This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Vauxhall Corsa Hatchback review.

Parkers overall rating: 3.7 out of 5 3.7
  • Smooth-revving 1.0-litre was a gem
  • Non-turbo 1.4 petrols are slow
  • Discontinued VXR gave the Fiesta ST a run for its money

An overhauled range of petrol and diesel engines included a fine three-cylinder motor and was headed by a 206hp unit for the VXR when this generation of Vauxhall Corsa was introduced in 2014, but overall performance comes second to efficiency.

However, the range of engines was significantly slimmed-down in spring 2018, with all powerplants barring the 1.4-litre petrol motors being discontinued.

Vauxhall Corsa petrol engines

Unless you cover significantly high mileages, petrol engines tend to suit smaller cars better than diesels, hence why there were so many of them to choose from when this iteration of the Corsa was launched.

Vauxhall Corsa engine

The turbocharged 1.4-litre motor produces 100hp but more torque at 200Nm from 1,850rpm, delivering a 115mph top speed and an 11-second time for the 0-62mph acceleration test. Vauxhall claims overall fuel efficiency of 51.4mpg, with CO2 output 128g/km, making it the greenest Corsa after the 2018 engine pare-back. A five-speed manual transmission is standard.

Available only with GSi trim is a 150hp version of the 1.4-litre Turbo, delivering a top speed of 129mph and completing the 0-62mph run in 8.9 seconds.

Vauxhall Corsa driving

Completing the petrol line-up are two non-turbocharged 1.4-litre units, with 75hp and 90hp respectively, the lower-powered version replacing the previously available 1.2-litre with 70hp in spring 2016.

The 75hp derivative is the slowest of the Corsas, trundling up to 101mph and taking a leisurely 15.5 seconds to complete the 0-62mph test. With its five-speed manual gearbox, efficiency is rated between 42.2mpg and 43.5mpg, with CO2 emissions of 128 to 131g/km.

There’s more variation with the 90hp 1.4-litre: its standard five-speed manual gearbox can be optionally replaced with either a self-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. Top speed for the manual is 109mph, while the automatic’s is 106mph. Accelerating from a standstill to 62mph takes 13.2 seconds in the manual, 13.9 seconds with the auto.

Vauxhall Corsa GSI 150hp 1.4-litre petrol: performance

The 150hp 1.4-litre turbocharged engine in the GSI isn't the most pleasant engine – especially for a range-topping sporty model. Unlike the Ford Fiesta’s charismatic three-cylinder engine, the Corsa’s motor produces a bland, tuneless noise and the one we drove felt strained and more at home in a small people carrier rather than anything claiming to be sporty.

Yes, our test car had covered just 700 miles – and so might become more responsive with a few more miles – but there was no hint of that in the version we drove. It’s not particularly strong at low engine speeds and doesn’t reward you with a great torrent of power at higher speeds either. In contrast, a 140hp 1.0-litre Ford Fiesta offers a more satisfying engine, with a feeling of greater energy and much less resistance when working it hard. The Fiesta ST, on the other hand, feels like a rocket compared with the Vauxhall.

Vauxhall Corsa engines no longer available

Most interesting is the three-cylinder, 1.0-litre Turbo available in 90hp and 115hp forms, both producing 170Nm from 1,800rpm. It's a refined and relatively hushed engine, making a far less intrusive engine note than Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost does in the Fiesta, but performance is adequate rather than sporty.

Opt for the 90hp version and you’ll see a top speed of 112mph, accelerating from 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds; the 115hp edition generates figures of 121mph and 10.3 seconds.

With standard start/stop function and other EcoFlex fuel-saving measures, together with a six-speed manual gearbox, fuel efficiency is rated between 62.8mpg and 65.7mpg for the 90hp version and 56.5mpg and 57.6mpg for the 115hp model, depending upon wheel size and number of doors, resulting in CO2 emissions between 100g/km and 117g/km.

If you cover the sort of mileage that requires a diesel there are two improved versions of the 1.3-litre CDTi, producing 75hp and 95hp. Both motors are fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox, EcoFlex braking energy recovery and start/stop functions.

Choose the lower-powered diesel and your top speed potential is curbed at 102mph, going from 0-62mph in a pedestrian 14.8 seconds. The 94bhp engine manages 113mph and 11.9 seconds.

As is a theme on the Corsa, wheel size and body style vary the claimed efficiency results: the 75hp posts figures of 74.3mpg to 76.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 99g/km to 100g/km, but these are bested by the 95hp version (83.1-88.3mpg, 85-89g/km CO2).

Vauxhall Corsa VXR Performance Pack

Discontinued in April, the Corsa VXR performance model had a cult following among fast supermini enthusiasts thanks to its heady performance and visceral driving experience. We drove the uprated Performance Pack version in 2015 and this is what we had to say:

Despite the Performance Pack’s name, on paper the Vauxhall Corsa VXR’s speed is the same whether or not you have it fitted. The numbers say it’ll cover 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds – which is very quick considering the price of the car – and top speed is an impressive 143mph.

But numbers mean little without perspective, and Vauxhall would be the first to boast that this car is slightly quicker to accelerate from 0-62mph than its main rival - the previous-generation Ford Fiesta ST.

Even better is how great it sounds with its Remus exhaust. The aftermarket specialist firm has built a system which reduces back pressure for better performance, but it sounds great too, especially with the Performance Pack fitted.

The turbocharged 1.6-litre is smooth, versatile and refined – though we did find we had to wait a little longer than the figures suggest for the full 280Nm of torque. Vauxhall claims it’s available from just 1,900rpm, but in the higher gears you’ll have to wait until at least 2,500rpm for something to happen. Even then it’s only available for five seconds on 'overboost'. Still, it does feel as though it’s got the full 205hp and 245Nm the firm claims during normal driving.

It’s a good job too, since there’s another aspect to this car’s performance that feels brilliant: the gearchange. A conventional-enough six-speed manual ‘box, the VXR has been given a heavily revised, short-shifting lever which is an absolute joy to use.

Handling

  • Much improved driver involvement compared with its predecessor
  • More accurate steering across the range than before, too
  • Sportier models feature stiffer suspension

Previous editions of Vauxhall’s Corsa haven’t been blessed with the most engaging of driving experiences, so to report positively on the current model's handling traits is a welcome change.

Although this Corsa is based heavily on its predecessor’s underpinnings, the suspension has been thoroughly improved. This means it not only rides with greater compliance (particularly models with 16-inch wheels or smaller), but it also feels noticeably more nimble and precise in the way it changes direction.

A centre of gravity lowered by 5mm has a positive effect, particularly in combination with the stiffer body structure and more accurate electric power steering, tuned specifically for the UK’s rougher roads.

Vauxhall Corsa: Sports chassis is stiffer with more direct steering

Corsas riding on 17-inch wheels have a stiffer suspension arrangement, as well as a retuned, more direct steering set-up. Combined with the more powerful (but discontinued) 1.0-litre engine, it makes a good attempt at being fun to drive, cornering flatly as winding B-roads are tackled with enthusiasm, yet remaining positively compliant around town.

Where this set-up seems to fall down is over undulating surfaces at higher speeds where the Corsa’s composure is lost, the body control feeling like it’s still dealing with the previous bump as you hit the next one.

Vauxhall Corsa cornering

You can forgive this more when the Corsa’s a (slightly) faster one, but combine the stiffer suspension with a less powerful engine and the combination isn’t alluring.

Under heavier braking over such road surfaces you’re conscious that the car has a tendency to skip over the dips in the undulations, making the Corsa feel a little unstable.

Performance Pack transforms Vauxhall Corsa VXR

We couldn’t review this aspect of the VXR without first mentioning that it’s a game of two cars – the standard one and the optional Performance Pack-equipped version.

As a standard car with no optional extras, it would be difficult for us to call the Corsa VXR’s handling anything other than above average. Its steering has a decent-enough weighting to it but the lack of a clever front differential means the inside wheel spins up on the exit of corners, and that’s about it.

This VXR also doesn’t change direction in as sprightly a manner because it sits slightly higher with softer settings in the dampers, so there’s a modicum of extra body roll there.

Its suspension is a clever system which Vauxhall claims regulates itself, using a valve system to instantly adjust the car’s firmness based on the road conditions you’re driving on. In simple terms, the damper decides how soft or firm the car needs to be. It’s a system which works pretty well, but is best forgotten about really since the driver has no control over it.

You’ll probably never be able to detect the difference between the two unless you’re testing in a lab environment, but it’s worth noting that on a standard VXR there’s a noticeably more comfortable ride when driving slowly.

To really make it a rival for the cream of the crop in this class – namely the Ford Fiesta ST and the Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport – you’re going to need to install the Performance Pack.

Very firm Vauxhall Corsa VXR Performance Pack ride quality

Available from new only as a factory-fitted extra, the Vauxhall Corsa VXR with Performance Pack is an entirely different thing. Forget any semblance of ride comfort – the clever adaptive dampers from specialists Koni make no apologies here.

The suspension springs allow the car to sit 10mm lower than the previous generation of this car, but also get retuned for a harder setting which eliminates most body roll.

Vauxhall Corsa cornering

Instead you get a car that changes direction impressively while boasting very impressive traction thanks to the clever limited-slip differential. This latter feature – built by specialists Drexler – is a huge part of the hot Corsa’s appeal.

It utterly transforms the handling, offering a level of driver engagement that few in this sector can rival. Simply get the car turned in and put the power down; you’ll be astonished at the purchase you’re afforded, even on wet and greasy roads.

The steering is a nicely set-up system too, feeling direct and accurate but also well weighted for enthusiastic driving. Special mention here goes to the steering wheel, which is sculpted to make it easier to keep the driver’s hands in the correct positon.