Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Despite the pack’s name, on paper Vauxhall Corsa VXR performance is the same no matter whether you’ve got the Performance Pack or any other options fitted or not. The numbers say it’ll cover 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds – which is very quick considering the price of the car – and top speed is a mildly dizzying 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 Fiesta ST. That’s a claim that’ll appeal to many buyers of this car. It’s aimed at the young, and the young like nothing more than a brilliant pub fact.

Those same people will also boast about the Remus exhaust – the aftermarket firm has built a system which reduces back pressure for better performance, but it sounds great too, especially with the Performance Pack fitted.

While it perhaps doesn’t quite have the character of the engine Ford uses, this little 1.6-litre turbocharged powerplant makes more than a decent fist of propelling the Corsa to previously unknown speeds. It’s 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 203bhp 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 gear change. 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. We’d have preferred a decent spherical gear knob if being totally honest, but even with the large, strangely shaped contraption in the Corsa it’s a pleasing thing to use.

And that’s the point here really. It’s a fun car to drive. Read on to see whether that entertainment extends to the car’s handling, too.

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 the 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 Fiesta ST and the Peugeot 208 GTI 30th Edition – you’re going to need to install the Performance Pack.

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.

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.

Traction is enhanced further with the fitment of sticky Michelin tyres wrapped around larger 18-inch wheels (they’re only 17 inches in diameter without the Performance Pack), and stopping power is improved by a set of bigger Brembo brakes. These not only slow the car down incredibly quickly but are more resistant to fading if used hard – perfect for the race track.

And it’s when on circuit, driving closer to the limits of the car, the VXR makes the most sense. It’s a lively thing which feels very rewarding when driven at speed, your right foot able to control the car’s angle mid-corner using the throttle, because the rear end comes into play. This means adjustability, but also confidence that it’s going to do what you ask of it. We tried it on a slippery track in Scotland and came away happy with a car that costs so little, yet offers such fun.

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.