The current generation Corsa received a very comprehensive update late last year, with a refreshed exterior, new cabin, engines and suspension transforming the baby Vauxhall into a real contender. Now there’s the hot VXR model to crown the range.
It benefits from all the same updates as the standard car with a few more to boot. The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine returns but with a little more power and torque, the suspension now uses clever two-stage dampers for less roll with a decent ride and there’s even a performance pack option that adds a limited-slip differential, even bigger brakes and its own suspension settings.
You can’t have a hot hatch without the visual enhancements to show for it, and the Corsa VXR isn’t shy about it either. There are 18-inch alloy wheels, side skirts, a rear spoiler and a deep front bumper, as well as a ‘nostril’ on the bonnet to help feed the hungry engine. It’s a very colour-sensitive car; the eye-catching Grasshopper Green probably wouldn’t be the first choice for everyone, but it looks suitably aggressive.
The Corsa VXR is a genuinely small car, but is still practical enough despite the hike in performance. The adoption of Recaro seats for front occupants means legroom in the rear is fractionally reduced, but it’s perfectly acceptable for a car in this class. Three-door-only means getting into the back requires a little effort, but there’s useful storage in the cabin and 285 litres in the boot with the seats in position.
The first surprise you get when you drive away in the Corsa VXR is that your bones aren’t rattled by a harsh ride. It’s firm of course, but those clever dampers do a fine job and when driven normally it is perfectly liveable; refined, quiet and generally well- behaved.
Press a little harder and the VXR reveals the other side to its personality. Go for the Performance Pack and the limited-slip differential has a big effect on how it behaves, allowing you to power out of corners with the front wheels working hard, although it requires a firm hand.
Regardless of the version you pick, there’s no doubt that the Corsa VXR is enormous fun. The engine is keen and responsive, the brakes reassuring and the handling sweet; there’s even a two-stage ESP system which allows you freedom to play with the reassurance of a safety net.
The Corsa VXR can appeal to the head as well as the heart. The standard equipment list is generous – the Recaro seats, IntelliLink infotainment screen, heated windscreen, cruise control, air conditioning and alarm are all standard, while the Performance Pack adds the bigger brakes, Drexler differential, retuned dampers and stickier tyres for £2,400. It’s also more than £1,000 cheaper than the outgoing model.
There’s an obvious market for the Corsa VXR with young enthusiasts who will love its performance and handling, combined with an achievable price tag, but it might also find a few fans amongst the older generation who want a small car with a good specification and a useful turn of speed. It can still behave like a shopping cart when required, but just happens to be impressively fast too.
PRICE: £17,995 (£20,395 + Performance Pack)
ENGINE: 1.6-litre petrol producing 202bhp and 207lb/ft of torque
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 143mph, 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds
ECONOMY: 37.7mpg combined
Emissions: 174g/km of CO2