Vauxhall Corsa VXR hatchback
Price: £18,995 - £22,390
- Strong performance and handling
- Impressive ride comfort
- Well designed interior
- Looks aren't to everybody's tastes
- Steering feel could be improved
- A-pillars cause blind spots
"In contrast to the cheap looking bodykit, the interior feels very upmarket and the seats are very comfortable"
The Vauxhall Corsa VXR is the hot hatchback performance version of the standard Corsa and is powered by a 189bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. That's a lot of power for a car of such small dimensions and the VXR is the most powerful Corsa ever produced. It can be enormous fun when driven on winding B-roads; the three-door-only VXR has entertaining handling and excellent performance, even if the gaudy exterior tends to divide opinion. You’ll certainly turn heads, if not always for the most positive reasons – the central exhaust, body kit and large alloy wheels all scream boy racer. Its main rivals are the MINI Cooper S, Fiat Abarth 500 and Renault Renaultsport Clio.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Use the Corsa VXR's full potential and fuel consumption will suffer
Performance cars aren’t renowned for their fuel consumption and the VXR won’t be kind to your wallet, but it is still more economical than you’d expect. If you drive conservatively, you should be able to attain the claimed combined fuel economy figure of 37.2mpg – but who buys a fast hatchback to drive conservatively? Our tests actually showed economy nearer the 31-mpg mark and we didn’t push it as hard as we could. It's CO2 emissions of 178g/km put it in tax band H, which means annual road tax of £220.
Interior & comfort
Better than most of the competition
The best you can really say about the VXR's ride is that it is surprisingly comfortable for a car that has such stiff sports suspension. In fact, when you compare it to the Renaultsport Clio 200 the VXR feels positively soft and cushioned. But around town, the ride is full of jolts, with rough roads proving particularly uncomfortable. However, pick up speed and the suspension starts to iron out those bumps with amazing effectiveness. You get an excellent driving position, with the superb Recaro seats that are fully adjustable, as is the steering wheel. The interior feels well constructed too, and is a huge improvement over performance Vauxhalls of the past.
Practicality & boot space
The Corsa VXR's cabin feels very upmarket
Because the Corsa VXR comes as a three-door, it isn’t as practical as cars such as the Polo GTI, which is available as a five-door. Having said that, rear space is good enough for short journeys, but adult passengers won’t want to be stuck back there for very long. The interior is well laid out, though, and actually feels quite special for a car of such small dimensions. In the front, passengers get plenty of legroom, and the huge doors make it easy to get in – unless of course you’re in a car park, in which case the size of the doors is a genuine pain. The boot is just about adequate, but the opening is tiny and makes loading bulky items difficult. No spare tyre is included – you get a puncture repair kit instead. There are plenty of storage cubbies inside, including a tray under the passenger seat.
Reliability & safety
Loud exterior isn't to everyone's tastes
Vauxhall doesn’t have a great reputation for reliability – after an impressive in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, 2013 saw it fall back down the manufacturer's rankings, dropping 13 places to 26th out of 32. The Corsa has had a recall early in its life, but should now be more reliable since a recent update. The interior is well constructed, but the exterior is a bit tacky looking, often drawing the wrong kind of attention. The engine has been tried and tested, so should be easy to fix and parts and components are readily available. The VXR shares the standard Corsa's five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
Engines, drive & performance
Handling to match the performance
Our nitpicky side does find that the MINI Cooper S and Renaultsport Clio have superior handling to the Corsa VXR, but there's no denying that the Vauxhall is enormous fun to drive, especially through the corners. The steering doesn’t offer much feedback when driving straight, however, but it suddenly becomes much more responsive in the bends. And it has lots of grip on the road to keep everything nicely under control. It's quite an accomplished set-up, with body lean also kept to a minimum in the corners, which helps with the considerable 189bhp at your disposal. It can accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds and the 1.6-litre turbo engine has strong acceleration at all legal speeds. You can also get a limited edition Nurburgring version that offers even more power and sharper handling, but at extra cost.
Price, value for money & options
More epensive than other small hot hatches
You’ll have to shell out almost as much for the Corsa VXR as the excellent MINI Cooper S, so the Vauxhall is pretty expensive for what you get. However, it does come with a leather steering wheel, cruise control, air conditioning and fantastic Recaro sports seats fitted as standard. Optional accessories include rear-parking sensors for a cost of £285, plus Touch and Connect sat-nav for £750. Resale values on the used market won’t be as strong as the MINI though, so haggle at the point of sale to maximise your return when it comes to selling the VXR on.
What the others say
It's a good car, the VXR, but perhaps not quite the one we were expecting. For a hot hatch, it makes a remarkably fine miniature GT, but we searched in vain for the thrill gene.
The engine's characteristics are similar to the Astra VXR's - it roars purposefully, has a broad powerband and a snappy throttle. Small openings cause it to surge forward, which is entertaining, but makes the VXR tricky to drive in town. The pedals aren't that positive, either.
Last updated: 21 Dec 2013