A heated windscreen. That’s what, in customer satisfaction surveys, current Vauxhall Corsa owners said they wanted. Not a revolution in looks, nor in dynamics, nor in cabin ambience, but a heated windscreen, please.
So you’ll excuse the new Vauxhall Corsa for not reinventing itself. The new model is as all new as many cars get these days. Elements of the monocoque have been carried over, because until a revolution in the cost of composites comes, modern finite element analysis means that its steel shell is as stiff and crash resistant as it’s likely to get.
That makes it a similar size and weight to the outgoing Corsa, at a whiff over four metres long and 1177kg. Beyond that, new means new. Every panel on the mildly Adam-ised, slightly more butch exterior is different. Every component forward of the A-pillars is new. Every suspension component, too, as are the pick-up points for the front MacPherson struts and the rear torsion beam.
GM retains an engineering centre at Millbrook in the UK and is no stranger to tuning cars here, because it knows that British road conditions are different from those elsewhere. So whereas Opel Corsas, belying their German engineering origin, will apparently have greater straight-on stability to their steering, UK cars get a different power steering tune (electric assistance makes that much easier).
It’s said to be more responsive off the straight-ahead to suit our twistier roads. Although the rest of the chassis tune is no different here or across mainland Europe, development of that has taken place in Britain, too.
But there are also two 1.4-litre petrol outputs - 74 and 89bhp respectively, a 100bhp and 150bhp 1.4 turbocharged petrol engines and a 1.3-litre diesel to choose from, while the Corsa VXR gets a 202bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine.
Vauxhall says this new three-cylinder engine is the only triple that gets a balancer shaft, that it’s extremely smooth and that the torque and power curves are both plump. That last bit is certainly true. Peak torque arrives at 1800rpm and hangs around until 4500rpm, only 500rpm before peak power arrives, which stays until 6000rpm.
Inside, the Corsa has been refreshed, again with hints of Adam. It’s classier but less distinctive than the smaller car, presumably because that’s what supermini buyers like.
The Corsa does what it has always done well, providing competitive space in the rear seats and boot and a sound driving position. It’s less classy in feel than a Volkswagen Polo, but broadly it’s good.
There are eight trim levels to choose from with the entry-level Sting model coming equipped with 16-inch alloys, heated windscreen, remote central locking and hill start assist. While the range-topping SRi VX-Line includes such luxuries as Vauxhall’s R4.0 IntelliLink infotainment system, 17in alloys, chrome-effect exhaust, LED day running lights, automatic wipers and lights and cruise control.
The engine fires to a near-silent idle, and in general it’s responsive and keen. It revs willingly, and such is the quietness and consistency of output that there are times while cruising when you could be in any of, say, three gears and you wouldn’t notice much difference in either noise or throttle response. It drives as standard through a six-speed gearbox that is occasionally notchy but otherwise positive.
The rest of the Corsa package hasn’t quite taken the same leap forward. The steering of Vauxhall models has been tuned specifically for the UK (see sidebar). No question, the Corsa feels quick to turn, with light, lively but mostly consistent steering. It doesn’t have the dynamic moves of a Ford Fiesta, and all of the controls, which again are consistent and easily modulated, have a lighter touch. It’s an easy car to drive.
Ride comfort is competitive, too. The last Corsa’s ride was well isolated. This one feels like it will retain that, but our test car might not be the best example from that viewpoint, because it rode on 17-inch wheels. I suspect that smaller ones will be more absorbent.
Pricing is competitive. They all are in this segment, but the Corsa starts from under £9000 and in the meat of the range there’s a lot of standard clobber. Like that heated windscreen. Class leads aren’t won or lost over such details for us, but they matter to a lot of buyers. The Corsa will go on pushing their buttons.
Vauxhall Corsa 1.0T
Price £14,460; Engine 3cyl in line, 999cc, turbo, petrol; Power 114bhp at 5000-6000rpm; Torque 122lb ft at 1800-4500rpm; 0-62mph 10.3sec; Top speed 121mph; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1177kg; Economy 57.6mpg (combined); CO2 115g/km