Product Type: Vauxhall cars
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You Can In A Corsa (Can't You?)
Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi
Member Name: kenjohn
Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi
Date: 25/03/07, updated on 25/03/07 (8462 review reads)
Advantages: Economical. Low insurance costs. Fun to drive.
Disadvantages: Not a lot!
Thus it was I ended up with a Vauxhall/Opel Corsa for a week on our recent family break in Sicily, instead of the Ford Fiesta I had been expecting. I suppose in the greater scheme of things it doesn’t really matter too much WHAT car you end up with for a week’s holiday hire, providing that it can comfortably carry both you, your passengers, and their luggage. But the truth is that as a motoring buff, a Vauxhall/Opel would rank right down my list of preferred cars, along with other motoring legends like Lada! OK. Maybe not THAT far down the list, but you get my drift. Having driven various Vauxhall/Opels in both the far distant and more recent past, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to my week’s motoring in the wee Corsa.
~ ~ The Corsa I was dreading driving was a little “oilburner”, (diesel) or to be more precise a virtually brand new (late 2006 model) 1.3 CDTi, with only about 3,000 kilometers or so on the clock. In layman’s terms this means it was a diesel engined car with a turbo and fuel injection fitted in order to speed things up a little bit. My first thought was that it would need both in abundance if we were ever going to get anywhere at any reasonable rate of knots with a tiny 1248cc diesel engine! (See. They were exaggerating already. It WASN’T a 1.3 litre at all, but only 1.25 litre!)
I went out to the airport car park to fire up the engine and warm up the interior for my wife and daughter (it was the last week in February, and even in Sicily there was a distinct nip in the air at 9.30 in the evening) while they hung around to pick up our luggage in baggage reclaim.
My first impression of the car wasn’t that bad. The new model Corsa is a distinct improvement in the aesthetic stakes compared to its old predecessor. A nicely rounded, curved body style, with a slightly bulbous rear end and nicely sloped and raked front, both of which Vauxhall/Opel have clearly cloned from its big brother, the new model Astra. It’s also quite big for a car in the “supermini” class, being nearly 4 meters in length, and tipping the scales at 1280kg in weight. Huge headlights, a fancy black plastic and chrome(fake) grill, along with a set of spotlights slung underneath give it a relatively sporty appearance. Slightly flared wheel arches add further cache to its sporty appearance. (Should appeal to the “boy racers”, with who the Corsa has always been a firm favourite) My car had ordinary 15” steel wheel rims, but a set of 15” alloys with 185/65/15 tyres is an optional extra at a mere (?) £400, and would enhance the sporty appearance even further.
~ ~ I open her up (electronic central locking with deadlocks as standard) and after getting the driver’s seat into a comfy driving position, fire up the engine. The usual bit of diesel “rattle” and tractor-like qualities when it’s first started, but this soon settles down once she warms up and the engine noise on tick over is barely perceptible! The instrument panel and controls are all clearly marked and accessible, and I soon master the heating and ventilation controls.
Then the better half and daughter arrive with the luggage, and it’s into the boot. As you would expect with a small car, you’re not going to be using the Corsa to move house, and at best I would describe the boot space as adequate. On this occasion I hadn’t brought along my golf clubs, which no doubt would have required folding down one of the rear seats. The small (but fairly deep) boot handled our one large suitcase and two largish hold alls with relative ease, although I still had to remove the rear passenger shelf and stow it on the floor even with only three bags! I discovered the next day that there’s a bit of extra storage space concealed below the floor panel of the boot, which could be handy for hiding valuable items out of sight of thieving paws if the car was broken into, and also gives you a little bit extra storage space which is always handy. Could also be useful if you are in the habit of moving fragile items around, as they won’t bounce around all over the shop when stowed in here.
~ ~ The interior space was a big surprise. And I do mean BIG! In most cars in the super-mini class I feel as though I’ve been wedged into the driver’s seat with a shoe horn. The Corsa seats have plenty of adjustable positions, and you can also adjust the rake and position of the steering wheel, so even the tallest of drivers should be able to make themselves feel comfy and right at home. I felt far more comfortable driving the Corsa than I did in the much larger Renault Laguna which we had out on hire a couple of years ago in France. I was also surprised by the amount of space for the rear seat passengers, which my wife and daughter told me was excellent. (I don’t do back seats. Heh, heh) Certainly there’s tons of leg space behind the front seats and far more than you would expect given the overall dimensions of the car. The seats were firm and comfortable, and I never once felt any discomfort in my backside or lower back even though we covered some 1,800 kilometers plus in the week we had it.
The interior also has a more expensive feel to it than you would expect from a budget price (cheap) car. Obviously there are the usual acres of plastic, (you’d hardly expect Connolly hide leather!) but the plastic on the dash and door trim is of the soft touch variety, and not the cheapo hard plastic you often find on many Japanese and Far Eastern cars. The steering wheel and gear lever are thick and chunky, the controls are all very accessible, and Vauxhall seem to have resisted the urge to include lots of fancy gimmicks just for the sake of it. (Or maybe it’s just to save money!)
~ ~ The central console is dominated by two very large air vents, which blow either cold or hot air depending on whether you’re using the heater or the air-conditioning. Both heater and air-conditioning were excellent, although we didn’t really have too much use for the air-con at the end of February. Mind you, the temperature was a pleasant enough 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit most of the time.
Below these vents there’s a good radio/CD/mp3 player. (No make. Supplied by Vauxhall) I didn’t use the radio that much, but the sound quality from my CD’s was grand. There were stalk controls for the stereo unit on the steering wheel, which seems to be becoming a common feature on lots of cars these days, and is certainly a lot better from the safety viewpoint rather than having the driver’s attention diverted from the task in hand by fiddling around with various knobs and buttons. The speedo and other dials are all chrome rimmed (nice touch) and you can dim the backlight to your own personal preference when driving at night.
Anything I didn’t like about the interior? Yep. Visibility could have been better, as the thick central and front pillars restrict your outside view somewhat. The reason for these thicker pillars, which are becoming more and more commonplace on new cars, is to improve the cell integrity of the car in the event of a crash, which they do very successfully. So I suppose you can’t have it both ways!
~ ~ So how did the Corsa drive?
My initial fear that it wouldn’t be able to pull its way out of a wet paper bag with only a 1.3 litre (sorry, 1.25 litre) diesel engine were happily unfounded. With a 0 to 60mph time of 11.9 seconds the Corsa isn’t going to have you jumping up and down with excitement. But the wee engine is both lively and responsive, and like most diesel engines makes up for what it lacks in scintillating acceleration with good torque, which basically means that it pulls strongly and consistently through all the 5 gears. The turbo kicks in when the engine is still at relatively low revs, and while you don’t feel like an express train has hit you in the small of your back, you can certainly feel the difference in power.
By the way, our hire car was the 73bhp “Club” version of the Corsa. If you want to improve the performance a tad then you could always purchase the 88bhp version of the same car. Mind you, buying new this would cost you nigh on an extra £2,000! Or you could go the whole hog and buy the 1.7 litre, 125bhp version for an extra £3,000 or so. (This does 0 to 60mph in around 10 seconds.)
Top speed is quoted at 107mph, and I can verify that this is no exaggeration. There’s a good motorway system in Sicily linking the major towns and cities, the Italians are nothing if not very fast drivers, and there doesn’t seem to be a speed camera or a traffic cop in sight! Thus I found myself progressing at a steady 160kph (100mph) most days I used a motorway. The Corsa was totally unfazed by being pressed almost to the limit of its engine, and didn’t shake, rattle or roll once in protest. Even at high speed the small diesel engine behaved and performed immaculately, not even making too much noise inside the passenger cabin in protest.
~ ~ Get off the main motorways in Sicily and you suddenly find yourself on twisty wee two lane (most of the time) roads with humps, hills, sharp bends and of variable surface quality. The Corsa was a really fun drive on these type of roads, especially considering the small engine size. The steering was light, precise and very responsive, and when you threw the car into a tight bend there was no perceptible body roll or the feeling you were about to lose control. At all times the car felt remarkably stable, and the gearbox and engine encouraged you to work them to their limit. In fact, I was having so much fun that even my better half (who is a total speed junky!) was actually complaining at times that I was pressing on too quickly!
When you had to stop in a hurry, then the ABS assisted brakes were more than up to the task, stopping you quickly, effectively, in a straight line, and with no loss of traction.
If you do happen to come a cropper in the Corsa and either run into another car or run out of road, then you can rest assured (if not easy!) that you’re in a VERY safe vehicle, with driver, passenger, and side airbags. It also has the highest possible five stars rating in the European NCAP crash tests.
~ ~ Now comes the good bit. Fuel economy and insurance costs.
The Corsa is classified for insurance purposes as a Group 3 or Group 4 vehicle, which means it won’t be that expensive to insure even for first time or young drivers.
And the fuel economy is truly remarkable. Vauxhall/Opel quote an overall consumption for the 1.3 diesel Corsa of 61.4mpg. I didn’t keep strict records of our fuel consumption when we were in Sicily, but I can confirm that the car is truly frugal, literally only sipping diesel. We only visited the pumps twice in the 1,800 kilometers we covered, (and the second time was to refill the car before returning it to Hertz) which is amazing considering I was driving the car hard with no real concern for the amount of diesel I was using. So I have no reason to disbelieve the manufacturer’s fuel consumption figures. I’d say you could achieve an even better miles per gallon figure than this if you were to drive with a “light” right foot, or if most of the miles you cover were on a motorway. Mind you, if you are buying a Corsa new then you have to weigh up how long it will actually take you to recover the extra cost of buying a diesel car instead of a petrol. If you’re buying used this is less of a consideration.
~ ~ A new Corsa is relatively well priced. Diesel versions start at around the £10,000 mark for the entry level 1.3 litre three door, up to around £14,000 for a top-of-the-range 1.7 litre diesel four door. There are far too many different models and different specifications and extras to list the prices for them all here in this review, so if you are really interested then you can either visit the Vauxhall/Opel website or your nearest main dealer.
A quick glance at eBay in the UK shows used Corsa 1.3 CDTi’s selling at between £7,000 and £7,500 for a year old 2006 model, and somewhere around £6,000 to £7,000 for two year old cars. But the trick here is (as always) to shop around.
~ ~ Would I buy a Corsa myself. Well, not new, but there again I NEVER buy new cars, as I resent so vehemently paying the overblown tax to the Government.
Had we not just purchased a used 1.5 litre Nissan Almera (for my wife/review to follow) back at the end of January, then I would certainly strongly consider the Corsa as an excellent used purchase.
© KenJ March 2007
PS. The reason I keep using the term Vauxhall/Opel throughout this review is that the Corsa is marketed as a Vauxhall in the UK, and as an Opel everywhere else in Europe. (Including here in Ireland)
Summary: Excellent "supermini". Economical, low running costs, and fun to drive.