Unlike many of its equally well-established European rivals, the 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.
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.
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.