As a result, on paper at least, it’s the most competitive supermini the brand has ever brought us.
There used to be quite a significant gap between a Vauxhall Corsa and its arch-rival Ford’s Fiesta in terms of driving dynamics. There isn’t any longer. Yes, a Corsa still has a little way to go before it can surpass a Fiesta for ultimate handling response but it can now run the Ford close thanks to a whole series of development changes, not least a stiffer redesigned chassis and much greater torsional rigidity. Other reasons behind this improvement lie with a completely revised suspension set-up. There’s also much better body control - and a significant improvement in ride quality.
I’m tempted to be equally prescriptive when it comes to your choice of engine. At launch, the only completely new powerplant this car could offer was the one on which the majority of the launch budget was spent, the three cylinder 1. 0-litre turbocharged ECOTEC petrol unit. It’s the one I’m trying here and if I was shopping for a Corsa, this is the variant I’d ask to drive first. It comes in either 90 or 115PS guises and either way, has the same claim to fame. Namely in being the first three cylinder engine that, well, doesn’t sound like a three cylinder engine.
Of course, there are other engine options, the headliner being a redeveloped version of the 1. 4-litre Turbo petrol unit that until now, has been primarily reserved for Vauxhall’s larger Astra family hatch. An easier Corsa variant for dealers to shift will be the 1. 3-litre CDTi diesel. As before, this frugal ecoFLEX unit offers 75 and 95PS output options. And, as before, the one to have is the pokier version.
Of course diesel power and cutting edge petrol engine technology can be pricey. Which is why budget-minded Corsa folk shopping at the very bottom of the range will probably continue to opt for a version fitted with one of the two older 1. 2i and 1. 4i petrol powerplants carried over from the previous MK3 model.
After a few days with this Corsa, I found the words of a familiar rhyme coming to mind: ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’. These are, after all, the fundamentals behind its design. The ‘old’ is easily appreciated, for you’ll immediately recognise this as a Corsa, given that the windows and the A, B and C pillars that surround them on this MK4 model are pretty much identical to those of the old third generation version. There’s much that’s ‘new’ too though. Every body panel is different, most of the underpinnings are changed and there’s a re-designed crash structure at the front.
All that does though, surround much that’s ‘borrowed’ from the old MK3. A number of the engines fitted to this car at launch were, after all, merely updated versions of those familiar from its predecessor. Some of them though, are very different – like the environmentally ‘blue’ 1. 0-litre ECOTEC petrol unit we’re trying here. It’s the cleverest powerplant you can buy in this car and there’s also the option of a substantially revised version of Vauxhall’s 1. 4-litre Turbo petrol unit.
Time to take a seat up-front, where the differences that set this fourth generation Corsa apart really do become obvious. Two first impressions dominate. First, that everything’s of much higher quality than before, with soft-touch materials dominating the dash and décor elements dressed in rich satin chrome. Second is the way that on most models, many of the major functions are grouped onto the 7-inch Intellilink infotainment colour touchscreen that dominates the centre of the dash and is smartly mounted in a high-gloss surround.
The Corsa has long campaigned on its provision of low running costs and this fourth generation version picks up here where its predecessor left off. The headline-making engine here is the 1. 0-litre petrol turbo ECOTEC engine I’m trying. We’re talking 65. 7mpg on the combined cycle and 100g/km of CO2, which pretty much identical to what you’d get from a directly comparable 100PS Fiesta 1. 0T EcoBoost.
Ultimately, what we’re looking at here is a Corsa that can. It can be fun to drive. It can deliver a big car feel. And it can stack up well on the balance sheet. It’s a small Vauxhall for which no apologies need to be made. All that will worry obvious supermini rivals. After all, this
model’s predecessor lacked a little in all of these areas, yet still racked up very respectable sales against them. This MK4 version’s still very competitively priced, but has become a contender in this segment that sells on more than just sheer value.
Add to that the wide model line-up and the likely deals on offer and you’ve a supermini that more than ever, needs to remain high on any family’s shopping list.