The car’s six-speed manual gearbox is new, too. Particular emphasis has been placed on shift quality, which is short and staccato but could be slicker. More annoying is the yawning gap between third and fourth gears that trips you up regularly at typical UK country road speeds. Thankfully, the engine’s generous spread of torque earns the car a ready-made get-out-of-jail-free card on that front.
The Corsa VXR’s chassis, updated with a new torsion beam rear suspension set-up and the optional 18in alloy wheels of our test car, provided plenty of traction and lateral grip and a pleasing mix of agile steering response, mid-corner balance, handling adjustability and high-speed stability and precision.
A Ford Fiesta ST has a more natural sense of directional poise and better steering feedback, but the Corsa’s handling would take some beating by anything else in the class. Equally impressive, it’s married to a more supple, civil ride than that of the Ford, one that wouldn’t wear on your senses like some.
The car's cabin is not the match of the richer and more imaginatively appointed hot hatchbacks money can buy, with a fairly monotone fascia and performance detailing sparingly applied.
The Recaro bucket seats are fine, if a little short on shoulder and under-thigh support, and there's competitive levels of passenger accommodation in the back seats for what is a fairly small car. So much is probably acceptable in something offering, above all else, plenty of bang for your buck.
Should I buy one?
At £17,995 for the standard car, Vauxhall has priced the Corsa VXR to undercut the equivalent Fiesta ST by £400 – and at that level it’s at its most effective and appealing, fit for fast road driving and occasional track work.
Add the £2400 Performance Pack (bringing with it stiffer springs and damper settings, bigger brakes, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres and VXR’s Drexler mechanical limited-slip differential) and you’re compromising the easy precision of the handling and consistency of the steering for the sake of a bit of added traction. And it's traction that, in this tester’s opinion, the car barely needs.
Like most mechanical LSDs, the Corsa’s sends traction-related forces back to your palms during hard cornering, corrupting the steering’s weight and willingness to return to centre.
Packaged as it is with a suspension tune that makes the ride a touch reactive and excitable anyway, that diff is an intriguing addition to the spec and will be appreciated by those who like their fast front-driver to present a bit of a physical challenge - but it’s best avoided for those who intend to spend longer on road than racetrack.
Vauxhall Corsa VXR
Location Knockhill; On sale May; Price £17,995; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbo, petrol; Power 202bhp at 5800rpm; Torque 207lb ft at 1900-5800rpm (overboost); Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1368kg; Top speed 143mph; 0-62mph 6.5sec; Economy 37.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 174g/km, 29%