Britain’s market-leading small EV gets a mid-life refresh with a new face, upgraded kit and bigger battery option

As the electric car scene steadily grows, new brands are cropping up and coming to the fore, some grabbing market share phenomenally quickly and establishing new, alternative reputations among their evangelical followers.

But, among the cut-priced alternatives from eastern markets, some of the old car makers are seizing the opportunities that zero-emissions motoring brings rather effectively too, backed by the established sales and support machinery and the customer bases that have sustained them so well for so long.

Here’s a case in point: one of Britain’s best-selling small electric cars is the Vauxhall Corsa Electric, the all-electric version of the company’s sixth-generation Vauxhall Corsa. When it launched in March 2020 (then as the Corsa-e), it was received well by buyers, quickly topping the charts month after month.

It was also no mean feat for Vauxhall to have punched such a neat hole through the resistance of established competitors like the Renault Zoe and BMW i3, to have beaten off fresher challengers such as the Mini Electric, Honda E and Mazda MX-30, and even to have scalped in-house relation the Peugeot e-208, in order to score that result.

By its nature, it’s a simpler and more familiar kind of EV than some of its rivals, designed and intended very much to make the switch to electric motoring easy. It isn’t a particularly quirky or different sort of EV, then – and, as we’ll explain, it doesn’t look particularly alternative, doesn’t offer myriad, oddly titled trim levels, and doesn't come made of a host of recycled materials. 

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Vauxhall corsa electric review 202319 static front

You don’t buy it on subscription; you don’t own the car but lease the battery; and you needn’t join a cult to have one. This is just a small, pretty simple electric car – but one that comes with a price you might just be able to stomach, a real-world range that might just suit your purposes, and very few airs or graces besides. 

And now it arrives with a mid-life refresh to propel itself back to the top. Vauxhall hopes to achieve that by giving it a smart new face, improved interior, and, most importantly, a bigger battery pack with longer range. Is it any good? We find out.

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That fresh face is probably the most dramatic – and welcome – change to come as part of the Corsa’s mid-life refresh. The supermini is the final model in the Vauxhall range to be fitted with the brand’s Vizor facia – a black faceplate that replaces the model’s dated front end and brings it in line with the rest of the British brand’s vast range. The Vizor originally made its debut on the Vauxhall Mokka.

It adds a new sense of premium to the 'budget' (still a difficult category to define within the electric marketplace) Corsa, a car Vauxhall is desperate to move upmarket as part of a push towards a more affluent customer base. “We want to be an aspirational brand,” UK boss James Taylor told Auotcar earlier this year, and with this new faceplate as a base, you can see that wish taking shape. The biggest compliment you can give is that this feels, on the outside, to be much more than a facelift.

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This new face also makes the Corsa one of, if not the, best-looking supermini on sale in the UK, battling with the Peugeot 208 and Cupra Born for the title. Coupled with new LED lights (standard across the range) and some fresh ‘Corsa’ lettering at the rear, it really is remarkable the impact that not a lot of change has achieved. This update also brings with it the Graphite Grey colouring – something that will be rolled out across the rest of the line-up soon – which, against the black Vizor, is really rather nice.

Even before its facelift, the changes to the shape of this generation of the Corsa will be readily apparent to anyone familiar with the fifth-generation Corsa. Shorter at the kerb but notably lower of roofline (by nearly 50mm), the sixth-generation Corsa – first released in 2019 – is a car of smaller, less monocabby proportions than its predecessor, and also of crisper styling details.

At launch, much was made of the weight loss delivered by the new Corsa’s PSA Group (as it then was, pre-Stellantis merger) Common Module Platform, which takes the lightest petrol-engined examples below a tonne on unladen kerb weight. Not so surprisingly, the 50kWh and new, longer-ranged 51kWh drive batteries, along with the heavy control electronics of the Corsa Electric, prevent it from coming even close to such a mark. Claimed kerb weight for the electrified version is from 1469kg. That’s still lighter than both a Honda E and a Mazda MX-30, interestingly, but heavier than a Mini Electric.

Part of that weight can be explained by the fact that the Corsa Electric has a stiffer, more widely braced body structure than a regular Corsa supermini. Because its lithium ion battery is carried in a sideways ‘H’ arrangement under its front  and rear seats and along its transmission tunnel, it also has a centre of gravity that's 57mm lower than the normal Corsa's, although lowering a car’s major masses even that much doesn’t always offset the addition of half a tonne of ballast.

Or, rather, batteries. The fact is, in now offering the new 51kWh of electricity storage, the Corsa Electric is one of the better-served cars in its class for electric range, rated as it is for up to 246 miles on the WLTP combined cycle.

The Corsa Electric 51kWh long-range models are powered by Stellantis’s new front-mounted, AC synchronous electric motor that produces 156bhp – first used on the Vauxhall Astra and also set to be fitted to the updated Peugeot e-208. For smaller-battery models, the previous car’s 134bhp motor remains. Both produce 92lb ft of torque. The front axle is made up of MacPherson struts, and the rear of a torsion beam and Panhard link (the latter helps to better locate the rear wheels under cornering load).

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As part of the facelift, the model’s trim levels have been simplified from four to three. The Corsa Electric range is now offered with the new entry-level Design specification, which rises to GS and then tops out at Ultimate. Most cars get a 7.0in digital instrument display and 10.0in infotainment screen – the Electric’s Design trim drops the 10.0in screen for a 7.0in; the petrol’s Design spec uses a 3.5in digital display. The car gets 17in alloy wheels on all but Design, and heated sports seats, a reversing camera and tinted windows are among the equipment lures of top-level trim. Vauxhall’s adaptive matrix LED headlights are standard across the range.

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For the previous couple of generations, the Corsa was positioned as one of the supermini class’s extra-practical options, offering plenty of interior space within a slightly lofty, high-rise body. Well, no longer.

Even in the front, the Corsa Electric instantly feels like a lower, tighter fit for taller drivers than its predecessors ever did, as you slide the seat back and squeeze in past the B-pillar. In the back seats, there’s really only room for children and younger teenagers. The car is no more meanly accommodating as an EV than it is as a piston-engined car, it’s worth pointing out – and it is a five-door. But it certainly isn’t one of the roomier superminis and shallow footwells with close-set pedals also make it difficult for the driver even to sacrifice much front leg room in order to make extra space for someone in the back.

The best superminis have developed way beyond the compromised, long-armed and short-legged driving positions their predecessors had 25 years ago – but the Corsa’s primary ergonomics have actually gone backwards.

Vauxhall’s logic here may be that supermini owners typically prefer a car with a smaller second row but a bigger boot, but it hasn’t done the best job in providing one of those, either. In a regular Corsa, you get 309 litres of storage under the parcel shelf but in the Corsa Electric, that drops to 267 litres. It’s enough to get a buggy in or to temporarily stow a child seat – just –  but there is quite a deep lip to lift items over on the way in and out, and there’s no under-floor storage for a spare wheel (you get ‘tyre fix’ foam instead) or for the car’s charging cable.

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All versions of the car get the same Comfort-specification driver’s seat, which adjusts for cushion height as well as for reach and backrest angle, but doesn’t offer adjustable lumbar support. It’s a decently comfortable seat, and sufficiently wide to accommodate and locate bigger drivers well enough – but if you want the same-specification front passenger seat, you need Ultimate trim. The central arm rest is also an option for anything below GS trim.

Sitting in the front, you’re met by quite a high, bluff fascia. It’s quite a monotone ambience in an Ultimate car owing to Vauxhall’s ‘Silent Black’ trim inserts, but lower-end models use lighter-toned materials.

The car’s instruments are fully digital on all trim levels (bar the entry-level petrol Design, which opts for the pre-facelift car’s more budget 3.5in display). It’s a simplified but adaptable layout, giving you a digital speedometer, an electric range indicator and a power-flow meter as a bare minimum but configurable to show driver assistance or trip computer information if you want it. The instrument displays are all anti-reflective materials, but there’s also a good-sized cowl to prevent any rouge reflections hitting the screen; display clarity is good.

The big update for this facelifted model over its predecessor is the infotainment. Now in the cabin is a 10.0in SnapDragon-powered infotainment screen. It offers two physical buttons below the screen for quick access to the car’s settings, important for an EV. 

Usability is good, with the touchscreen offering quickish responses and a clear display. The sat-nav is decent, but the wireless offerings for Apple Car Play and Android Auto make using better map apps – which most who will have the option will use – a breeze.

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This set-up is offered in all bar one versions of the Corsa: the Electric’s Design trim, which instead uses the older 7.0in touchscreen. This will be updated to reflect the rest of the range at the start of 2024, Vauxhall has confirmed

This smaller screen, which offers wired smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android phones, has menu shortcuts placed around the perimeter of the screen itself. But on the Elite Premium model, it’s a 10.0in system with a row of physical menu buttons below it in addition to the volume knob.

There is a separate climate panel below the screen, which is very handy, although the temperature figure is displayed on the screen itself, which feels like a mis-step, but in the interests of saving money, you can understand the decision. There’s a physical switch too for the car’s lane-keeping assist system. Unlike with some Stellantis group model relations, then, you don’t have to scroll through the touchscreen interface to find the control for every little thing.

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Bar its new face, the biggest addition to the updated Corsa Electric range is a new longer-ranged powertrain, which uses a more densely packed and efficient 51kWh battery than the smaller 50kWh pack. (Vauxhall stress that this 1kWh makes more of a difference than it seems on paper.) Available only with the GS and Ultimate trims, the new powertrain boosts range from 222 to 246 miles, which, in a car the size of the Corsa, is more than enough and a good addition to the range.

It is paired with Stellantis’s new front-mounted, AC synchronous electric motor that produces 156bhp – first used on the Vauxhall Astra, and also set to be fitted to the updated Peugeot e-208. This is good for a 0-62mph sprint of 8.2sec, which is nice to see. (Gone, we hope, are the days of gimmicky off-the-line speeds for non-sport-focused EVs just because they can. Speaking to Opel/Vauxhall CEO Florian Huettl, he agreed, adding that this is not what the customer wants.) That speed positions the car between an upper-level Honda E and a Mazda MX-30 for outright, getaway pace – a position confirmed by the car’s measured 30-70mph roll-on performance.

This is a pretty efficient and rangy small EV, but it won’t be long until you’d wish you could control its energy regen that bit more closely. Judicious coasting is key to making cars like this cover distance, and the Corsa Electric doesn’t quite allow it.

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Compared with the Corsa Electric’s 134bhp powertrain – which is still offered, but only with Design and GS trims – it feels basically the same, albeit with a tad more power under foot, but it's negligible. This is no bad thing, mind, as it's the extra range that customers at this price point will be searching for (the long-range powertrain starts at £35,475 in GS trim).

What is apparent is that both powertrains are the sort you can get on with easily. The car doesn’t offer the more sophisticated control options of some EVs, which people on their third or fourth electric car might hope for, but it won’t unsettle or confuse either, and it serves the car well enough both in town and out of it. 

While electric cars with greater power and torque can sometimes struggle to deploy it through economy tyres and only one driven axle, the Corsa Electric has strong but well-balanced performance and traction. Like most EVs, this one pulls away in responsive, smooth and keen fashion, and keeps going in the same vein up to about 50mph, at which point its fixed gearing and ebbing torque level make it perform a little more meekly. The car is zippy around town, then, and it manages to maintain enough power around the national speed limit and on the motorway to feel assertive and comfortable at bigger speeds, but no longer particularly energetic.

You’re offered Sport and Eco driving modes in addition to the car’s default Normal one, and Eco is alleged to boost real-world battery range by up to 40%. In reality, it only does that by softening throttle calibration and capping the car’s performance, as well as by dialling down the power consumption of the ancillary systems. It does not alter the car’s tendency to either coast or regenerate energy on a trailing throttle (it tends to do the latter lightly at lower speeds and more at faster ones). With no wheel-mounted paddle controls, the only way you can do that is by using the ‘B’ button on the gear selector – now a toggle rather than a switch, like in the bigger Astra – which dials up battery regen, although typically not quite enough to allow a one-pedal driving style.

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By bringing that battery regen in early as you lift off the accelerator, what that ‘B’ mode does do is improve the car’s drivability under deceleration. It simply gives the brake pedal less to do in otherwise blending up motor regen before incorporating the friction brakes. In ‘D’ mode, the brake pedal can frustrate by needing a split second to make the drive motor respond and begin to slow the car down, causing the pedal to feel spongy and dead, and often making momentum harder than it need be to manage at low speeds.

As regards real-world range, testing the new powertrain on a short course that used a mix of urban and motorway-speed roads in Germany, we achieved a staggeringly good 4.4mpkWh. This is thanks to the new efficiencies of that powertrain; when we tested the Vauxhall Astra, which uses the same kit, it achieved a similar 4.3mpkWh.

The Corsa Electric’s smaller 50kWh, 134bhp powertrain, which we tested before in the UK, it returned an average of 3.1mpkWh at a 70mph motorway cruise, and 3.7mpkWh over the full course of our road test (the latter figure, as ever, including the influence of track testing). From a drive battery of 46kWh of usable capacity, that would make for just under 145 miles of typical UK motorway range on a charge; more like 174 miles in mixed urban and intra-urban daily use; and possibly 190 miles or more at an efficiency-optimised, 40-50mph cruise. Although it might not be enough for everyone, that’s a relatively strong showing on range for an Ev priced at just over £30,000.

Vauxhall Corsa Electric Driving interior Autocar Will Rimell

Just as there’s well-chosen moderation in the way the Corsa Electric performs, so too is the same present in the car’s handling. Vauxhalls have typically aimed for a more mature, secure and stable dynamic character over the years than sportier-feeling Fords or softer-set French equivalents, of course. Although it's built on a PSA Group model platform (from pre-Stellantis days), the Corsa Electric maintains that characteristic positioning in the dynamic middle ground.

Medium-paced steering (with 2.85 turns between locks) and compliant but not wallowing body control are the car’s top-level hallmarks. The chassis has a slight but perceptible sense of suppleness and isolation to it, dealing with sharper edges and broken Tarmac without abruptness, and keeping road noise and vibration quite low. It certainly delivers better rolling refinement than some electric rivals, but it also handles with reasonable agility, linearity and precision, maintaining good enough body control to be nipped securely around a bend, rolling as your speed builds, but keeping stable and communicating its limits clearly.

The related Peugeot e-208 is probably a marginally more enigmatic-handling car than this, and a Mini Electric would be a lot more fun; but the Corsa Electric has good dynamic versatility.

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The car’s grip level isn’t particularly high on its Michelin Primacy economy tyres, but the chassis and steering are well attuned to it. The Corsa Electric tucks into a faster corner fairly willingly and without much initial roll. That roll builds as lateral forces rise, and as it does so a modicum of stabilising roll understeer comes along with it, obliging you to add a little extra steering angle in order to stay on your intended line if you’re hurrying along. But the electronic stability and traction control systems (which are effectively always active, although they can be dialled back at low speeds) keep a close but subtle rein on the car’s drive motor and braking systems, working to keep its path neat and tidy without intruding much.

Vertical body control isn’t quite as cleverly managed as the lateral handling. Since the Corsa Electric does carry more mass than most cars of its size, it begins to heave and pitch a little on testing country roads, although not as markedly as some small EVs might. The Corsa Electric’s tendency to oscillate over its torsion beam rear axle, whose tuning makes for quite an accommodating ride elsewhere, is the main sign the car will give you that it’s running out of composure over bigger long-wave lumps and bumps. It threatens to run out of travel at times, although only the very ambitious or daft would actually make it do so.

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The Corsa Electric’s now boosted range is a welcomed addition, and coupled with the smaller, more affordable battery pack, is a good start for it when it comes to convincing a customer that it could work as real-world transport. As we’ve already covered, it’s a car that would require attention, practice and a favourable ambient temperature in order to match Vauxhall’s 220/246-mile range claim for it – but, in mixed short- and longer-range use, it wouldn’t often miss that figure by too much. The car’s three to four miles per kWh energy efficiency isn’t market leading for an affordable EV, but it’s pretty typical. 

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To add a sprinkle of reassurance, the battery also comes with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty (the wider car’s cover is for three years and 60,000 miles, and for six years against body perforation by rust), and it guards against both battery failure and degradation of usable capacity below 70% of Vauxhall’s showroom claim. That too is increasingly typical of electric cars.

The Corsa Electric comes as standard with a Mode 3, 7.4kW seven-pin charging cable, which, plugged into a home charger of the same power rating, will take it from empty to full in less than eight hours. A three-pin ‘granny’ charging cable can be bought as an option. Via a 100kW rapid charger, it can charge from 0-80% in 30 minutes.


There’s a likeable focus and pragmatism about the Vauxhall Corsa Electric. It addresses the primary concerns that new-adopting electric car owners are likely to have when switching from a traditional combustion-engined car to an EV. Will it be cheap enough? Will it go far enough between charges? Will I get on with it?

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If you buy a Corsa Electric, you give yourself about the best chance possible of ultimately answering in the affirmative. That’s because this car goes further than most of its current competitors making that step across from ICE to electric easier than most, basically because it’s the same car, bar the obvious. Its range is also decent compared with competitors, especially thanks to the new powertrain – maybe not as far as some might hope, admittedly, but possibly far enough for a predominantly short-hopping supermini. And it’s also very easy to operate and drive, with little extra quirkiness or complication than any EV really needs, and having good performance and mostly decent drivability.

Price-wise, it’s a mixed bag: entry Design form comes in at £32,445, and when the 10.0in infotainment screen arrives early next year to replace the 7.0in display, it becomes a bit of a bargain; top-rung Ultimate (£38,585), which is only paired with the longer-ranged 51kWh pack, is a little on the pricey side and means it then competes with cars like the Jeep Avenger and petrol-powered Ford Puma. Vauxhall predicts around half of sales will be the entry model.

It’s regrettable that Vauxhall couldn’t have teamed all that with a more spacious interior, of course, or done more to give the driver closer control over the electric powertrain without adding top-level complexity to the driving experience. And it’s likewise a shame that the car doesn’t have a more youthful character, or a bit more fun factor.

But some of those are the kinds of qualities that generally come at extra cost, whatever the vehicle type you’re seeking them in. Considering the car’s positioning, the Corsa Electric’s strengths are mostly more important, universal ones.

Additional testing by Will Rimell

Vauxhall Corsa Electric First drives