All that performance wouldn’t mean much if the Corsa VXR didn’t handle, ride, stop and steer as well, especially since these are the areas in which previous hot Vauxhalls have faded beside their key rivals.
Which is why Vauxhall’s engineers have, in their own words, gone to town on the VXR’s underpinnings.
It’s hard to know quite where to start when describing the various upgrades administered to the VXR’s chassis and suspension. The ride height, for example, is 19mm lower at the back and 12mm lower at the front thanks to the fitment of stiffer springs and uprated dampers. The anti-roll bar is 25 percent stiffer than a regular Corsa’s; the brakes are enormous by comparison (300mm ventilated discs at the front, 264mm discs at the back).
Even the ESP system has been completely recalibrated to allow a small amount of slip when pressing on before it intervenes.
And if you turn it off completely, says Vauxhall, the chassis has been set up to allow a degree of “controllable” lift-off oversteer that should please the wannabes Seb Loebs. Which is fine so long as it doesn’t also make the VXR edgy to drive at the same time.
In the event, the Corsa isn’t remotely edgey on the road. In fact, it could do with being a bit more responsive relative to its opposition.
The main area of disappointment is the steering. Vauxhall has attempted to make a steering system that’s light and easy at low speeds but which gets faster and more precise at higher speeds. The official technical description of the system is variable progressive steering, and what happens is the speed of the rack (and its level of power assistance) varies between 11 and 13:1 depending on how fast you’re travelling, and how rapidly you turn the wheel.
The VXR may well have super-light steering at parking speeds, but on the move it’s neither as precise nor as well weighted as it could be. And on occasions, on rough surfaces especially, it can feel a bit vague and rubbery. Quite the opposite of the way the Clio Renaultsport steers, in other words.
On the other hand, the VXR does have a very natural, well-judged sense of balance mid-corner when you’re going for it. Plus a comfortable grown-up ride quality over just about any surface. It is a far better motorway cruiser than the Clio.
We can’t help thinking that in its attempt to liberate the Corsa VXR of some of the old Astra VXR’s less desirable traits, Vauxhall has gone a little too far. Other than a small amount of torque steer that’s inevitable with such a car, the Corsa is almost too well behaved for its own good. As a result it doesn’t raise your pulse in the way the more nimble, sharp and feisty Clio does.