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Vauxhall Corsa Review

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Vauxhall Corsa Tested September 2006

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4 stars

Quick Summary

Recommended. Vastly improved over the previous generation - the new Corsa enters at the top of the supermini segment.

Road Test

Bigger and better than the previous generation Corsa in pretty much every regard, Vauxhall hopes this one will appeal more strongly to younger and more affluent buyers.

The styling certainly helps to set it apart from the crowd, with the Corsa adopting much of the handsome, distinctive design language that originated in the current Vauxhall Astra. The sporty three-door version has a lower roofline and a "coupe-like" glass profile, while the slightly taller five-door looks more conservative. Both benefit from well-finished cabins and strong standard equipment.

The multi-adjustable driving position is good and both front seat occupants enjoy plenty of space, although the driver's frontal visibility is limited by very thick windscreen pillars. Rear seat occupants are well catered for in the five door, but the high windowline and reduced headroom makes the back of the three-door feel claustrophobic.

Driving dynamics feel very mature. Accurate steering and excellent roadholding make the Corsa an amusing backroad companion, while high-speed motorway refinement is excellent for a car in this segment. The only real complaint is with the very firm suspension settings, which create a very crashy ride over rough urban roads.

A wide variety of engines are available, although the basic 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol motor will struggle to motivate such a large car, and even the more powerful 1.2 and 1.4 litre petrol engines feel less than brisk. Three diesel motors are also available, a 1.3 in 74 bhp and 88 bhp states of tune, plus a more powerful 123 bhp 1.7, which sounds a bit coarse but less lends the Corsa an impressive turn of speed.

But for proper pace look to the VXR model, which has a 189bhp 1.6 litre turbocharged engine capable of propelling this supermini to 60mph in 6.8 seconds. The shove is actually quite brutal - not something we'd expect from a Corsa - but happily torque steer (which blights many a powerful front-driver) is kept in check. The ride's firmer than you'll find on any other Corsa and this adds an extra element of on-the-limit control, should you decide to have a go at some twisty bits. Incedentally, unlike most purported hot hatches, the VXR's handling was tuned in Britain for our lumpy, disintegrating but often engaging B-roads. As for the looks, well it's Max Power meets Knight Rider - especially if you opt for the imposing Darth Vader-black paintwork we had on our test car. And the interior is a bit Halford's bargain bin; think stick on sports pedals, free-magazine-giveaway dials and a square-edged rally-rep steering wheel with plastic faux aluminium plating. Nice. However, it's all sort of endearing and does suit the car's raucous performance - as long as you don't mind playing the chav. In fact, if you're OK with every hot hatch-driving 17 year old trying to race you away from lights, the VXR model is a surprisingly accomplished drive and an exciting high-end addition to the Corsa range. You'll just have to rediscover your inner boy racer.

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