Vauxhall Corsa hatchback
"The Vauxhall Corsa is more sophisticated than ever, taking the fight to its many rivals"
- Much improved interior
- Low running costs
- Good to drive
- Cramped back seats
- Unknown reliability
- Expensive top trim
The Vauxhall Corsa supermini is one of Britain's best-selling cars - a favourite of small families, learner drivers and those in need of an affordable set of wheels. It's a key rival to the ever-popular Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Toyota Yaris, along with a host of similarly accomplished cars from virtually every manufacturer.
There's something quite different about this fifth-generation version. The first built during the PSA Group’s ownership of Vauxhall, it's an entirely new car that has more in common with the Peugeot 208 than any other Vauxhall. Depending on its specification, it's up to 108kg lighter than before. For the first time in the Corsa's history there's also an all-electric Corsa-e model, which we're reviewing separately.
The Corsa now looks more modern and features a lot more equipment than before, qualities it badly needed to compete in a fight against the latest Fiesta. You wouldn't know the Vauxhall and Peugeot are intrinsically linked; British design chief Mark Adams and his team have managed to give the Corsa a new but familiar look of its own. Vauxhall cues include the boomerang-shaped LED daytime running lights and a rear C-pillar that kicks up from the window line.
Vauxhall has done a good job inside, too, where soft-touch materials now add a level of sophistication to the dashboard, as do swathes of trim matching the car's body colour. It's all tastefully done, and buyers should be impressed with the standard seven-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. There's lots of kit in fact, with even the entry-level SE getting alloy wheels and trendy features including a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel.
We're not sure if the world's quite ready for a £25,000 petrol-powered Corsa, but the top Ultimate Nav trim comes with a 10-inch display, leather massaging seas, radar cruise control and Matrix LED headlights. We'd stick with the SRi trim, which builds on the SE trim with extras such as a contrasting black roof and Sport driving mode.
Most customers are expected to opt for a version of the 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol, which comes with 74bhp or 99bhp. A range-topping 128bhp version of the same engine is expected to arrive later. Following a short early drive of the most powerful model so far we've now tested the 99bhp petrol, and found the chassis to be quite taut, keeping body lean in check and providing a reassuring feel. Its steering is precise and Sport mode not only makes the weight heavier, but also adds a keen exhaust note via the car's speakers.
A 1.5-litre diesel is offered with 101bhp but this is only likely to appeal to high-mileage drivers. The petrols can return just over 50mpg themselves, cost less to buy and are cheaper for company-car drivers, making the 70.6mpg fuel-economy figure claimed for the diesel all but moot. Road tax costs £150 a year and there's the option of an eight-speed automatic gearbox in the 99bhp petrol.
The electric Vauxhall Corsa-e is the cheapest model to run in the current Corsa line-up, thanks to the low cost of charging and because the car is free to tax. It’s based on the same underpinnings as the Peugeot e-208 and is capable of up to 209 miles of range. We’ve reviewed it separately here.
The Vauxhall Corsa is a significant improvement on the older car; it’s much more refined, better to drive and more efficient. However, the supermini class is full of talented cars, and the Corsa struggles to match the practicality of the SEAT Ibiza, the fun of the Ford Fiesta or the value-for-money of the Renault Clio.