An all-new Vauxhall Corsa arrives in showrooms in January. It is the fifth generation of the bestseller. The first Opel Corsa came out of a factory in the Spanish city of Zaragoza in 1982. In Britain it was called Nova, a name which stuck until 1993 when it became a Corsa.
Since then we have bought 2.1 million. In September it was the nation’s bestseller. European sales have passed 13.5 million. Ergo, it has been a success, whether as a company hack, a family runabout, a holiday hire car or hot hatch.
With dimensions and aspirations in the Fiesta/Clio/Polo class it has been a serious contender. These types of car are big enough for comfort and refinement, tidy enough for easy parking, increasingly green enough to placate the planet.
For example, all versions of the latest Corsa are rated below 100g/km of carbon dioxide. The dirtiest is the 1.2 three-cylinder petrol turbo automatic at 99g and 45 to 48mpg. The best CO2 rating goes to the 1.5 four-cylinder turbo diesel, on 85g and up to 70mpg. This engine is one of the surprises, because Vauxhall had dropped diesel from the previous Corsa.
The fuel is badly out of favour, despite industry excuses that it has never been cleaner. Vauxhall thinks the company car user, who is taxed on CO2-related emissions, will like the high economy too.
Vauxhall and Opel are now fully integrated parts of Peugeot’s PSA group, which includes Citroën. The Corsa is pretty much a re-bodied, re-trimmed version of the latest Peugeot 208. This means that the structure and the engines and gearboxes and just about everything else you cannot see comes from a PSA factory.
This includes the all-electric Corsa which arrives in March. It has a quoted range of 205 miles and with 136bhp is easily the hottest of the new Corsas, with a 0-60mph time of 7.6 seconds. Its price is awaited. Other prices start at £15,550 for the 74bhp petrol 1.2 five-speed SE. With alloy wheels, smartphone integration, air conditioning, speed sign recognition, lane departure warning and correction, LED lights, a touchscreen, automatic city braking and a leather wheel rim, this may well be all the Corsa you need. It is rated at 48 to 53mpg, 93g CO2 and a 0-60 time of 12.4 seconds. Add built-in navigation and it costs £16,290.
The 2020 Corsa is some 108kg lighter, with the 74bhp SE weighing 980kg. The body is five-door – so the racier three-door shape seems ditched, as is a VXR-type petrol model. Electric is the new “fast” and of course emits no roadside pollution. That all happens at the electricity generating station.
The shape owes naught to the last Astra. It has more interior room but only a slightly larger body.
The bestseller is likely to be the 99bhp 1.2 petrol turbo in SE or SRi trim, from £16,350 and £18,700 respectively, with a six-speed gearbox. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is offered on the SE from £18,080. It is not offered on the SRi but can be had on the higher trim levels and is standard on the range topping Ultimate at £25,990.
The launch was on and around Goodwood, Sussex, unadventurous in contour but with fissured roads on a dreich and wet winter’s day which didn’t lift the mood. The Corsa was fine, though. On offer: the turbo petrol model and the diesel. We tried the petrol SRi Nav Premium trim at £20,440. It recorded 50mpg on an undemanding route. Then into the diesel Elite Nav Premium from £21,560. It is a shade noisier than the petrol engine. A gentle run saw 60mpg.
SRi is the slightly sporting specification, with faster steering response and bracing struts on the front suspension turrets to improve the rigidity and handling feel. A “sport” button selects sharper throttle action and a rortier engine sound. The deal includes grippier front seats.
All Corsas have the same suspension settings, which are modified by Vauxhall and Opel from the Peugeot original.
I haven’t driven the new 208 so can’t comment. Anyway, you’ll buy a Corsa rather than a Clio or a Fiesta or a 208 or C3 for more immediate reasons. These may include brand habit, showroom access, how the cars look and their appeal and ergonomics when you sit inside. There are personal perceptions, peer pressure or the belief that because it’s a Vauxhall it’s British. In fact, a Corsa has never been made in Britain.
Me? I couldn’t choose easily. Any would be fine. If someone said I had to have a Corsa I would not be upset.
Verdict: A pleasant small car with the latest safety and information technology.