Unlike many of its equally well-established European rivals, the Vauxhall Corsa has never harboured ambitions of being particularly ‘fun to drive’.

Even in VXR-branded form, its reputation for driver appeal has been a bit mixed. That’s largely because Opel-Vauxhall has never been minded to put agility or responsiveness ahead of obliging usability or convenience as key components of the basic car’s motive character. And, given how well the car has sold over the years, conceivably quite rightly so.

The Corsa’s light steering wants for both feel and a build-up of resistance as lock is applied, but the car is stable and predictable at speed, and easy to manoeuvre in town

Perhaps somewhat predictably when prefaced in that light, this new version handles a little bit like a car of conflicted priorities: one that’s fundamentally better able than its predecessors to distinguish itself for handling precision and general dynamic poise (thanks to its lower body profile and kerb weight) but one that hasn’t been tuned with quite the required agenda to capitalise on it.

In an echo of its slightly stodgy and over-assisted brake pedal, the car’s steering is also quite light and a little disconnected in its feel. It maintains a monotone weighting as you add angle rather than increasing resistance to mimic load building into the suspension and tyre sidewalls, and this is precisely the kind of dynamic trait that Vauxhall might have ‘tuned out’ for UK-market cars under its former General Motors ownership.

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That the system is also calibrated to return to centre at surprising pace makes the car a shade less intuitive than it might be both to place on the road and to manoeuvre. That said, no driver will be complaining about the amount of physical work required of them to get the car in to and out of spaces and around tight car parks. That the handling responses are quite gentle and measured means that the lack of weight and feedback is less of an issue at speed than otherwise might have been the case.

The Corsa steers with only moderate pace from the rack, plenty of grip from each corner and with stability quite plainly prioritised from the chassis balance. Driver engagement is still in fairly short supply, then, but outright body control and security at speed are both good, and handling precision is more than respectable.

Vauxhall Corsa comfort and isolation

If you imagined that a model platform shared with a posse of small French cars might provide something of a dynamic personality transplant for the Corsa, you’ll already be disappointed with what you’ve read so far, and what’s more, there isn’t better news to come. That’s because a slightly recalcitrant and occasionally wooden-feeling ride is one of the more conspicuous dynamic frustrations of this car.

The Corsa deals with smoother and more level roads perfectly well, and it fusses less at urban speeds than it does elsewhere. The suspension trips up over sharper edges and bigger inputs, though, and finds too many motorway undulations and surfaces to fidget and roar over for it to produce quite the sense of on-board refinement and comfort that it would need in order to rival the most dynamically sophisticated superminis in the class.

It’s almost as if the car’s chassis development team considered it their mission to produce for the Corsa a sterner, firmer, more Germanic and generally more serious-feeling ride compromise than any of its newly related supermini cousins have, and therefore ruled out from the start the suspension dexterity and wheel travel that might have allowed it to deal well with more trying UK roads. Or perhaps that’s to overstate the severity of the car’s ride somewhat.

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It is at least mostly quiet and is comfortable enough for the broadest of usage patterns. It will cause offence only to those who know how good this car’s competitors have become over the past five years or so. One way or the other, though, it ultimately conspires to deny this car membership of the class’s new dynamic elite, and that’s something it can ill afford in light of its new, more expensive price positioning.

Vauxhall Corsa assisted driving notes

All Corsa models come with an impressive suite of advanced driver assistance systems. This includes active emergency braking, active lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control, plus a feature called Flank Guard, which uses sensors that warn if the side of the car is about to impact with an object at speeds below 6mph.

The systems aren’t groundbreaking but they work reliably. The active lane keep assist isn’t easily spooked and feels well calibrated for UK motorways. The manner in which it steps in to guide you back into your lane is gentle and it hands back control in a smooth fashion.

Elsewhere, the adaptive cruise control is adept at reading changes in traffic speed and will adjust the speed of the car in a usefully progressive fashion. The absence of a chorus of warning chimes, beeps and bongs is also welcome.