The electric hatch is in celebratory mood with special design features, powertrain tweaks

Has it really been 40 years since Vauxhall’s supermini went electric? Of course not, yet here is the Vauxhall Corsa-e Anniversary Edition, a 1000-run limited edition resplendent in Record Red paint, tartan-trimmed seats and a host of other special features.

It is, as you’ve probably guessed, a celebration of the Corsa model rather than the battery electric version – which, just to confirm, only arrived in 2020. That’s still fresh in car cycle terms, but the rapid rate of EV development and learning has enabled some small but significant across the range.

We’ll get to that in a bit, but let’s just clear up that ‘anniversary’ issue, because even as a celebration of 40 years of the Corsa there’s still room for confusion. That’s because the Corsa nameplate only arrived in the UK in 1993 – reportedly because Vauxhall bosses worried it sounded like ‘coarser’. So the first-generation car that launched in 1982 was known in the UK as the Nova.

Either way, it’s a milestone worthy of celebration, especially because the model continues to thrive: the Vauxhall Corsa is best-selling car in the UK so far in 2022, and the electric version is part of that.

The Corsa-e Anniversary Edition’s inspiration largely comes from the original Nova. The Record Red paint is inspired by the Carmine Red offered on the original Nova, as is the tartan trim that clothes the seats. And yes, a bright red paint and tartan trim does give this model a whiff of Volkswagen Golf GTI.

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Still, it’s all very nicely done. It’s essentially mid-level SE trim Corsa-e with a host of extra features: as well as the pain and fabric, there are 17in black alloy wheels, black grille, logos and lettering, alloy effect pedals, a numbered dashboard plaque, rear camera and heated seats.

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The piece de resistance? That would be two pairs of tartan trim socks, one with a design matching the original Nova fabric, the other from the new Anniversary Edition.

Leaving aside the hosiery, the special features give the Corsa-e Anniversary Edition a slight hot hatch charm that chimes with early Nova models. That said, at £31,000 – £700 more than regular Corsa-e SE models, but still £910 cheaper than top-spec Ultimate cars – it’s unlikely to be the preserve of many first-time car buyers in the same way as the original Nova was.

More significant are the latest powertrain updates, which apply to the whole Corsa-e range for the 2022 model year. The essentials don’t change: the electric supermini still uses a 50kWh (gross) battery and 134bhp motor. But there’s a new final drive ratio for the motor, which means it spins less when running in top gear. There’s also a new heat pump, which the firm says is more efficient.

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The net result is that the Corsa-e’s official range has been lifted from 209 to 222 miles – and our outings showed that surpassing 200 miles in the real world is entirely possible. While it’s perhaps a psychological barrier as much as anything, it’s a useful whack of extra range that is very welcome.

What hasn’t changed is the Corsa-e’s pleasingly swift acceleration and slight dynamic feel. It won’t be mistaken for a classic Corsa VXR and some other EVs remain better to drive, but there’s a dash of character that makes this a fun, ideal city car.

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There’s also a new gear drive selector to replace the stick, which is also simple and intuitive to operate.

While the updates do add to the Corsa-e’s strengths, its limitations do remain: space in the second-row of seats is limited, and the boot is small. Given those old enough to remember the early Nova/Corsa models may now have families, that may be a bit of an issue. If you’re looking for an EV purely as a second car that might be fine, but it’s worth noting that you can get larger EVs, such as the new MG 4 hatch or Kia Niro EV, for similar or less money.

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Many Corsa-e buyers will be those seeking a second car, or who don’t need anything bigger. And they’ll find much to like in terms of style and dynamics – and now with a useful extra slug of refinement and range. When you choose to invest in one of the 1000 Anniversary Edition models or look to another trim option is a matter of personal choice. Still, at 40 years old the Corsa finds itself in good health – and, in electric form, poised to do so into the future.

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James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport, autosport.com, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

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gagaga 13 September 2022

Having had a base Corsa as a courtesy car when mine (Ultimate trim)  was being serviced, I was shocked at how cheap the base one felt.  Not sure how much of that was it being Diesel vs electric or the trim but they felt like different cars, so good work whoever did the differentials on the interior.

As a aside, the dealer (Vauxhall Hemel Hempstead) was great, couldn't fault them (including a courtesy car and a valet for a £99 interim service was a pleasant surprise).

ianp55 13 September 2022

As Corsa "special editions" go this is quite restrained almost tasteful,nice colour and interior.

Boris9119 13 September 2022

Ah, the Vauxhall Corsa, no better example of what conveys the 'great unwashed. than currently exists.