A hard ride, but seductive all the same
The Opel Corsa has been widely praised, even before hitting the streets. It’s quite comfortable in its new role as entry-level model, scoring points in a number of areas with its well-balanced and - most importantly - optional features normally only available much higher up the range.
Just 4.06 m long, the new Corsa has a stocky look about it. And the sleek body gives it a mark of originality. Apart from the oversize filler cap (on the driver’s side - go figure), there is no visible resemblance to its French cousin, the Peugeot 208. It would seem that the colour has made all the difference to this particular Opel car. The factory colour orange gives it a young and lively look, and is the only colour that comes free. With contrasting colour options for the roof, lots of designer accessories and a wide choice of light-alloy rims, you can add plenty of personal touch to the outside of the Corsa.
There’s a reasonable amount of space in the front of the adequately furnished interior, but adults in the back might want to keep the journey short (tall passengers will be OK for a few minutes). Transporting luggage: go for it - the trunk has a 304-litre capacity, which can be increased to 1,083 litres by folding the rear seats down. The height of the load sill is only just acceptable, the rear section needs the support it gets from the side panel, but you’d have to be strong to lift a crate of bottles into it.
There’s plenty of storage inside, with side pockets big enough for a litre bottle, and the various spaces look elegant overall. The glove box is particularly spacious. The centre console has well-designed storage options for cups and keys.
Top quality materials
Driver and passenger seats could offer a bit more lateral support, but the driver will still find a seat position to suit them. The same goes for the leather steering wheel with two adjustable positions. And the instrumentation isn’t all great that, either, with a digital speedo and pseudo-analogue rev counter that are really hard to read.
That said, the Corsa can be extremely communicative if you ask it to be. The upper range models will talk to your smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, with minicomputers replacing integrated navigation. Wireless charging from a dock in the centre console is available as an optional extra. Controls are easy and intuitive, and all materials are high-end. You could even forget that you’re in an urban car. With the keyless access and starting system, all you do is press and hold the ignition button on the dashboard to start the motor. On the other hand, it’s pretty obvious that the 1.2 litre 100 hp (74 kW) motor only has three cylinders and not the usual four. The 3-cylinder will always have a noisy growl but makes up for it with pleasantly responsive performance. Nearly every revolution delivers plenty of power.
The maximum torque of 205 Nm is reached from 1,750 revs per minute, but it runs out of puff after that. But that’s no bad thing, as low engine speeds reduce fuel consumption. Long transmission lines and gearing aren’t always very practical in urban traffic, anyway. No need for fifth or sixth (smooth) in town; you’re not really sure whether to use second or third in a 30 zone. The motor reveals its limitations at under 1,100 revs, with the drive uncomfortable from a mechanical and noise point of view.
Agile, firm road-holding
When we did our test drives at a moderate pace, long gearing gave a consumption of 5.7 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres i.e. 0.2 litres more than the WLTP cycle. By dabbing gently on the accelerator, and without keeping a constant eye on the acceleration figure of 9.9 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h, you get 5.4 litres over the standard distance, too. The 44-litre tank gives you plenty of range and the Corsa can take its time before stopping at the pump.
With this engine version, the Opel has a top speed of 194 km/h, but stay in fifth rather than sixth. Despite being light (around a tonne), it struggles at top speeds. The prominent roof spoiler provides the required pressure on the rear axle. The chassis is fine when you put your foot down or get a bit enthusiastic on a bend. The Corsa feels sporty yet gracious on any kind of bend, with a slight dip of the chassis. Steering is supple but responsive.
But this German vehicle’s firm, agile road-holding also gives a really hard drive, which can be tiring on a long journey. It’s likely that Opel chose this configuration to differentiate it from the Peugeot 208, which is a much softer drive, as is the norm in France. That said, a bit softer and the Corsa would be much nicer to drive.
A first in its class
But the Spanish-built car does have plenty of customisation options. With contrasting colours for roof, wing mirrors, grille trim and light-alloy rims, you can give it your own personal look. And it sets a new standard with its on-board technology, offering its own version of “comfort for all”. The heated steering wheel is a really good feature, and drivers won’t only appreciate it on the coldest days. And there is this option on the Corsa. Plus, auxiliary heating, too. And another innovative feature in an urban car: matrix LED anti-dazzle headlights. At night, you could mistake it for a top-of-the range saloon. The front seat electric massage function is also a first in its class.
Even the basic version includes a number of safety assist features as standard. Forward collision warning system, adaptive cruise control, lane guard assistant (which stops at the press of a button) and traffic sign and drowsiness detection system are all included.
The Corsa is pleasant to drive. Practical for everyday use and lively and vivacious for weekend getaways, but it has to be said that the shock-absorbers disappoint at times. It’s so easy to drive, and comes with a phenomenal range of features. There are so many chic options in one urban car that it could give its bigger stable mates a run for their money. If comfort isn’t a priority, you might just as well choose a Corsa over an Astra.