French heart, German soul
Something else that sets Vauxhall apart from other brands: the new model is not a copy of the old one. Some brands are so faithful to their house style that the old and the new or the small and the large model can hardly be distinguished from each other. The new Vauxhall Corsa, on the other hand, is very different from the previous generation.
This is partly due to new insights and partly to a new partnership. This is because Vauxhall has become part of the PSA group, which also includes Peugeot and DS. The three brands have each built their own car on the same basis and then give it their own design. The Peugeot 208 is the playful model, the DS 3 the posh model and the Vauxhall Corsa has therefore necessarily become more business-like than before. Compared to the previous model, the new Corsa has become longer, lower and wider. This too has to do with the new approach: namely, Vauxhall is strongly committed to efficiency and this has been achieved, among other things, by streamlining the bodywork as much as possible.
On the inside, this translates into a deep seat (26 mm lower than before) and therefore a relatively high dashboard. During several test drives, however, the editor could never find a comfortable seating position. This is because when the driver's seat is adjusted in height, it also tilts. Those who like to sit high therefore sit on an inclined seat and are gently pushed on the steering wheel. Those who sit low again have less control over the steering wheel. Note that the optional panoramic roof comes at the expense of front headroom. With hefty adults in the front, insufficient legroom for another two adults remains in the rear.
The big advance is in the equipment. The Corsa moves with the times and can be fitted with a so-called "digital dashboard", with both a display behind the steering wheel and on the dashboard. However, Vauxhall makes little use of the possibilities offered by this digital dashboard. The driver can choose which information is displayed on the screen behind the steering wheel, but there is no choice of different styles or layouts (digital or analogue speedometer, rev counter or not, etc.). The audio, communication and sat nav is also no more than average. No high-end audio or dazzling graphics here, but simple menus and only the standard functions. Support for Apple Carplay and Android Auto is provided, however. Those who want to can therefore use their own smartphone as the "brain" of the car.
Every Vauxhall distinguishes itself from the competition by bringing advanced technology to a wide audience. In the case of the Corsa, these are mainly things that make the car more efficient and safer. For example, the Corsa can read traffic signs, warn of vehicles in the blind spot, warn of unintentional lane departure and automatically maintain a safe distance from the car in front. New is the active flank guard that warns at speeds below 10 km/h when there is a risk of hitting an object on the side of the car.
The so-called "IntelliLux LED Matrix" lighting from Vauxhall's larger models deserves special mention. Automatic dimming high beam is now commonplace, but "Intellilux" goes a step further by dimming only part of the beam. In practice, this works amazingly well and makes driving in the dark less strenuous and a lot safer. For those who regularly drive in the dark in outlying areas, this may even be a reason to choose the Corsa!
When Vauxhall announced this sixth generation of the Corsa, the focus was on the electric-powered version. Only in passing was it mentioned that there would also be variants with traditional petrol and diesel engines. Now that it is time for the first test drives, however, only the combustion engine variants are available. The electric variant is simply not ready for production yet.
First we drove the most conservative version: the diesel. This is an existing engine (1.5-litre four-cylinder) that has only been fine-tuned for use in the Corsa. The emphasis is therefore on efficiency rather than performance. In the process, weight has been saved where possible and with less sound insulation, the powertrain is clearly audible inside the car. The result is exactly as intended: the 102 hp / 250 Nm deliver sufficient performance and this engine is very economical both in theory and in practice. On a demanding route with mountain roads and city traffic, the average test consumption came to a neat 3.6 litres per 100 km.
Subsequently, the 100 hp / 205 Nm three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engine was driven. Like the diesel engine, it does its job clearly audibly, its performance is just adequate but is offset by neat practical consumption. On yet another demanding test route, the "1.2 Turbo" consumed an average of 5.1 litres per 100 km.
The provisional top model is the "GS-Line" with the same 1.2-litre three-cylinder, but with a power output of 130 hp / 230 Nm and with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It too does its job clearly audibly and perceptibly. The big difference with the other engines is that via an economic, standard or sporty mode, one can choose from clearly different characters. In economic mode, performance and consumption are comparable to the lighter petrol engine. In standard mode, the GS-Line is lively and quick. In sport mode, it even becomes eager and challenging. While the other versions clearly respond to common sense, the Corsa GS really convinces as a fun car. The automatic gearbox shifts imperceptibly when driven calmly, and actually helps to get the most out of the engine when driven quicker.
When it comes to handling too, there is a clear difference between the standard versions and the GS. The standard Corsa also has "standard" handling. The suspension is not distinctly hard or soft and the steering is not distinctly light or heavy. With that, the Corsa is easy to drive, even under special conditions. For instance, the bodywork responds in exemplary fashion to bad road surfaces or awkward steering movements.
Once again, the Corsa GS is a case apart. This one not only has a more powerful engine and sportier trim, but also a modified chassis. This makes the Corsa feel lighter, more agile and lively, while maintaining comfort. While the standard variant is mostly a sensible choice, the GS offers the playful and agile character of previous generations.
Vauxhall aims to make advanced technology accessible to the widest possible target group. Especially with the entry-level model, Vauxhall can deliver on that. For the sixth generation, the advances are in comfort, safety and efficiency. Although an electric-powered version has been announced, only the petrol and diesel engine variants could be driven during this introduction. These are engines from parent company PSA, which do not show up as well in the Corsa as in models from sister brands Peugeot and Citroën. They do their job so clearly audibly and perceptibly that Vauxhall almost seems to encourage you to wait a while for the electric version.
How the Corsa drives depends on the chosen version. The standard variants ride, brake and steer just fine, but in no way stand out above the middle class. These variants are bought with reason: they target those looking for a familiar car with familiar technology. When opting for the sporty GS, the Corsa is, on the contrary, lively and smooth and, besides being sensible, also a lot of fun.
- Modern, rich equipment
- Fuel-efficient engines, both in theory and in practice
- Limited progress compared to previous generation
- Petrol and diesel engines clearly audible and tangible
- Uncomfortable seating position in front, moderate space in rear