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Driven: 2021 Vauxhall Corsa Elite Nav PureTech 100. Image by Vauxhall.

Driven: 2021 Vauxhall Corsa Elite Nav PureTech 100
This is Britain's best-selling car, but is it any good?

   



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2021 Vauxhall Corsa Elite Nav PureTech 100

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The Vauxhall Corsa has long been a common sight on UK roads, but the latest model became the most popular new car in Britain this year, with around 40,000 examples registered. With a more stylish body, fresh engines and a new interior, the car has certainly stamped its authority on the new car market. But is it any good?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Vauxhall Corsa Elite Nav PureTech 100
Pricing: £23,335 (as tested)
Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat hatchback
CO2 emissions: 134g/km
Combined economy: 45.6-48.7mpg
Top speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Power: 100hp
Torque: 205Nm
Boot space: 309-1,118 litres

What's this?

This is Britainís best-selling car. Last year Ė 2021 Ė was the year it swept the crown from the Ford Fiestaís head, racking up almost 41,000 registrations in 12 months, and that many people canít be wrong, can they?

Looking at the exterior alone, it isnít off to a great start. To our eyes, the latest-generation car doesnít look as good as its predecessor, although it definitely isnít ugly. The styling is actually quite rounded and smart in an understated kind of way. Itís like an M&S suit, in that nobody will look twice, but nobody will take the mickey, either. Itís almost as though it was designed specifically to look inoffensive.

The interior is equally unremarkable, with a bland dashboard punctuated by bland instruments, bland heater controls and a bland steering wheel. The only remotely interesting bits are the gear selectors fitted to automatic models such as our test car, and the touchscreen infotainment systems. Both of which are lifted straight from the Corsaís sister car, the much funkier Peugeot 208.

Under the acutely different skins, the Corsa and 208 are peas in a pod, sharing architecture, engines and gearboxes, as well as on-board technology. Thatís a good thing, because the 208 is streets ahead of the old Corsa in terms of, well, everything. But the Peugeot is also easier on the eye than the new Corsa, and it feels better built. The French carís cabin is remarkably solid, even though there are some hard plastics lurking here and there, and while the Corsa feels much more robust than its predecessor, itís still less premium than the Pug. Nevertheless, the inclusion of more soft-touch materials and improved equipment is to be applauded, and it will only have made the Corsa more appealing to dyed-in-the-wool customers.

However, the Corsa is still lacking when it comes to interior space. The rear seats are too tight for adults to sit comfortably, and the rear doors feel tiny when youíre trying to squeeze in there. Kids wonít have a problem fitting in, but once they get inside they might find the back seats a bit claustrophobic and dark Ė particularly in cars with dark roof lining or tinted glass.

The boot space is decent, though, with more than 300 litres of space available. Thatís more than youíll find in a Ford Fiesta and itís more than you would have had in the old VW Polo. The new version of the VW, however, has a comparatively cavernous 351-litre luggage bay thatís almost as big as the Golfís.

And the Volkswagen certainly comes with better equipment than the Corsa. Our test car was a relatively high-end Elite Nav Premium model, but it still did without electronic climate control. That said, it did come with satellite navigation, the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration technology and a reversing camera. It even had a 10-inch touchscreen in which to house it all. Admittedly, the screen is lifted from Peugeot and has its flaws Ė not least a long response time and some chunky graphics Ė but it does the job. It just isnít quite as smooth as the systems found in Volkswagens and Fords.

How does it drive?

As with everything else about the Corsa, the driving experience is decent without being brilliant. The engine is arguably one of the highlights, although itís another item stolen from the Peugeot parts bin. Itís called the PureTech 100, and itís a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces an ample 100hp.

That may not sound exciting, and it isnít, but working in tandem with an eight-speed automatic gearbox itís capable of 0-62mph in around 10 seconds, before cruising on to a top speed of 119mph. Not that we can imagine many Corsa owners hitting that. More importantly, itís good for between 45.6 and 48.7mpg in this configuration, with CO2 emissions of 121-140g/km.

The engine itself is quite perky and eager, and it has a charming thrum about it that gives it more character than most high-performance 2.0-litre engines. It just lacks a little bit of oomph. And with just 205Nm of torque, it feels a little too small to be mixing it with an eight-speed automatic gearbox Ė especially one that can be a bit slow on the uptake. It isnít dreadful, but we couldnít help thinking the car would feel more responsive with a six-speed manual gearbox.

It would be more efficient, too. The figures show a manual gearbox allows the Corsa to cover between 47.4 and 52.3 miles on a single gallon of unleaded, and the CO2 emissions fall to 117-134g/km. Add in the fact it takes around a second off the 0-62mph time and the manual looks like a no-brainer.

Not that the Corsa is a performance car in any way, shape or form. Designed primarily for urban motoring, the car has light controls that make it easy to drive in traffic or in confined spaces. However, for those who do longer drives or like to drive with a little more spirit (we donít mean the alcoholic variety, obviously), the Corsa will fall a little short of expectations.

Itís not that the set-up is bad Ė thereís plenty of grip and the car changes direction quite well Ė but the steering is lifeless and light, which denies drivers any confidence in what the car is doing. It also rides quite stiffly, and although that isnít uncommon in small cars with short wheelbases, it isnít ideal on longer journeys. Itís as though Vauxhall tried to set the car up for something halfway between sportiness and comfort, but ended up in a no-manís land between the two camps.

Verdict

The current Corsa is certainly better than its predecessor. Itís more rounded, more appealing and more competitive than its forebear, and it ticks plenty of boxes for the average British buyer. But we canít help but think the Corsaís popularity is largely down to Britsí familiarity and affection for the brand, rather than the talents of the car. Itís decent, but the Peugeot 208 is equally capable, as well as being more attractive and more solidly built.

And the Corsa isnít just vulnerable to friendly fire. The Seat Ibiza and Ford Fiesta are both more exciting and more solid, while the Toyota Yaris Hybrid promises more style, more efficiency and Ė in all likelihood Ė more reliability. Thereís no shame in losing out to such illustrious rivals, though, and the Corsa remains a competent small hatchback. It just lags behind the best in its class.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 Exterior Design

3 3 3 3 3 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

2.5 3 3 3 3 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


James Fossdyke - 21 Jan 2022



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