The new Corsa VXR isn't a vastly different prospect from its various special-edition predecessors. It does, however, feel like a car that has matured over the several stages of development delivered by the Nürburgring and Clubsport versions. There’s now enough sophistication about the normal, series-production VXR car, and choice about the ordering process, that it can serve tastes as lukewarm or as specialised as Vauxhall is likely to find.
The car’s 1.6-litre turbo engine benefits from a new air intake and an exhaust with less back pressure, liberating modest improvements in power, torque, fuel economy and emissions. It’s a four-pot with a smidgen more grunt than the class norm and a linear, fairly crisp kind of performance routine that only really wants for a bit of endearing aural character.
The 207lb ft of torque it serves is available for full-throttle bursts of only five seconds, but that should be enough to convince most owners that they’ve bought just about the most potent car they could afford - a key pillar of appeal for the VXR brand, you’d guess.
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.