Although the third generation car we examine here was a massive improvement over its predecessor, it pays not to denigrate that car's achievements. In 2005, the Corsa was still the UK's best selling supermini, easily outselling the likes of the Renault Clio, the Ford Fiesta and the Peugeot 206. Even with this level of success, Vauxhall realised it wouldn't take long for the public to twig that the Peugeot 207, the Fiat Grande Punto and the Renault Clio III had easily overtaken the Corsa in terms of talent. Something needed to be done but rather than play a conservative hand, Vauxhall, for the very first time, set out to endow the Corsa with some genuine flair. It was a risky strategy to mess with a formula that had served them so well but it was one they had seen work with the Astra.
The Corsa's bigger sibling offered such a quantum leap in styling and build quality over its predecessor that it seemed that a generation was somehow missing between the two cars. Similarly, if you're a dyed-in-the-wool Corsa buyer, the latest model will be a rude awakening. The reason why is that Vauxhall were one of the very first manufacturers to really buy into spreading so-called 'utility' models right across their range. The introduction of the super-practical Zafira and Meriva models means that those who want to do the flipping and folding thing with the seats have cars specifically designed for the task, freeing up models like the Astra, and now the Corsa, to get on with the business of looking rather good. The range was added to in April 2007 with the ripsnorting 189bhp Corsa VXR and in August this model was followed by the still rapid but only a little more restrained SRi variant, which used a detuned version of the same 1.6T engine. A 1.7 CDTi diesel SRi was launched concurrently.
The Corsa ecoFLEX was launched in mid 2008 as a super-economical model based on the 1.3-litre CDTi engine. It was really just an engine re-map, however, until it was thoroughly revised a year later. Aerodynamic modifications, weight savings, longer gearing and low rolling resistance tyres improved combined cycle economy to over 70mpg.
For the 2010 model year, the Corsa trim levels were changed to S, SE, Exclusiv, SXi and SRi. All models received revisions under the skin to sharpen the driving experience and almost all benefited from improved economy, lower emissions and more power. Confusingly, all the lower emissions cars were badged ecoFLEX at this stage but only the 94bhp 1.3-litre diesel came with special modifications helping it to 76mpg economy.