Much improved, but feeling its age now
- Generous equipment levels
- More engaging to drive than many rivals
- Sweet 1.0-litre engines from 2014-18
- Fine VXR performance versions
- Based on the old one; on sale until 2020
- Falling behind against much newer opposition
- Non-turbo engines give weaker performance
- Firm sports suspension on VXR models
Consistently one of the bestselling cars in Britain, the Vauxhall Corsa goes up against a vast number of accomplished rivals in the forms of the Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208, Renault Clio, SEAT Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo, to name just a handful.
The range was given a thorough refresh in 2014 with a new look, an upgraded interior based on that of the smaller Vauxhall Adam and a selection of perky 1.0-litre turbocharged engines introduced alongside the existing line-up.
But, it’s essentially the same car underneath that was introduced in 2006, meaning it needs to be good to keep up with much newer competition such as the Kia Rio, Mazda 2. Nissan Micra and Skoda Fabia.
Was this generation of Vauxhall Corsa an all-new model in 2014?
No - Vauxhall played a sleight of hand trick here. The biggest visual changes for this generation Corsa over the 2006 original are found at the front, where the nose is longer and more expressive, with distinctive headlights and a lower, wider grille, like you'll find on many other Vauxhall models.
It’s the side profile where this and the previous Corsa iterations look most similar, as the windows continue into the current generation. The more coupe-like glass outline of the three-door is slightly extended by a glossy applique just behind the rearmost side window.
Major 2018 Vauxhall Corsa range revisions
You'd better like the Corsa, because Vauxhall confirmed that it will remain on sale in this form in the UK until 2020 – when it will be replaced by a new Peugeot-based hatchback.
That explains why from April 2018 the trim level structure was revised and slimmed down limited to Active, Design, Energy, Sport, SRi Nav, SRi VX-Line Nav Black, SE Nav and VXR. There's more to come, too: September 2018 will see the arrival with the sporty new Vauxhall Corsa GSi, which sits below the rapid VXR models.
At the same time the number of engines was significantly pared back. All non-VXR Corsas are now 1.4-litre petrols in three states of tune. The economical diesels and the much-liked 1.0-litre turbo petrols are now more.
Vauxhall Corsa's high-tech interior and sharp drive
Climb inside the Corsa and the Adam's influence is obvious with a stylish dashboard featuring soft-touch plastics for the upper moulding, more technology (almost every version benefits from the IntelliLink multimedia package).
It drives significantly better than the old Corsa too, riding more pliantly on Comfort suspension models. However, at times there is a little too much firmness on those with the Sports set-up.
Varied array of Vauxhall Corsa engines
Over the Corsa's life-cycle there has been a mix of impressively efficient engines, with the focus being economy rather than high performance. So, none of the range completes the 0-62mph acceleration in less than 10 seconds, save for the upcoming GSi and the flagship VXR.
VXR aside, the headline-grabbing engine was the three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol, in 90hp and 115hp outputs. We were particularly impressed by its refinement and balance between speed and efficiency, so it's a pity it was dropped in spring 2018.
It’s also quieter than Ford’s similarly-sized EcoBoost engine. Depending on wheel size, the lower-powered version of the two units boasts claims up to 65.7mpg and 100g/km of CO2.
Vauxhall Corsa engines, specs and trims
It’s not the most efficient Corsa though; that honour still belongs to the 1.3-litre CDTi diesels in 75hp and 95hp forms, where Vauxhall claims as high as 88.3mpg, resulting in CO2 emissions of 85g/km. Again, the diesels disappeared as part of that 2018 range rationalisation, as did the unfancied 70hp 1.2-litre petrol.
Depending on trim, the 2018 engines are limited to non-turbo 1,4-litre petrols delivering 75hp and 90hp, together with turbo motors of the same size producing 100hp and 150hp.
That 90hp version is also available with the option of a conventional automatic transmission; all other Corsas have five- or six-speed manual gearboxes.
There's plenty of performance on tap with the Vauxhall Corsa VXR, thanks to its 205hp 1.6-litre turbo engine: top speed is 143mph, while it will scorch from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds.
In May 2018, the Corsa GSi was announced, boasting the suspension set-up of the VXR model combined with Vauxhall's excellent 150hp 1.4-litre turbo engine. Vauxhall quotes a maximum speed of 128mph for this gap-plugging warm hatch, which will be in showrooms by autumn 2018.
The Parkers Verdict
It's easy to overlook the Vauxhall Corsa – especially compared with the younger Ford Fiesta, SEAT Ibiza or Volkswagen Polo – but it's still a strong contendor in the small hatchback market. It's good to drive, finely honed, and is available in a wide range of trims and specs to suit most needs.
The top-of-the-line VXR model is an acquired taste, and hard to rationally justify, but the rest of the range is competent and still very much worth recommendation. Stick with one the small petrol engines, and you can't go far wrong.