With a little Gallic assistance, Vauxhall has rejuvenated its Corsa supermini to make sure it stays relevant to buyers in this crowded market. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Time, perhaps, to change the way you feel about Vauxhall's Corsa. This fifth generation version has been a huge sales success for the brand, frequently the UK's best selling car. But it needed a bit more showroom appeal, hence the importance of this mid-term update, which brings the front end look into line with the brand's other models and introduces some new electrified drivetrain tech for both combustion and EV variants.
The 'F' generation of Vauxhall's Corsa, introduced in 2019, has proved to be a bit of a surprise hit for the Stellantis Group in the UK, frequently the nation's best seller. Which must be gratifying for that parent conglomerate because the costs of developing it weren't too huge, pretty much all the engineering shared with the current Peugeot 208 (as well as with the DS 3), both those French models sharing this Vauxhall's CMP platform.
Here, we're looking at the facelifted version of this current Corsa (actually the sixth generation Corsa for Opel but the fifth generation for Vauxhall). This update arrived in mid-2023 and aims to keep this supermini at the head of the sales charts. Let's take a closer look.
There are some key drivetrain changes with this revised model. For the first time, the Corsa gains mild hybrid tech, a 48V system offered with a new generation 1.2-litre three cylinder petrol unit developing 136bhp and coupled with a new dual-clutch 6-speed electrified auto gearbox that incorporates an electric motor. Most mainstream Corsas though, will still be sold with the old un-electrified 1.2-litre petrol unit from the earlier version of this fifth generation design, offering 75PS, 100PS or 130PS.
The other increasingly popular drivetrain option is the full-EV Corsa Electric derivative. That variant's original 50kWh battery and 136PS electric motor combination continues, offering 222 miles of range. But EV Corsa customers can also now choose a more sophisticated 51kWh battery paired with a more powerful 156PS motor, this set-up boosting EV range to 255 miles. Expect moderately rapid performance, with 62mph dispatched in under 9 seconds. Bear in mind that the Corsa Electric is around 350kgs heavier than the ordinary version.
Otherwise, things are as before with this MK5 Corsa's drive dynamics. These haven't been tuned specifically to British roads - as the brand has very effectively done with previous generation Corsa models, but that wasn't possible this time round. Something evidenced, for example, by the way the slightly over-light steering hasn't been tweaked for the twistier, more challenging tarmac common in our market - as previously, it might usually have been. The ride quality can't match the kind of thing you get in a rival Volkswagen Polo - few superminis can do that - and the fairly basic torsion beam rear suspension that all small cars feature means you'll certainly feel speed humps and crumbling pot holes. Overall though, what's served up in this Corsa is a firm but supple standard of damping that works as well on the open road as it does around town.
Design and Build
This updated Corsa now fits visually in with the rest of the latest Vauxhall range, thanks to the adoption of the brand's distinctive 'Vizor'-style front grille, a single solid black panel with a restyled Grifin badge. That panel's flanked by slightly more squared-off slimline LED headlights which on top variants can feature the brand's 'IntelliLux matrix pixel tech. As before, it all sits on Peugeot 208 underpinnings, which means the Stellantis Group's 'CMP' 'Common Modular Platform' and body panels fashioned from a range of high-strength steels.
Inside with this updated model, the infotainment system has been upgraded to a 10-inch screen that runs a more sophisticated user interface powered by Qualcomm's 'Snapdragon Cockpit' platform. Wireless 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring is now included, as is 'Connected 3D' navigation, over-the-air software updates and "Hey Vauxhall" voice control. The 7-inch digital instrument screen has also been improved, with sharper graphics: and a wireless charging mat is being offered for the first time. Other cabin changes include fresh upholstery choices, a redesign for the steering wheel and gear selector - and a revised high-resolution wide-view rear camera.
As before, space is at a bit of a premium for those in the rear seat, but the curvature of the front seat backs is designed to improve knee room, there's a notably low centre transmission tunnel and there's lots of room to poke your feet beneath those front chairs. The boot is 309-litres in size, regardless of your choice between combustion or EV power. It's quite a usable, squarically-sized space, with 885mm of length and 867mm of width. Folding the straightforward 60:40-split rear bench reveals 1,118-litres of capacity when you load to the roof.
Market and Model
If you'd got used to Corsa pricing for base models being in the £14,000 to £16,500 bracket (which is where it's been in recent years), you might need a cup of hot sweet tea after perusal of the figures being asked for this fifth generation French-inspired version, which start from around £20,000 for the feeblest 1.2-litre base-spec petrol variant. That's for base 'Design'-spec. Mid-range 'GS' trim is next, then there's top 'Ultimate' trim, which with a combustion engine now costs from just under £26,000. The Corsa Electric sells in the £32,500-£36,000 bracket across the same three trim levels. With a Corsa Electric in 'Design' trim, you can only have the old 136PS powertrain; with mid-range 'GS' trim, there's the option of finding around £1,500 more for the new 156PS powertrain; and with top 'Ultimate' spec, you can only have the new powertrain. Got that? Good. Across the range, five doors are mandatory of course.
On combustion models, there's the option of auto transmission - around £1,700 more on petrol versions only. Even the most basic 'Design' derivatives are quite well equipped, fitted with an Automatic Emergency Braking function featuring Pedestrian Detection. Plus LED headlights with daytime running lights, High Beam Assist, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, Cruise Control with Intelligent Speed Limiter and a 10-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth, AM/FAM/DAB digital radio as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.
Cost of Ownership
Huge efforts have gone in here to improve running cost efficiency by saving weight. As a result, expect the unelectrified 1.2-litre PureTech petrol variants that many still will want to be very acceptably clean and frugal. With the 98bhp model, you can expect to manage 57.6mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and return a CO2 reading of up to 109g/km, which is pretty good going for a car in this segment. The base 1.2-litre 74bhp version manages similar readings - 55.4mpg and 114g/km.
But of course if you're really interested in ecological efficiency, there'll be just one variant of this car that'll interest you, the Corsa Electric. For the 50kWh version of this derivative, Vauxhall claims a WLTP-rated driving range between charges of 222 miles. The newer 51kWh version of this powertrain boosts that figure to 255 miles.
All the latest Corsa Electric models come as standard with an 11kW on-board charger, allowing for a 0-100% charge to be completed in 5hrs and 15 minutes. The same full charge using a 7kW home wallbox is estimated to take 7hrs and 30 minutes. Supporting 100kW rapid charging, a typical 10%-80% charge will take just 30 minutes.
Ultimately, what we're looking at here is a Corsa that can. It can be fun to drive. It can deliver a big car feel. And it can stack up well on the balance sheet. It's a small Vauxhall for which no apologies need to be made. All that will worry obvious supermini rivals. After all, in its original form, this MK5 model was already a best seller. In this updated form, it aims to become a supermini that sells on more than just sheer value.
It's not perfect of course. It doesn't lead its class in terms of either space, efficiency or driving dynamics. And the truth is that for all the electrified headlines here, most sales will still be of models fitted with either an aging unelectrified 1.2-litre petrol unit or the older version of the Stellantis Group's EV powertrain. But things are changing - and this Corsa is too. Add to that the wide model line-up and the likely deals on offer and you've a supermini that more than ever, needs to remain high on any family's shopping list.