It was fitting that as excitement over the new Star Wars movie hit fever pitch the Scotsman Motors fleet was boosted by the arrival of the Vauxhall Corsa VXR – a car that, in white, looks exactly like a Stormtrooper’s helmet, and can’t help but bring out one’s inner child.
But have Vauxhall got it right with their latest stab at the Corsa as a pocket rocket, or are they as off target as the average Imperial Stormtrooper?
Inevitably, anyone considering spending their hard-earned Imperial credits on the VXR is going to be comparing it with the Ford Fiesta ST. In a game of Top Trumps, the Corsa comes out on top in all the categories that matter. Nought to 60 comes in 6.5 seconds, 0.2 of a second faster than the Fiesta. The top speed is 143mph, four miles per hour faster than the Ford and it packs an extra 23 horses under the bonnet at 202bhp.
Price-wise, both hot hatches are as close as makes little difference, both starting around the £18k mark for the base spec. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.
Visually – despite its resemblance to the Galactic Empire’s henchmen of choice – the exterior of this VXR generation is more subtle than that of the outgoing model. It’s still more muscular than the standard hatchback and the sharpened headlights and air intake above the front grille give it an aggressive air, but it’s not as squat as the last model.The side-skirts look less bolted-on than the old body-kit and the centre-mounted triangular exhaust pipe is gone in favour of twin chrome tailpipes either side of the rear number plate.
It looks, and feels, better put together than the outgoing model – something that won’t surprise anyone who has driven the latest generation of Vauxhalls, the company having seemingly got its act together in terms of materials and build quality these last few years.
This extends to the interior as well. The dash is well laid out and the plastics pleasant to touch. Around the cabin you’ll find all the telltale reminders that this is a hot hatch – flat-bottomed steering wheel, VXR badges embroidered on everything they can be, Recaro bucket seats and sports pedals.
Not that you are liable to forget. The Corsa VXR positively strains at the leash and it’s near impossible to drive with any degree of subtlety. Best just to embrace the madness and act like you mean it.
We tested the VXR as Storm Desmond battered the country, so perhaps the conditions weren’t ideal for testing a lairy hot hatch. Wheelspin became our calling card, eliciting tuts and shaken heads from onlookers in the office car park, the overboost function – which boosts torque from 180lb/ft to 207lb/ft for five seconds if you put your foot to the floor – probably as much to thank as the weather.
The gear shift from the six-speed manual box is short, sharp and, quite frankly, brilliant – even if the gear knob is a weird shape.
The steering is nicely weighted, although, again possibly thanks to Storm Desmond, we did experience a little wheelspin exiting corners. The VXR is fitted with Vauxhall’s self- regulating suspension which means that you get the best of both worlds in terms of handling. A stiff, controlled body when you’re driving at speed and a softer ride when you’re pootling around the town.
In fact, if you enjoy living on the wild side on the B-roads, aren’t especially concerned with miles per gallon and can get past the awkward way you have to fold the bucket seats to access the rear cabin you could quite happily run the Corsa VXR as a daily driver. The rear seats have plenty of space for the class and the boot is surprisingly roomy.
All in all, if you’re looking for a small hatch, with bags of power, that’s going to put a smile on your face, the force is strong with this one.
Engine: 1.6 turbo
0-60: 6.5 seconds
Torque : 181lb/ft (207 with overboost)
Economy: 37mpg combined