Vauxhall Corsa hatchback (2006 – ) expert review

By Stuart Milne, 12th November 2010

The verdict

The Vauxhall Corsa is a three- or five-door supermini which rivals the Ford Fiesta. It has low running costs and is easy to drive, but it feels dated against more modern rivals.

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Expert rating:

3.8

Pros

  • ecoFLEX is cheap to run
  • Comfortable and fun to drive
  • Light and airy cabin

Cons

  • Little cabin stowage
  • Dated interior styling
  • Used values are poor

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Vauxhall Corsa is available with three or five doors – three-door models have a sporty, coupe-like roofline while five door models are squarer at the rear and more practical. With changes for 2011, the Corsa now shares the modern grille design of the Meriva, Astra and Insignia along with updated headlights and bright new paint colours. The small amount of bodywork ahead of the front wheels and behind the rears make it appear larger than it is, and make it easy to park. Higher-spec models feature alloy wheels and the Limited Edition,  SRi and VXR models come with racy bodykits.

Our rating: 3

2. Interior

Vauxhall gives different models in the range different interior colours and trims. However, the Corsa doesn’t have the same upmarket look and feel as the Ford Fiesta. The large controls are easy to locate and well illuminated while the dials are easy to read. The facelifted car gets a colour touch-screen sat-nav, which is a huge improvement on the old version. The self-centering indicator and wiper stalks need care, as they can be confusing – stopping a left-hand indicator can mean operating the right-hand blinkers.

Our rating: 3

3. Practicality

The Corsa is most practical in its less stylish five-door configuration which gives more headroom in the rear. Rear seat-up boot space is identical between the two models and betters the Peugeot 207 and FIAT Panda with 285 litres of room. Space with the rear seats folded is slightly better in the five-door. The Corsa has a false floor in the boot which can hide rarely-used cargo and can be removed to increase space, but the glovebox is small and there’s limited space to hide things out of sight. The driving position is comfortable, but low side windows give the feeling of sitting very high. Space front and rear is good for four adults.

Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

The Corsa offers a good balance of comfort and driver enjoyment, with the emphasis on the latter in SRi and VXR trim – standard models with softer suspension and smaller wheels have a smoother and quieter ride. The steering is fast to react but it feels too light to inspire ultimate confidence when cornering at speed and can’t match the Ford Fiesta for feedback. However, the light helm makes manoeuvring around town easy, and a small turning circle helps further. The Corsa’s handling was tweaked in 2010 to improve steering feel, ride comfort and stability. The changes can be felt and it feels more planted on the road, but it’s not enough of an improvement to compete with the Ford.

Our rating: 4

5. Performance

Three petrol and three diesel engines are offered. The petrol options are a 64bhp 1.0-litre, 84bhp 1.2-litre and 99bhp 1.4-litre. Additionally, a 189bhp 1.6-litre engine is offered in the Corsa VXR hot hatch. Diesel engines consist of two 1.3-litre engines producing 74/94bhp and a 128bhp 1.7-litre lump. The 1.0-litre petrol engine isn’t suited to much more than round-town driving and the 1.4-litre doesn’t offer much more performance than the 1.2-litre. The diesels are the best bet for long journeys, as they feel more relaxed to drive thanks to their eager power delivery.

Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

Insurance groups are low and the green ecoFLEX 1.3 CDTi 94bhp model with stop and start emits between 94g/km to 95g/km of CO2, meaning road tax is free. All diesel engines return an average of more than 67.3mpg, while the manual petrols (bar the 1.6 turbos) are capable of more than 45mpg. Corsas are affordable to buy new, although they only retain around 30 per cent of their value after three years/36,000 miles. Vauxhall offers a warranty which lasts up to 100,000 miles, which should offer peace of mind.

Our rating: 5

7. Reliability

The Corsa has been on sale long enough for most niggles to be addressed and build quality feels as good as any of its rivals. This model has been subject to three recalls, two of which affect pre-2008 models and one concerning handbrake failure for later models.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The Vauxhall Corsa scored a full five-star rating for adult occupant protection, three out of five for child occupant protection and three out of four for pedestrian safety in the Euro NCAP crash test programme. All models feature driver and passenger airbags, side-impact beams, anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and a host of systems to aid safe cornering and braking. Front side and side curtain airbags and Electronic Stablity Programme (ESP) system are available as standard on more expensive models.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

Six models are available – Expression, S, Exclusiv, SE, SXi, and SRi plus the Corsa VXR hot hatch, reviewed separately. The Expression and S models are very basic. Better equipped is the Exclusiv which comes with electric door mirrors and an MP3-ready stereo while the well-equipped SE adds alloy wheels, air-con, automatic headlamps and wipers and cruise control. Sporty SXi models have a racy interior and exterior styling and the SRi backs up the sporty looks with bigger wheels and sports suspension. Limited Edition Corsas are available in black, red and white with black alloy wheels and a VXR styling pack.

Our rating: 3

10. Why buy?

The Vauxhall Corsa is an exceptionally easy car to drive around town and park in tight spaces. It’s blessed with great visibility, light steering and a tight turning circle. Its updated looks, interior trim and optional touch-screen sat-nav do a good job of keeping it within reach of more modern competition.

Our rating: 4

Expert review 3.8stars

  • Exterior3
  • Interior3
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance4
  • Running costs5
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment3
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

Corsa 1.2 S

It might be Spartan, but it has the basics, and the 1.2 is good

Best-seller:

Corsa 1.2 Exclusiv

An economical engine and plenty of equipment

Blow the budget:

Corsa 1.7CDTi SRi

The 1.7-litre diesel engine offers pace and economy

The Corsa offers a good balance of comfort and driver enjoyment