Vauxhall Corsa-e hatchback review
"A useful range and huge dealer network add to the appeal of the Vauxhall Corsa-e, but several electric rivals feel more special"
- Cheap to run
- Fast charging
- Good to drive
- Underwhelming interior
- Choppy ride
- Expensive to buy or lease
Buyers looking for a familiar badge on their first electric car will welcome the arrival of the Vauxhall Corsa-e. Far from a quirky model for early adopters, Vauxhall is hoping customers will choose the electric Corsa simply because it suits their lifestyles better than the petrol or diesel version.
From its inception, the latest Corsa was designed to accommodate both combustion engines or an electric powertrain without major sacrifices in any area. Thanks to Vauxhall’s recent change of ownership, the Corsa-e is actually based on the same building blocks as the Peugeot e-208.
The Corsa-e has the same 50kWh battery pack and potent 134bhp electric motor, giving it a range of just over 200 miles and a 0-62mph-time of 8.1 seconds. Like the Peugeot, it can also accept rapid charging of up to 100kW, which will top up the battery pack to 80% in 30 minutes when you need to add range quickly. The suspension has been stiffened to compensate for the extra weight of the batteries, and while the ride is slightly choppy as a result, the Corsa-e also feels planted and precise on a twisting road.
Sit inside, and the Corsa-e is virtually identical to the conventional petrol models, even if only the higher-spec SE Nav Premium, SRI Nav Premium and Elite Nav Premium trim levels are offered. That means every Corsa-e is well equipped, with alloy wheels, LED headlights, climate control, lane departure warning and a touchscreen infotainment system as standard. The quality of the design and materials doesn't quite match up to the electric Corsa's hefty price tag though, with rivals like the Honda e and MINI Electric feeling more special inside.
A clean-sheet design means interior space is less compromised than early older electric models, which often had batteries crammed under the back seats and boot floor. Passenger room is as good as you'd expect for a five-door supermini, and the boot is a decent size too.
The Vauxhall Corsa-e is an accomplished entry into the EV market but it's a shame Vauxhall - a brand known for its value - couldn't make it less expensive. Even the closely related Peugeot e-208 feels more upmarket, and buyers can choose the stylish Honda-e or sporty MINI Electric for around the same price, along with bigger EVs like the MG ZS EV and Nissan Leaf.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Unlike the regular Corsa, the Corsa-e has an 18-cell module battery pack positioned under its front and rear seats. With a capacity of 50kWh, this can propel the electric Corsa for up to 209 miles, according to Vauxhall, but a range of 150-170 miles is more likely in normal conditions. This is on a par with the Peugeot e-208 (with an identical battery and motor) and quite a bit more than the Honda e (137 miles) and MINI Electric (145 miles), but the Renault ZOE trumps them all with a 245-mile range.
The Corsa-e can be charged at up to 100kW using public rapid-charging stations, with a 15-80% top-up taking around 30 minutes. A 7.4kW 'Mode 3' cable comes as standard, along with a 2.3kW cable for charging from a three-pin socket. A 3.4kW 'Mode 2' cable for speedier home charging will also be offered as an option. Using a 7.4kW wallbox an overnight charge takes around 7.5 hours.
Ongoing running costs should be much lower than for a petrol or diesel supermini, but the Corsa-e will be more expensive to lease, costing around £300 per month. The Corsa-e is exempt from VED (road tax) but it's business drivers who could stand to gain the most because Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) is free for EVs in the 2020/21 financial year. Insurance may be more costly because the Corsa-e sits in groups 24-25, while even the top petrol Corsa is only in group 17.
Engines, drive & performance
With 134bhp and 260Nm of torque, the electric motor in the Corsa-e certainly looks good on paper, boasting ‘warm hatch’ levels of power. It does have a bit more work to do, though, because the electric Corsa weighs around 350kg more than the petrol model. Still, the Corsa-e gets from 0-62mph in a brisk 8.1 seconds and its 93mph top speed means it's well within its comfort zone on the motorway. Even more telling is the acceleration around town; 0-30mph takes 2.8 seconds, making the Corsa-e feel very spritely when pulling away from junctions and traffic lights.
Luckily, the low slung battery means the electric Corsa’s extra weight is at least low to the ground; the Corsa-e has a centre of gravity six centimeters lower than conventionally powered versions. The chassis has been stiffened up by around 30% too, and the Corsa-e proves engaging through a set of bends, with accurate if somewhat lifeless steering.
It's worth noting you'll need Sport mode engaged to get all the electric supermini's performance. By default, the Corsa-e starts in its ‘Normal’ setting, with 108bhp, while Eco mode cuts power to 81bhp to maximise range. The Vauxhall feels particularly at home in town, where moving the gear lever into 'B' means you can drive using just the accelerator, using regenerative braking to slow the car down without touching the brake pedal.
Interior & comfort
Because of its extra weight, Vauxhall has fitted the Corsa-e with stiffer suspension which makes it slightly bouncier than the standard car. Like the Peugeot e-208, the Corsa-e hasn't been designed to shout about its electric powertrain. Instead, Vauxhall simply wants customers to choose petrol, diesel or electric based on what suits their needs best. This is reflected inside, where you'll find an interior virtually identical to the standard Corsa. The standard SE Nav Premium trim is pretty well equipped with climate control, LED headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen.
The SRI Nav Premium car adds a number of sporting details including front sports seats, 17-inch bi-colour alloys, a black painted roof and SRI bodystyling.
Range-topping Elite Nav Premium versions get a slick 10-inch touchscreen but the graphics aren't especially compelling and it can feel slow to respond to inputs. Owners can use the standard Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but the main issue is that the Corsa's interior just feels rather ordinary given how much the all-electric version costs. The Honda e and MINI Electric boast far more character inside and have a more upmarket feel, while even the closely-related e-208 and latest Renault ZOE outdo the Vauxhall for quality.
You also get heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, Matrix LED headlights, keyless entry and a wide-angle rear-view camera in the range-topper. There's also a smartphone app to give remote control of charging and the car's climate control.
Practicality & boot space
It may have been designed to accommodate an electric powertrain from the outset but the Corsa-e doesn't get away without losing any practicality. Compared with the petrol Corsa, boot space drops from 309 to 267 litres. The usable room on offer is the same, but, there's no hidden storage if you flip-up the boot floor, and importantly, no logical place to store charging cables. There's more luggage space than a MINI Electric but a ZOE has a 338-litre boot.
Passenger space is good, with more headroom than the MINI and little difference from a regular Corsa model. There are still decent-sized door bins and a storage cubby between the front seats for personal items. An electric handbrake and small gear selector also means there are two large cupholders and a tray for your smartphone.
Reliability & safety
As a brand new model, the Corsa-e is fitted with the latest safety technology. That includes blind-spot alerts, lane keeping assist, autonomous emergency braking, traffic-sign recognition and a rear-view camera. It received a four-star safety rating from Euro NCAP - the same as the Peugeot 208, but behind the Renault Clio, which scored the full five stars.
It's early days for reliability, but we'd argue that if you're considering a Corsa, the electric version should give the least cause for concern. Electric motors have far less moving parts than combustion engines. there's no oil, timing chains or clutch to worry about, and energy harvesting recuperation also makes life easier for the brakes. PSA Group executives will also be aiming to improve Vauxhall's reputation now it's releasing the first models since the takeover.