13 November 2003

Vauxhall/Opel and Fiat are jointly preparing replacements for the Corsa and Punto for 2005/6. The superminis are the first cars to be co-developed by the companies, which are already collaborating over powertrain development.

The Fiat arrives in 2005, while the Corsa is planned for March 2006. Both cars will be among the first to have been engineered to meet tough new 2005 pedestrian impact regulations, which require more crushable bodywork forward of the front wheels. For this reason, say insiders, the cars will be big for their class.

GM Europe vice-president Mike Burns has already admitted to Autocar that the current Corsa is ‘too conservative’. The new model is being developed with the emphasis on design, interior innovation and vehicle dynamics, in line with GM’s new product mantra.

As it happens, the Punto shares two of these characteristics – design and interior innovation – but at this stage, it is not clear what other priorities Fiat has for the car. It has been styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro, and Fiat insiders are reportedly ‘very satisfied’ with the way the car looks. Giugiaro also designed the original Punto and Uno.

The Corsa will be designed in-house, led by design chief Martin Smith. As with the current model, the three- and five-door versions will have slightly different rear-end treatments, emphasising the more practical nature of the five-door model.

Fiat, however, will offer the same style for both models, regardless of door count. It’s not clear whether the Punto will share the new Corsa’s flexibility of accommodation, which is likely to include rear seats with reclining backrests, a sliding bench and a front passenger seat that folds flat– or a combination of these.

Suspension will be by MacPherson strut up front and torsion beam at the rear. Though torsion beam axles do not always provide the best ride/handling compromise, GM’s success with tuning the system in the current Astra won the argument. It is also compact and cheap.

The new Corsa and Punto will share the same wheelbase and track. They are being developed by separate Vauxhall/Opel and Fiat teams, who are working together to share components that do not affect brand identity.

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