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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

In persistent rain, our 99bhp Vauxhall Corsa test car battled through a shortage of traction off the line to hit 60mph in 11.2sec. In similarly adverse conditions last year, however, a 94bhp Volkswagen Polo with smaller, 15in wheels and 185-section tyres was able to hit 60mph from rest half a second quicker. A respectable but not outstanding standard, then.

The Corsa’s eight-speed automatic transmission made getting the car away from rest trickier than in the manual Polo and could have been a contributing factor to its slower 0-60mph time. But it doesn’t quite explain why a lighter car with greater power and torque reserves and more intermediate gear ratios to pull on was then 4.1sec slower to 100mph.

Basic SE and mid-tier Corsa models wear 16in alloys that are sure to do ride quality no harm. Top-spec cars ride on 17s – although, with generous 45-section sidewalls, the Michelin tyres are no elastic bands

The Corsa’s healthy provision of torque does at least mean that, subjectively, it isn’t short of on-road punch. It doesn’t accelerate in quite as linear a fashion as some rival modern turbo superminis, and it can come across as a touch boosty in its power delivery through the lower middle of the rev range, but there’s a likeable pluckiness about the way it picks up pace that won’t leave you feeling grossly short-changed, either for performance in town or at speed on the motorway.

Our test numbers confirmed as much: the car’s 11.5sec 30-70mph through-the-gears time was only 0.3sec behind that of the Polo. And while the 1.2-litre motor’s power delivery can start to feel strained as you approach the higher climbs of its rev range, flexibility is nonetheless competitive in relation to the wider class. Locked in fourth gear – our measure of an engine’s flexibility – the same 30-70mph run took 12.7sec, versus 14.8sec in the 123bhp Ford Fiesta we road tested in 2017. That showing is flattered by the fitment of an eight-speed automatic gearbox to the Corsa, of course, but it’s a strong one all the same.

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The eight-speed automatic ’box itself is competent enough, although our testers agreed that Vauxhall’s six-speed manual ought to be preferable to all but the laziest and most disinterested of drivers. Shifts are delivered smoothly but the transmission can dawdle at times and brake pedal feel is somewhat over-assisted and mushy-feeling.

That said, step-off is generally smooth and it’s perfectly willing to accommodate manual shifts via the steering-column-mounted paddles, although not always with as much haste as you might like or hope for.