From £18,1908
Hot Corsa majors on pace, purpose and performance value. Brash, boisterous and great fun – if a little lacking in finesse

Our Verdict

Vauxhall Corsa VXR
Vauxhall's Corsa VXR costs from £17,995

Hot Corsa majors on pace, purpose and performance value. Brash, boisterous and great fun – if a little lacking in finesse

  • First Drive

    2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR UK review

    Hot Corsa majors on pace, purpose and performance value. Brash, boisterous and great fun – if a little lacking in finesse

What is it?

The new Vauxhall Corsa VXR may look a bit under-endowed next to its bigger-engined VXR siblings, but it sits pretty at the top of an important notional pyramid for its maker.

Volker Strycek, performance director for the VXR brand and former DTM champion himself, says despite the lower-order standing that its price and power level implies, the Corsa is actually the most hardcore model in the VXR range.

And that’s the way VXR owners like it, apparently. “The market research tells us that Astra and Insignia buyers expect more comfort, refinement and ease of use,” says Volker, “but the Corsa VXR owners are the real enthusiasts. It’s great fun making cars for customers like that.”

It’s also plenty of fun driving the car that Nürburgring ace Volker has made for customers like that. Not, perhaps, the most delicate, subtle or precise sort of fun you’ll ever have at the wheel of hot hatchback, but a visceral giggle, undoubtedly – and a particularly purposeful and involving one if you’ve got the forearms, and the budget, for it.

What's it like?

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.

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%

Join the debate

Comments
12

14 April 2015
Hasn't undercut the Fiesta by enough for my liking, any dealership will happily slash £400 off the Ford if it's a deal breaker without breaking a sweat.

15 April 2015
"fit for fast road driving and occasional track work".. Lol really Autocar? Who the HELL takes their Corsa to the track? You make it sound like its done every weekend. And sort out your shitty, out of date commenting system. It's as out of touch as some of your writers. Use Disquss or something of this decade please.

3

15 April 2015
I think the 3 in BigMItch's post is marks out of ten for tact.

15 April 2015
a bit tedious that, yet again, all you're comparing this car too is the Fiesta. I think those days of the blue-collar Brit worker only considering a Ford (US) or a vauxhall (US) is a little out-of-date. Full fast-road test of the following please;
Cooper
Leon
Kia GT
208
Clio
Corsa
Fiesta

ta

15 April 2015
Forgive me if I am wrong but rather recently I have read that a number of very young drivers being involved in high speed death crashes taking the lives of promising young people and in one or two cases innocent motorists with them.
Presenting yet another cheap tool for them to have a go in seems to be a rather serious bad judgement - but of course I am just an ex rally driver with 45 years of driving experience

what's life without imagination

15 April 2015
5wheels wrote:

Forgive me if I am wrong but rather recently I have read that a number of very young drivers being involved in high speed death crashes taking the lives of promising young people and in one or two cases innocent motorists with them.
Presenting yet another cheap tool for them to have a go in seems to be a rather serious bad judgement

This is a true and very sad fact. Having had first hand experience of these distressing situations far too often through my work I firmly believe that there should be a system of graded driving licences, where recently qualified drivers are restricted on the number of passengers they can carry, and the power output of vehicles they can drive early in their driving career.

15 April 2015
Forgive me if I am wrong but rather recently I have read that a number of very young drivers being involved in high speed death crashes taking the lives of promising young people and in one or two cases innocent motorists with them.
Presenting yet another cheap tool for them to have a go in seems to be a rather serious bad judgement - but of course I am just an ex rally driver with 45 years of driving experience

what's life without imagination

15 April 2015
5wheels wrote:

...Presenting yet another cheap tool for them to have a go in seems to be a rather serious bad judgement - but of course I am just an ex rally driver with 45 years of driving experience

So you want Vauxhall to put the price up or Vauxhall to stop selling fast cars? Also, Should only BMW and Audi sell quick small cars then?

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

15 April 2015
xxxx wrote:
5wheels wrote:

...Presenting yet another cheap tool for them to have a go in seems to be a rather serious bad judgement - but of course I am just an ex rally driver with 45 years of driving experience

So you want Vauxhall to put the price up or Vauxhall to stop selling fast cars? Also, Should only BMW and Audi sell quick small cars then?

KTM's CEO has just said they won't release their newest biggest bike for the road as the speed is unusable on a road. I like track day's and these sorts of cars makes sense for that but it is a question of when and not will the EU going to put a limit on power/acceleration.....

15 April 2015
In any case it's not the car or it's price that allows youngsters to kill themselves, they are quite capable of doing that in a similar price second hand vehicle.

 Offence can only be taken not given- so give it back!

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