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First drive: Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.

First drive: Vauxhall Corsa VXR
Vauxhall spruces up the Corsa VXR for 2015 - and creates a brilliant hot hatch.

 



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Vauxhall Corsa VXR

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Vauxhall injects more power into the new Corsa VXR, taking the time to fit extra standard equipment and some cutting-edge Koni dampers along the way. The previous Corsa VXR was always a fine hot hatch that had to play second fiddle to better cars in the class; the new model is capable of taking the fight to the Ford Fiesta ST's door...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Vauxhall Corsa VXR Performance Pack
Pricing: Corsa VXR starts from 17,995; with Performance Pack, from 20,395
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive with Drexler limited-slip differential, six-speed manual transmission
Body style: three-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 174g/km (VED Band H, 295 first 12 months, 205 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 37.7mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
Power: 205hp at 5,800rpm
Torque: 245Nm from 1,900- to 5,800rpm (280Nm on five-second overboost)
Boot volume: 285- to 1,050 litres

What's this?

The second generation of Vauxhall's Corsa VXR, which does share quite a lot of its underpinnings and some of its visuals with the old car (based, as it is, on the fourth-generation Corsa, which is more of a radical overhaul of the previous model rather than an all-new construction)... but there are now some key changes for the enthusiastic petrolhead. Power has been hiked beyond 200hp, which means it's one of the quickest cars in class, while Bilstein dampers have been junked in favour of Koni Frequency Selective Dampers (FSDs) that cleverly offer both excellent ride comfort and rigid body control without the need for a 'mode select' switch inside the Corsa.

You can have your Corsa VXR in 'normal' trim for a very reasonable 17,995 - making the 1,000-cheaper Adam Grand Slam look even more overpriced than it already was - but really, you're going to want and need the Performance Pack, as tested here. For 2,400, this adds the Drexler mechanical limited-slip differential, bigger Brembo brakes (330mm front discs, as opposed to 308mm items) with four-pot callipers, 18-inch alloys with Michelin Pilot Supersport rubber and a track-focused tweak to the set-up of the FSDs. Thus equipped, the Corsa VXR Performance Pack retails from 20,395 and has a similar spec to the old ClubSport model, but it's 1,995 cheaper than that car was. And, spec-for-spec, the VXR Performance Pack is still competitive at this price.

Externally, the VXR model is differentiated by standard 17-inch alloys (18s an option for 500: 45 per cent of non-Performance Pack VXRs are predicted to have these fitted), a body kit incorporating a rear spoiler, side skirts and deep bumpers, plus the bigger air intakes at the front - including the scoop at the leading edge of the bonnet. Six bold colours are on offer, the most lurid of which is Grasshopper Green. The interior is hugely improved over the previous Corsa's, with lovely Recaro seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel lifting things above the regular range. Standard equipment now includes the Remus twin-exit exhaust, LED daytime running lamps and bi-Xenon headlights, a heated front windscreen and IntelliLink infotainment, all these items bar the exhaust being UK-specific additions to the kit list. Options are limited to the Performance Pack and the 18-inch wheels, plus a panoramic roof (750), Technology Pack (various driver assist electronics for 1,345) and a Carbon Pack (150) that clothes the exterior mirrors and grille bar in the stuff.

How does it drive?

Excellently. The first-gen VXR was always mighty impressive in terms of the way it kept understeer and torque-steer out of proceedings, but it never quite attained the summit of dynamic brilliance required in order to shine in its market. The new car still isn't class leader, damn that Ford Fiesta ST, but it gets mighty, mighty close - and for some, its cultured behaviour when not being driven in a frenetic manner will swing the balance in Luton's favour.

Beginning with the things that aren't perfect, the steering is nicely weighted and consistent, but there's still an air of hyperactivity to the Corsa's front end when coupled to the Performance Pack's diff. It's not as rabid as it once was, but it remains less fluid than the Fiesta's sublime set-up. And while Vauxhall made big noises about, er... the noise of the 1.6 turbo unit, it's not that exciting to listen to when it's being spun up to the 6,500rpm redline.

Other than that, there's a lot to like about the VXR. It has masses of grip and a dearth of either under- or torque-steer, while the diff equips it with superb traction. It takes a bit of re-attuning to get the gas on before the apex of a corner, but if you do the Corsa will reward you like no other hot hatch in this segment (bar the costlier 208 GTi 30th Anniversary) can by tightening its line appreciably. Even better than that, on a greasy Knockhill circuit, the VXR exhibited plenty of useful oversteer that allows you to adjust cornering attitude with nothing more than a well-timed lift of the throttle. The brakes are fine on the standard car but the Brembos do offer stronger, cleaner retardation, and the general feeling of the whole car is that all of its mechanical bits work beautifully in unison to make it a truly engaging hot hatch.

One area where it beats the Fiesta is in ride comfort and general composure when you've stopped driving like a 17-year-old trying to impress his mates. The FSDs do a marvellous job of eradicating that bouncy-bouncy tendency that short wheelbase, stiffly sprung motors often exhibit, which doesn't just help when cruising but also makes the Corsa easier to drive quickly on a bumpy road. It flows with the road surface instead of hopping along it, so this suspension mod - plus 10mm lower springs, new rear axle geometry and specific bushings and anti-roll bar rates - makes the Corsa a genuinely capable all-rounder.

One note of caution - the VXR's CO2 and economy figures, despite modest improvements from Vauxhall, lag some way behind those from its peers, which are more around the 140g/km and 45mpg (officially) marks.

Verdict

We like the Corsa VXR a lot, even more so with the Performance Pack fitted. Granted, for 2,400 the Performance Pack puts the Vauxhall beyond the 20 grand mark, but as a Ford Fiesta ST-3 is 19,250 and doesn't come with the option of a limited-slip differential, the Vauxhall starts to look good value - especially as the Renaultsport, Peugeot and Volkswagen alternatives can all be easily specified to over 20,000. The Ford remains the (slightly) more involving car, but in a hugely competitive marketplace the Corsa VXR Performance Pack should be on any keen driver's shopping list. It's more entertaining than most rivals in this sector and it has relatively high levels of refinement too. The Corsa remains our favourite front-drive VXR.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 17 Apr 2015









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2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.



2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR. Image by Vauxhall.
 






 

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