While you’re sitting at the lights, take a look around you. It’s a fair bet that included in the surrounding traffic you’ll see at least one Vauxhall Corsa.
There’s a simple reason for that. For the past five years it’s been the best-selling car in Scotland in almost every month, with the Ford Fiesta its only real challenger.
To say it’s been a huge success is an understatement. In the UK in 2013 it sold an amazing 84,000 models and even in this run-out year, with the current design about to be changed, more than 70,000 took to Britain’s roads and almost eight and a half thousand of them were in Scotland.
That outstripped total sales of manufacturers such as SEAT, Skoda, Renault and Citroen, making the UK the biggest market for the Corsa, with only Germany, where it is badged as an Opel, coming anywhere near.
Now the latest fourth generation is about to burst onto our roads in the New Year more than 20 years after it first appeared as the replacement for the Nova.
It’s likely to cause quite a stir and Vauxhall claim it will set a new benchmark for the supermini class of small hatchback for driveability, comfort and practicality. With a starting price of £8,995 on the road – although you’ll have to add a few thousand on to that if you want anything more than a very basic model – it’s going to prove to be a very attractive proposition to a wide range of buyers.
It certainly excites Corsa brand manager, Giffnock-born Ian Mitchell, who couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he reeled off the range of features and options available in the new car.
He’s a self-confessed car nut and clearly delights in being involved with one of the most popular purchases of Britain’s car-buying public which has made it the most profitable car Vauxhall has ever produced.
It has evolved over the years from a pretty basic city runabout to something which comes with a vast number of options such as heated seats, steering wheel and windscreen, Bi-Xenon headlights and rear view camera, features that are often found only in more upmarket models.
New speed-sensitive electric power steering, which incorporates a City mode for low-speed manoeuvring and parking, comes as standard on all models along with Vauxhall’s IntelliLink infotainment system featuring for the first time in a high volume mode. It provides seamless integration of all Apple and Android smartphone functions into the car, so drivers can stay fully connected when they are on the road.
There’s a simplified range with nine trims and models, but what’s remarkable is that overall the prices across the range have been cut in real terms, bearing in mind the increased amount of equipment coming as standard.
There’s a choice of five much-needed new or revised engines and transmission improvements which give a big improvement in economy with reduced emissions.
The highlight is the brand-new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo petrol unit. It meets the latest stringent Euro 6 emissions regulations and is the first of a new family of small petrol three and four-cylinder units that are being introduced into the Vauxhall range.
It was in the featured test car and was remarkably quiet yet with surprising guts to return a lively drive. It is the only production three-cylinder engine on the market with a sump-mounted counter-rotating balancer shaft, which makes it smooth and without the vibration and harshness which sometimes comes with only three cylinders. It weighs only 106kg thanks to its lightweight, all-aluminium construction, with a cylinder head-integrated exhaust manifold.
The running gear has been engineered specifically for British roads, which are generally more pitted and rutted by the weather than elsewhere in Europe, and we also have differently angled bends which can affect handling.
On the outside, the car is virtually the same length as the current model but almost everything else about it has changed while holding on to its distinctive profile.
All of the body panels are new, and provide greater definition between the “sporty” look of the three-door and the “premium” five-door models. Added to the Corsa for the first time is Vauxhall’s signature “blade” running across the lower door-sections.
Both front and back ends are chunkier, which gives the car a wider look, and on the road the lower centre of gravity improves handling to give a more stable, yet fun ride. Inside there’s a completely re-designed instrument panel and dashboard, with a new central display along with a re-designed steering wheel incorporating audio and phone controls.
Add all of that to improved residual values and attractive tax benefits for business users and you end up with an impressive package which Vauxhall are confident will keep the Corsa in the best-selling charts for some time to come.
If you think there are a lot of Corsas around just now, just wait till next year.
Price £14,095 (£14,640 as tested)
Engine 1l, 3 cyl, 67bhp
Performance Top speed 121 mph; 0-62 mph 10.3 secs
Economy 57 mpg combined
CO2 emissions 115g/km