Vauxhall Corsa Review
"The French lessons have really paid off"
Vauxhall Corsa review 2020

Vauxhall Corsa review: a sensible supermini, better than you think

  • Published 30 April 2020
  • 6 minute read
  • By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

Introduction

It’s amazing what a little French influence can do for a car. The all-new Vauxhall Corsa – and this one really is all new – borrows much from the latest Peugeot 208, injecting some joie de vivre into an otherwise humdrum supermini.

The Vauxhall Corsa has never been a bad car. Thanks to affordable prices, low running costs, typically good levels of standard equipment and a fuss-free approach to motoring, the Corsa has become a British institution.

Much better looking than it used to be - thank the new French influenceVauxhall Corsa review - rear view, driving, orange, 2020 Available to lease from £175 per month Lease Now

We’ll gloss over the fact that the Corsa is built in Spain by a French company, because there’s something inherently British about the little Vauxhall. It’s a car beloved of students, pensioners, driving schools and rental firms, making it feel like part of the country’s furniture.

As you can see from the images, the new Vauxhall Corsa is bordering on sexy*. Gone is the frumpy and dated styling of old, replaced by a look that could be described as alluring. The good news is there’s more to the new Corsa than a fresh face, including an all-electric version.

 

*This could be the first use of the word ‘sexy’ in relation to the Vauxhall Corsa. Ever.


Looks, tech and design

Stick a new Corsa alongside the old one and it’s a case of chalk and fromage. The new car is 48mm lower than before, which creates a less upright stance. It looks great from all angles, although it’s clear that Peugeot wanted to save the best styling for the 208.

It’s a similar story on the inside, with the Corsa looking less dramatic than the 208, although some buyers will welcome the ‘proper’ size steering wheel, as the Peugeot has a weirdly small one. Some of the buttons and switches are shared with the 208, but that’s not a problem, not least because the quality is up a notch or two.

XXShame it's so dull inside...Vauxhall Corsa review - interior, 2020 Available to lease from £175 per month Lease Now

Less forgivable is the rather plain and sombre dashboard. If Vauxhall wants to attract new buyers, this was an opportunity to try something different, rather than sticking to the tried and tested formula. Maybe dark black and grey plastics are where it’s at in 2020. But I doubt it.

At least you get a decent level of standard specification. All models feature LED headlights, a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, air-conditioning, a leather-covered steering wheel, cruise control, alloy wheels and a lane-departure warning system. That’s a seriously impressive level of kit for an entry-level supermini.

If only Vauxhall had trimmed the number of trim choices. There are four variants of the SE trim, four of the SRi, two Elite Nav versions and a top-spec Ultimate Nav. This is before you get to the option packs, engines and two variations of the electric Corsa-e. Choice is great, but speccing a Corsa is like choosing a dish from a restaurant menu the size of a small novel. Sometimes less is more.

In fairness, the Ultimate Nav trim lives up to its name. LED matrix headlights are unheard of in the supermini sector, while features like a 10.0-inch touchscreen, heated seats with a massage function, high-beam assist, keyless entry and start, 17-inch diamond-cut alloys and a panoramic rear-view camera are big-car toys for a small-car price. It’s just a shame that the compact digital instrument cluster looks like an afterthought.

Enough space for the shoppingVauxhall Corsa review - boot space, 2020 Available to lease from £175 per month Lease Now

Because the new Corsa has a longer wheelbase, there’s more room on the inside. It’s a five-door-only body – the three-door Corsa is no more – so accessing the back isn’t a problem. Once there, you’ll find enough space for two adults – three at a push – with plenty of legroom and headroom. Just be aware that the panoramic sunroof on higher-spec models eats into the available headroom.

The 309-litre boot is acceptable, but lags behind class leaders like the Renault Clio and Seat Ibiza. I’m loathe to call a boot space boring, but without a hidden storage area or false floor, Vauxhall has shown little in the way of imagination here.

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Driving

I’ll come to the electric Corsa-e in a moment, because Corsa sales are likely to be dominated by petrol and diesel engines. The 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel will be familiar to anyone who has driven a modern Peugeot or Citroen.

I’d pick the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol, as it offers plenty of poke and seems to suit the inherent lightness of the car. It’s not particularly quick – as highlighted by the 9.3 seconds it takes to hit 62mph – but it’s as good on a long run as it is in the city.

The non-turbocharged petrol can feel painfully off the pace, however, while the 1.5-litre diesel is refined enough if you need a long-legged supermini for motorway duties. Just avoid the automatic, as this blunts performance and fires a hole through the fuel economy.

The SRi is the drivers' choiceVauxhall Corsa review - front view, driving, orange, 2020 Available to lease from £175 per month Lease Now

Is it fun to drive? Not really – top honours go to the Ford Fiesta if you’re after an enjoyable supermini. It’s clear that the Corsa has been configured to be easy to drive, with light steering, plenty of grip and reasonable ride comfort.

In lieu of a properly hot Corsa, your best bet is the SRi trim. It features additional chassis bracing and a Sport mode, which combine to breathe a little life into a B-road blast. It’s no Fiesta, but it’s as close as you’ll get in a Corsa.

Which leaves the Corsa-e to fly the flag for enjoyable motoring. Thanks to its Tesla-like off-the-line pace, it feels properly quick in the city, with the extra weight of the batteries doing little to upset the ride and handling. It runs out of puff at higher speeds, but if you’re buying electric you’re probably planning to spend most of your time on urban roads, so maybe this won’t be an issue.

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Cost and economy

With zero emissions and an electric range of 209 miles, the Corsa-e is the eco champion of the line-up. It’s likely to cost more to lease, but you’ll save money by avoiding visits to the petrol station – electric cars cost far less per mile to run.

Corsa-e electric car should be super-cheap to runVauxhall Corsa review - Corsa-e electric car, front view, blue, 2020 Available to lease from £175 per month Lease Now

Elsewhere, leasing deals start from around £175 a month, which makes the Corsa a very affordable supermini. At the time of writing, Peugeot 208 prices start from around £200, while the cheapest Ford Fiesta costs £185.

The 1.5-litre diesel claims to return as much as 70.6mpg, which presents a compelling reason why diesel is far from dead. Meanwhile, the 1.2 turbo petrol can theoretically manage 52.3mpg, which is just 1mpg short of the non-turbo. I know which engine I’d prefer.

That said, young drivers are advised to consider the standard 1.2, as it falls into insurance group 10. The other engines range from groups 16 to 19.

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Verdict

This is certainly the best Vauxhall Corsa to date – it’s no longer the supermini bought by people who don’t know better. Park one of these outside your house and it won’t look like you’ve driven home in a garage courtesy car.

The new Corsa looks particularly good in one of the brighter colours, such as Power Orange, Hot Red or Voltaic Blue, so please resist the urge to paint it black, white, silver or grey. I’d also recommend SRi trim, as the interior offers a touch of flair, and the car is marginally better to drive than the standard version.

Its key strength is its all-round appeal. The Ford Fiesta is better to drive, the Peugeot 208 is nicer to look at, and the Renault Clio has a superior cabin. But for good old-fashioned value, the modern Corsa is hard to beat.

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