How has Vauxhall made room for an electric powertrain?
As with its combustion-engined sixth-generation counterpart, the Corsa-e sits atop the PSA Group’s Common Modular Platform (CMP) – an architecture we’re fairly familiar with now, seeing as it also underpins the likes of the new DS 3 Crossback and Peugeot 208, plus their respective electric versions.
However, it’s interesting to note that, despite the fact the CMP was developed from the ground up to accommodate full-scale electrification, the process of converting a standard petrol Corsa into a zero-emissions Corsa-e isn’t as straightforward as you might think. It’s certainly not a question of dropping a few battery cells in the boot and calling it job done.
In fact, in order to properly accommodate the entirety of the 50kWh battery pack while also making the Corsa perform and handle as it should despite having an additional 345kg to lug about, some light surgical alteration was required. This included pushing the rear torsion beam farther back, widening both the front and rear tracks ever so slightly and extending the wheelbase by a few millimetres. At the same time, the front subframe was stiffened to increase torsional rigidity, the spring and damper rates were revised and the steering response was recalibrated.
The positioning of the battery and the additional mass it entails also lower the Corsa-e’s centre of gravity by 10% from the standard car. The pack itself is shaped to roughly resemble an H, with the bulk of its weight sitting directly beneath the rear bench and a smaller section under the front seats.
It powers a synchronous electric motor that drives the front wheels through a single-speed transmission and develops a modest 134bhp and 192lb ft.
How does the Corsa-e perform on the road?
The Corsa-e isn’t exactly bristling with performance, but even with 1455kg of car to transport, the motor still lends it quite a sharp turn of initial pace. On a dry surface, you could imagine it matching Vauxhall’s claimed 0-62mph time, but it’s the way it accelerates between 20mph and 50mph that will be of greatest relevance in the congested urban environments that most examples of this model will call home.
Even in Normal driving mode, wherein power and torque are slightly limited unless you hit the accelerator’s kickdown switch, the Corsa-e’s appetite for snatching gaps in the traffic is fun to exploit.
An extended poke of the throttle makes it spring forward with impressive but not startling urgency, but press the pedal all the way to the floor and, on slippery, uneven streets, it will vigorously spin its front wheels until the traction control steps in to make things civil again.
Provided you’re not too foolhardy with your right foot, the Corsa-e actually makes for an impressively mature and appealingly polished runabout. The regenerative braking proffered by the motor isn’t too forceful, even in its strongest setting, and brake pedal feel is reasonable too. You can definitely tell when the friction brakes step in, but the transition is generally pretty smart – certainly smart enough so as not to be offputting to a first-time electric car buyer, which is precisely the point.
Through the busy streets of Berlin and on the congested motorways that surround the German capital, it became apparent that the Corsa-e really works hard to isolate you from outside interference. There’s an appealing calm that sets over the cabin when you’re cruising at speed, too. Wind noise is minimal and there isn’t a great deal of tyre roar to be experienced, either (at least on our smoothly surfaced test route).