Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9
  • 100hp petrol best all-rounder
  • Diesel surprisingly pleasant
  • One of the best small automatics out there

The Vauxhall Corsa’s engine range isn’t particularly large, but it’s very accomplished, and the two we recommend are real standouts in this segment. The first is the 100hp petrol engine. It’s a 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder from PSA Peugeot Citroen’s ‘Puretech’ family, which we’ve found impressive in all applications we’ve tested it in.

In the Corsa, it’s a particularly good fit. It performs well – though it’s not particularly fast off the line, it’s strong in the mid range, so you won’t need to row up and down the gears too much. It’s also paired extremely well to the six-speed manual gearbox, which has a light, easy action that goes well with the progressive nature of the clutch. Like the Ford Fiesta, the Corsa is an extremely easy car to drive smoothly right from the first moment you step into it.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa front dynamic

The overall impression is of a light and easy car rather than a particularly dynamic or sporty one, but that’s not necessarily a negative – after all, not all buyers are looking for a hot hatchback.

You certainly won’t get any heat if you opt for the 1.5-litre diesel engine, as it’s rather slow and grumbly especially when cold. But the exceptional low-range shove of a diesel engine means it’s actually very pleasant to drive, with plenty of torque making progress really relaxed.

Both petrol and diesel engines settle down to a relaxed cruise, helped by six-speed gearboxes – the 75hp model gets a five-speed, which we’d avoid.

If you need an automatic gearbox, you can specify an eight-speed unit with the 100hp petrol only. It's the same gearbox we're accustomed to in just about every Peugeot, Citroen and DS product of recent years, and we can report it's excellent, without much of the hesitancy you get with the dual-clutch boxes fitted to a VW Polo or SEAT Ibiza

Handling

  • Plenty of grip in the corners
  • Light, accurate steering
  • No hot variants to make the most of it

The Corsa doesn’t handle as well as a Ford Fiesta, but what does in this class? More importantly, it’s on a par with the Renault Clio, SEAT Ibiza and Peugeot 208 in terms of cornering ability.

The car corners relatively flat, though unsupportive front seats mean you’ll run out of lateral support long before you run out of grip. The steering’s relatively dead and uncommunicative – a common complaint in this segment – but it’s light and accurate without being overly vague.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa front cornering

So while the Corsa isn’t as outright enjoyable as some of its rivals may be, it’s undeniably a vast improvement on the rather flabby and uncomfortable car it replaces, and easily on par with the majority of the class in terms of its driving dynamics.

The closest the Corsa comes to being a hot hatchback at the moment is somewhat of a forbidden fruit. A 130hp version of the 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine is available to Opel buyers in Continental Europe, but it’s not yet been confirmed for production in the UK. However, SRi models do come with additional chassis bracing and a 'Sport' button to weight up the steering, which gives a little more driving enjoyment.