Underdogs. What is it about them we like so much? By sheer definition an underdog is inferior to its rival and therefore shouldn’t have any fans. Yet charm counts for a lot and so in any walk of life the second favourite is always the people or neutrals’ favourite. A lower division football team playing Manchester United in the FA Cup will always have large support, despite the bookies offering no odds for a United win. Remember Eddie the Eagle? The British ski-jumper who was rubbish, yet he’s a national treasure for going to the Olympics and having a go. The Vauxhall Corsa is in a similar boat. By no means rubbish, it has always found itself in an overcrowded small car market where the Ford Fiesta has reigned supreme.
The Corsa however is still a very successful car and I put this down to two key factors: it’s very good and appears in everyone’s holiday memories. Go to any car hire place on holiday and under the small car category I’d be willing to bet my house that nine times out of ten you’ll take receipt of a Vauxhall Corsa. The reason for this is quite simple – people that hire things treat them like something they’ve stepped in.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve rented a DVD only for it to stop halfway through the movie. The reason is always a massive scratch right across the good bit of the film, where someone appears to have been playing air hockey with the disc. Car hire is no different, with holidaymakers racing from seaside town to seaside town with no regard for their vehicle’s wellbeing. This then is why the Vauxhall Corsa gets the nod for being abused – it can take the punishment.
I’ve fond memories of my time on holiday driving the last generation Corsa in 2007 and whilst I treated it like royalty compared to the bloke before me, who seemed to take a cliff and slam it into the side of the car, I certainly wasn’t a Sunday driver either. Once I’d overcome the whole driving on the wrong side of the road routine, I found the Corsa a joy to drive through the twisting mountain roads of Ibiza. It had great air-conditioning too and was super economical despite racking up hundreds of miles. I however am aware that it was so bland to look at you could park it in the middle of Manchester United’s cup tie and no-one would notice.
Great news with the new model then because it looks fantastic. The car is all triangles and other-angles and manages to balance sophisticated styling for the gents with that cute and fun factor for the ladies. The front headlights rake up to the sides, the mirrors follow the triangle theme and the bulge above the rear wheels gives it an aggressive, sporty stance. Unlike some of its rivals it hasn’t plumped solely for style or solely for driver experience but has aimed for the middle ground between the two. What you get as a result is a car that on paper isn’t the best at anything but overall could very well be number one.
The handling is well-mannered and the Corsa feels composed at all times. Once you’re out on the windy roads however, you can really start to have fun. The engine options for the standard car may not give it too much get up and go, but the great handling means you can carry much of your speed through the corners without getting on and off the brake pedal.
Your best options on the engine front are either the 1.4 litre petrol which develops 90bhp and returns 47.9mpg, or the 74bhp 1.3 litre diesel unit which although initially noisy, is refined once heated up. This returns a whopping 61.4mpg combined although you may find the 0-60mph dash of 13.6 seconds too sluggish.
When it comes to build quality, even holidaymakers will have trouble damaging the new car, with both exterior and interior well put together and using better quality materials. The piano black dashboard is very striking and all the dials and instruments fall easily to hand. Rear leg room isn’t great for adults as the back seats cannot be moved back and forth however the boot space more than makes up for this.
Despite all these improvements and to my mind the new Vauxhall Corsa being that special breed of car that can do everything well, it’ll still be seen as the underdog compared to the Fiesta. However don’t let this sway your judgement because the Corsa really is the champion is disguise.