Used Vauxhall Corsa review: 2014-2019 (Mk4)
"Roomy, comfortable and economical, the popular Vauxhall supermini makes an excellent used car choice"
- Good equipment levels
- Spacious cabin
- Comfortable suspension
- Some engines sluggish
- Lowest trim levels meagre
- Only one automatic option
The supermini sector of the car market is the most affordable, and a plethora of car makers offer a multitude of models – if they can attract you when you’re buying your first car, there’s a chance you could stay with them for the whole of your car-buying life. The Vauxhall Corsa – reviewed here in its fourth-generation guise – is a key player in that supermini pack, making frequent appearances in the list of Britain’s top 10 best-selling cars.
The Vauxhall Corsa Mk4 is a competent all-rounder, good across the board. It doesn’t excel in any one particular area, but in the places where it lacks the dazzle of a rival, it typically doesn’t trail by a significant enough margin to concern the average car buyer. The fact that Vauxhall sells so many Corsas is testament to that fact.
Available in three- and five-door body styles, this compact, solidly constructed hatchback was made for five years, during which time it was offered with a wide range of petrol and diesel engines, and a multitude of different trim levels. Not all of the Corsa Mk4’s engines are great – in particular the 1.4-litre non-turbocharged petrol – but on the secondhand market you’ll find plenty of other good options to choose from.
Similarly, while the Life, Sting and Active trim grades seem sparsely equipped, generally the Corsa Mk4 is very well specified – the heated steering wheel of the Corsa SE, for example, is not what you’d expect of a supermini. The quality of the materials used for the interior have an upmarket quality, too, especially the soft-feel grained plastic used for the dashboard and along the top of the door trims.
While three-door variants of the Corsa Mk4 lose a bit of rear headroom because of the way the roof-line slopes at the back of the car, the five-door models will comfortably seat a quartet of six-feet-tall adults – for short trips you can squeeze a third body onto the back seats. Parents will appreciate the fact that the back doors open wide, giving easier access when there’s a child seat to strap in.
The Corsa Mk4 range also caters to the young, enthusiast driver, with a couple of quicker models, the GSi and VXR. The latter may not be the most well-rounded hot hatch on the market, but it has a cult following that does wonders for the reputation of the Corsa Mk4 range as a whole.
What’s the history of the Vauxhall Corsa Mk4?
On sale in Vauxhall showrooms from October 2014, the Corsa Mk4, in three- and five-door forms, was initially available with five petrol engines – a 69bhp 1.2-litre, 89bhp 1.4-litre (the only one that offered the option of an automatic gearbox), 99bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre, and a three-cylinder turbocharged 1.0-litre with either 89bhp or 114bhp – and a 1.3-litre CDTi turbocharged diesel with 74bhp and 94bhp.
In May 2015 the powerful 202bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol Corsa VXR was introduced, giving the range a breadth that stretched from ‘straight out of L-plates’ through to ‘hot hatch hero’. In spring 2106 the slow and lacklustre 1.2-litre petrol engine was replaced by a non-turbo 1.4-litre with 74bhp.
Some of these engines feature engine stop-start technology – the engine stops automatically when the car’s at a standstill in traffic or at a junction, and starts again automatically when it’s time to move off – to improve urban fuel consumption and cut CO2 emissions. This can be overridden, though. Additionally, the diesel models have technology that recovers the energy generated during braking, boosting overall engine efficiency.
In response to changes in global emissions regulations, in summer 2018 Vauxhall replaced all of the Corsa Mk4’s previous engines with a cleaner, turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol four-cylinder engine, available with 74bhp, 89bhp, 99bhp and 148bhp power outputs. As well as streamlining the engine range, Vauxhall used the opportunity to cut back the number of trim variations for the Corsa, although if you’re looking at the Mk4 range as a whole on the used car market, there’s a bewildering collection of grades – more than 20 of them, if you include the special editions.
Occasionally referred to as the Corsa E to differentiate it from earlier generations, the Corsa Mk4 was replaced by the all-new Mk5 in January 2019. The latest Corsa boasts more high-tech safety and convenience features, and also offers the option of an all-electric model.
Which is the best Corsa Mk4?
If you’re young, child-free and seldom haul your mates around for any great distance, then consider a three-door Corsa Mk4 – you won’t mind that it’s slightly less practical than the five-door version, and it’s a good-looking little car. And if you’re prepared to live with the mild inconvenience of the three-door shape, then the sporty GSi and VXR models can be added to your list of potential purchases – they are, however, quite costly to buy and insure, and their bulky front sports seats (optional in the GSi) make it tricky for passengers to clamber into the rear.
Most people will be happier with a five-door Corsa Mk4. There’s more headroom in the back, while having rear doors that open wide makes access far easier, especially if you’re lifting kids in and out of child seats.
Best of the Corsa Mk4’s engines is the three-cylinder, 1.0-litre, turbocharged petrol, badged as an Ecotec engine. Available in either 89bhp or 114bhp guises, it’s quiet, refined and makes a characterful sound. The lower-powered version suits most people’s needs, providing zippy performance and returning up to 65mpg. However, if you regularly fill your car with passengers and luggage, or spend a lot of miles on the motorway, then the extra oomph of the 114bhp version is welcome, although you’ll get about eight fewer miles from a gallon of unleaded.
If you’re a high-mileage driver then the 1.3-litre CDTi turbocharged diesel is a good alternative to the 1.0 petrol: it comes in 74bhp and 94bhp guises. Noisier and slower than the petrol engine, the diesels have superior fuel economy in their favour, the less powerful version returning up to 76mpg and its punchier sibling up to 83mpg. Those impressive figures will have a significant positive impact on your running costs if you’re doing more than 12,000 miles a year.
Don’t worry too much if the Corsa Mk4 you have your eye on doesn’t have one of our recommended engine choices – the rest of the engines in the range (all petrol) are perfectly adequate in terms of refinement, they’re just not all sparkling performers.
With body-coloured bumpers throughout the range, all Corsa Mk4’s look smart, and all have electric front windows, remote central locking, traction control, side airbags, reach and height adjustment for the steering wheel and heated, electrically adjustable door mirrors. In terms of which trim grade to aim for, let’s start with the ones to avoid if you can: Active, Life and Sting. The Active, in particular, has a miserable specification, and while Life and Sting are a great improvement over it, other trim grades offer more for comparatively little extra outlay.
The Corsa Mk4 has so many trim levels, many of which overlap in specification, that recommending one of them over the others is impossible. Essentially, it’s a matter of personal taste for paint colours and upholstery fabrics, which differ between trims. As a minimum in terms of equipment we’d suggest air-conditioning, cruise control, remote controls for the audio system, alloy wheels, CD player, USB port and Vauxhall’s IntelliLink multi-media infotainment system that allows you to connect your smartphone via Bluetooth (later models have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity). You’ll find that lot on most trim grades.
Depending on the model, you might discover parking sensors, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, and even a heated steering wheel: some of these items were available as options, further complicating the picture in regard to the Corsa Mk4’s specification. So, if you’ve got a few cars on your shortlist for potential purchase, carefully check their spec lists to see which best suits your needs.
What are the alternatives?
There are masses of alternatives to the Vauxhall Corsa Mk4, all of which are equally deserving of your attention. The Ford Fiesta is the most obvious rival and a very popular car in the UK, and you should also consider the Volkswagen Polo, SEAT Ibiza, Skoda Fabia, Toyota Yaris, Hyundai i20, Kia Rio, Renault Clio, Peugeot 208 and Citroen C3.