be exempt from road tax and returning an excellent combined fuel economy of 85.6mpg. With the exception of the high-performance VXR model, the petrol engines aren’t that bad, either. The 1.4-litre is our recommendation of the bunch and will return more than 50mpg and emit just 129g/km of CO2. Long service intervals and lots of competition for servicing means it should also be cheap and easy to keep in good condition, while Vauxhall's 100,000-mile lifetime warranty should give owners extra peace of mind.
Interior & comfort
You can thank the Corsa for starting the trend for more comfortable, spacious superminis – and when you’re driving it, it almost feels as solid and sturdy as its bigger brother, the Vauxhall Astra hatchback. Its main rivals have certainly caught up in terms of space since then, but the Corsa remains a comfortable and quiet car for daily use. We’d suggest avoiding the basic entry-level 1.0-litre petrol and 1.3-litre diesel if you do spend a lot of time driving out of town, however, as both engines struggle a bit to keep up with the higher speeds of motorway traffic. The standard suspension is well cushioned, but we found that the sports suspension on the SXi and SRi specifications actually feels neither sporty nor particularly comfortable, so we’d steer clear of them. As you’d expect, the range-topping VXR model is designed to be as fast and fun to drive as possible, but it does compromise comfort as a result. The suspension is very stiff indeed and tends to bounce around on poorly surfaced roads, while the big alloy wheels tend to follow ruts and ridges – but that's the price you pay for its undeniably thrilling performance and handling. Overall, then, the Corsa is hard to call completely comfortable – you need to buy a very specific model to get a quiet and smooth ride.
Practicality & boot space
The 285 litres of boot space that you get in the five-door Corsa is more than you’ll get in the Ford Fiesta, which offers 276 litres – a reflection of how Vauxhall has made practicality the Corsa's selling point (be honest, though – does an extra 9 litres matter?). Fold down the rear seats and the boot expands to a massive 1,100 litres, which is more than enough to carry the occasional bulky item. You can also get a false boot floor as an optional extra on higher-spec models, which gives you somewhere to store odds and ends, as well as an area to place valuables out of sight. There's loads of room inside, too, with a spacious interior and plenty of useful features and storage cubbies. Vauxhall even offers an integrated bicycle carrier that slides out from under the rear of the car, although it's an expensive option if you don’t regularly lug your bikes on long drives. Unless you carry adults in the back seats a lot, the Corsa is potentially big enough to be considered as an alternative to the larger Astra.
Reliability & safety
There's no doubting the more recent Vauxhalls do feel much better built that the older models, and the current Corsa is in keeping with this. The interior feels solid and all the controls, buttons and switches are of a high quality. However, the Corsa's 126th place finish in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey is indicative of Vauxhall's ongoing fight to maintain that quality, especially in terms of reliability. In the 2012 survey it looked like Vauxhall had made a breakthrough, climbing to 13th in the manufacturers rankings, ahead of Audi, Kia, Volkswagen and arch rival Ford, but 2013 sees it tumble back down to 26th, with only three models breaking into the top 100 cars. Basically, it just means that while you can get a good deal on a Corsa, you may end up spending that saved money at the mechanics in the long term. Some of the concerns about reliability should be offset by Vauxhall's unique 100,000-mile lifetime warranty, however. The Corsa is a safe car, gaining the full five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash safety tests when it was launched in 2006. It comes fitted with an advanced ABS anti-lock braking system, electronic stability control and dual-stage airbags, which can deploy at different rates depending on impact, as standard equipment.
Engines, drive & performance
When talking about driving the Corsa, the elephant in the room is the Ford Fiesta. Ever since it was launched more than two decades ago, the Corsa has lived in the Fiesta's shadow when it comes to driver enjoyment. And today any assessment of the Corsa is still measured against the market's leading supermini. So, where the Fiesta has sharp and direct steering, the Corsa feels a bit too light and unresponsive. The engine range leaves a bit to be desired, too, with a selection of underpowered petrol engines and a particularly noisy 1.3-litre diesel. Our recommendation would be the 1.7-litre CDTi diesel, which generates 128bhp and is generally quiet on the move – and is the only Corsa engine, apart from the high-performance VXR hot hatchback, that doesn’t struggle when driving on the motorway. However, if all you need is a compact and comfortable car for nipping in and out of town, then the Corsa's light controls and generally good visibility means it could be the car for you.
Price, value for money & options
The list prices of the Corsa are about the same as the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and Hyundai i20, and are very affordable – but that's a big problem for Vauxhall, as those cars are simply better value. Entry-level cars are bit sparse with the standard equipment (especially when compared to the specification on the entry-level Hyundai i20), but Vauxhall dealers are used to customers who haggle hard, so you’ll get a massive discount if you’re persistent – especially on top-of-the-range models, where it will matter most. When buying, make sure that things like air-conditioning and side airbags are included in the price, as not every Corsa model comes fitted with them. Also, the Corsa won’t have strong resale values in the used car market compared to the Volkswagen Polo, but there are plenty of cars to buy second-hand already.