The Corsa E raised its game to become a competitive and classy supermini, but is it a better used buy than a Fiesta?

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With more than 4000 for sale, ranging in price from £2500 to £13,000, with a choice of three or five-door bodies, petrol or diesel engines and manual or automatic gearboxes, and even the hot hatch VXR version, there’s sure to be an example of the Vauxhall Corsa E of 2014-19 to suit you – or at least someone you know.

The fact is, with the exception of the 202bhp VXR, it isn’t the most entertaining of drives but is cheap to run, a breeze to own, roomy and comfortable.

It’s loosely based on the previous model launched as long ago as 2006 but comprehensively redesigned and refreshed and with some new engines, including a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol in two power outputs.

What Vauxhall didn’t mess with were the proportions (the rear cabin is particularly roomy and the boot is a decent size) and the driving position, which is fine for all but those with long legs (the seat doesn’t move back far enough). With more permutations than the Pools, it makes sense to focus first on the best engines.

Of the two 1.0-litre triples, the 113bhp unit is our favourite. It’s a good all-rounder that’s nippy in town but not overwhelmed by the open road. It’s paired with what was then an all-new six-speed manual gearbox, billed as slick by Vauxhall but found by us testers to be notchy.

It 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.

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There are cheaper, naturally aspirated four-pot 1.2 and 1.4s, but towards the end of 2018 these and the 1.0 triples were replaced by a turbocharged 1.4 in four different power outputs, our pick being the 99bhp version.

If economy is your goal, then go for the more powerful of the two 1.3 CDTi Ecoflex diesels.

With 94bhp, it makes good progress yet can return up to 80mpg. Sporty drivers are served by the 202bhp VXR - a rapid but flawed machine bested by the Ford Fiesta ST. Lower down the scale is the 148bhp GSi. It’s a quick car but off the pace set by contemporary rivals including the Suzuki Swift Sport.

Bar the VXR, all versions of the Corsa ride comfortably and quietly, especially on smaller wheels.

The steering is light and lively, sprightly and responsive, not least because it has been tuned specifically for the UK. It doesn’t have the dynamic moves of a Ford Fiesta, but all of the controls, which again are consistent and easily modulated, have a lighter touch. It’s an easy car to drive. 

The quality of the interior is also good. It’s not as classy as a Volkswagen Polo’s but a definite improvement on the previous model, with quality plastics much in evidence and excellent seats on higher-grade trims. It’s classier but less distinctive than its brother, the Adam, presumably because that’s what supermini buyers like.

There is a huge choice in specifications, spanning poverty (Life) to luxury (Elite). It can all be quite baffling so, instead, we’ll focus on the most plentiful.

In ascending order of kit count, they are Sting (16in alloys, a heated windscreen and driver’s seat height adjustment), Design (air-con, 7.0in infotainment system and Bluetooth) and SRi VX-Line cars get 17in alloys, sports suspension and a more aggressive bodykit.

Note that if you’re buying a Corsa as a cheap runabout or for a young driver, insurance groups vary widely between trims, from group 2 for 1.2-litre cars to group 20 for the 1.4 GSi; the VXR is group 30. In short, more miserly, the cheaper.

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Engine: All engines have a timing chain and many sound worryingly rattly from cold. Nothing seems to cure it, but at least make sure the engine has enjoyed regular oil changes. Hesitancy or misfiring may be worn coil packs or the emissions system. Air flow sensor problems aren’t uncommon and will trigger the engine management light.

Gearbox: Manuals can suffer a worn gear linkage, even at low mileages, which affects selection of first, second and reverse. As a learner or first-car favourite, clutches take a hammering.

Suspension and steering: The Corsa is light so fairly easy on the suspension, but check the dampers for leaks and that the steering is true.

Brakes, wheels and tyres: These can betray a lack of care and insufficient funds for routine servicing. Check the discs aren’t too heavily lipped, the tyres are good quality and evenly worn and that the wheels aren’t kerbed beyond repair.

Interior: Where fitted, check the car’s USB connections are working and that your phone can talk to the infotainment system.

Body: Check it has a heated windscreen; when it’s cracked, some owners save money by having a non-heated replacement fitted.


That the Corsa is so easy to both own and drive means it should be on your shortlist as a machine for both first-time buyers and those looking to downsize. With so many different specifications available from £2500, it is comprehensively refreshed supermini that continues to push the buttons of class leaders.

It can't quite match the dynamic finesse of the Fiesta or the interior build quality of the Polo, but it strikes a neat enough balance between the two that you aren't likely to feel shortchanged when stepping into it.

By making sure the engine has undergone its regular bundle of oil changes and the car's overall mechanical efficacy has not succumbed to the previous owner's lack of care (or budget), you'll find yourself with a competitive, inoffensive and affable daily runabout.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Vauxhall Corsa 2014-2019 First drives