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Vauxhall Corsa-e 2020 first drive review

Vauxhall Corsa-e (2020) review: electric evangelist

Vauxhall doesn’t want the new Corsa-e to turn heads. The Honda e is the futuristic iPhone of cars; Corsa-e aims to be just like any other Corsa… just an all-electric one. The British brand wants to speed up the normalisation of electric cars and the everyday Corsa-e is central to this.

When you visit a Vauxhall retailer, electric Corsa-e options will be presented alongside petrol and diesel (yes, they do still sell them). A dealer calculator will show if going electric will save you money: for most, it will, predicts Vauxhall. And a 209-mile range from the 50kWh batteries helps ease range anxiety in a way the Honda and Mini Electric cannot.

So even if you’re not looking to go electric, you may end up doing so. That’s why one in 10 UK Corsa sales – a British best-seller, no less – are predicted to be EV. Vauxhall’s achievement in launching the Corsa-e alone is striking: you can’t even buy a hybrid version of the nation’s best-selling car, the Ford Fiesta, never mind an electric one.

In the metal, the Corsa-e is anything but quirky. Only the tiny ‘e’ logos give the game away. It’s identical to the regular AUTOBEST Best Buy 2020-winning Corsa inside, too. No funny tricks to learn, no confusing multitude of driving modes.

In a sense, the Vauxhall Corsa-e lays a small claim to being future of motoring, here today. It simply takes the existing cars we’re familiar with, and readies them for the looming ban on petrol and diesel. It shows there’s nothing to fear, just lots to like. 

Because to experience, it’s the best Corsa there’s ever been.

Driving the Vauxhall Corsa-e

The luxury of electric car silence is doubly impressive in a car with which you’re used to having an engine. It whirrs away like a luxury limo and continues to be hushed as speeds rise. It’s the noise of air whoosing by that you most notice at speed now; as you slow down, the rattle from other cars’ engines will disturb. Otherwise the silence is uncanny. 

It’s striking, such a popular everyday car becoming such a haven of peace. The impeccable manners of the electric motor also please. With 136hp, it’s more powerful than any turbo petrol Corsa, with diesel-like pulling power instantly on tap. It seamlessly gathers speed in a responsive, linear way. 

Vauxhall Corsa-e 2020 first drive review

Pull the funny-shaped auto gearlever back to switch from ‘D’ to ‘B’. This adds more battery regeneration, so the car slows down more when you lift the accelerator. It’s not as head-jerkingly powerful as, say, a Mini Electric: it feels perfectly judged to become nicely intuitive. 

A button by the gearlever lets you pick from three driving modes, if you want. Normal is default: Eco cuts power and gives you a lazier accelerator pedal; Sport does the opposite (0-62mph takes a zappy 8.1 seconds).

Vauxhall has programmed different power outputs in each level, so engaging Sport mode genuinely does create the fastest Corsa-e (and help save range in Eco). 

New Corsas have a tauter setup than their mechanically-related French sibling, the Peugeot 208. The ride is jigglier, but body control is better and it’s likely to suit twisting British roads better. Although occasionally unsettled, there’s little harshness and the Corsa-e feels stable, confident and grown up at speed. 

Body lean in corners is well contained, helped by the Corsa-e’s lower centre of gravity – the batteries, mounted low down underneath the seats, give a well-planted sensation. Steering has a reassuring feel and Vauxhall has actually reinforced the front suspension to improve response (and counter for the 0.3-tonne weight of the batteries). 

Just be wary if it’s wet. All that pulling power will quickly have the front wheels scrabbling with vigour. It’s surprisingly dramatic for a modern car: traction control eventually quells it, but not before the front wheels have squealed sideways (or the surprised driver has lifted off in a panic). 

In front of the driver is an electronic display that offers a choice of clear, logical readouts. It’s more humdrum than the 208’s exotic 3D display, and looks a bit on the small side, but is easier to take in. Proper heater controls work well, and the touchscreen is OK. 

Public electric car charging points being so prominently displayed in the navigation ahead of the driver will do wonders for range anxiety. Speaking of which…

On a day zipping around Berlin, range never became an issue. The cars were factory-fresh, so the worryingly mediocre 190km (118 miles) of range suggested by the full battery (on a cold day) was unrealistic. After two hours’ driving, range had actually improved, to 210km (130 miles). 

During the day, I drove a city-centric 55 miles (but with a few blasts of autobahn). And at the end of day, there was exactly 100 miles’ range left. 

Vauxhall Corsa-e 2020 first drive review

For everything else, it’s as with the regular Corsa. Pretty styling, sensibly modern interior, nice driving position, borderline rear seat space (but adults shouldn’t feel tortured once they’ve threaded their way in there). Even boot space is, impressively, identical. All it lacks is below-floor storage (so no space for a spare wheel). 

It’s the least otherworldly car of the future yet launched, and is bound to win fans because of this. 

Vauxhall Corsa-e: verdict

Vauxhall Corsa-e 2020 first drive review

The Vauxhall Corsa-e intentionally isn’t an experience as exciting as a Honda e. Its target customers told the firm they crave normality. They want an electric car, but not the fuss and standout fanfare that comes with it. For the vast majority of everyday car buyers who don’t want people to look at them, the Corsa-e is the trend-setting electric car they’ll secretly crave. 

Sure, it looks expensive to buy: from £30,665, or just over £27k with the government grant. The test Elite Nav is £30k post-grant. But people don’t buy cars these days, they finance them. And here, the Corsa-e costs from £299 a month (the same as a Mini Electric), with just under £5,000 down. A 100hp 1.2T petrol is £225 a month, with £2,000 down.

Still, pricier, yes, but Vauxhall dealers will readily show you the savings in running costs (£27 a month, instead of £130 for a petrol Corsa, if you drive 10k miles a year, they reckon). You even get a free home charger, underlining the satisfaction of never having to visit a filling station again.

Thousands of new car buyers are now going to be offered a viable electric car alternative. Many will make the switch. The mainstream march of the EV continues. And, in an understated sort of way, that’s why the new Corsa-e is one of the most significant electric car arrivals to date. 

Opel Corsa AUTOBEST 2020

Vauxhall Corsa is AUTOBEST Best Buy Car of Europe 2020

Vauxhall Corsa – AUTOBEST 2020 Best Buy Car for Europe

The new Vauxhall Corsa has been voted the AUTOBEST Best Buy Car of Europe 2020. The Vauxhall supermini edged ahead of the 2020 Peugeot 208 in the final rankings – by a points margin of just 0.2%.

A total of 31 jury members from across Europe – it’s one member per nation – awarded the Corsa a total of 17,617 points, just 157 more than the new Peugeot.

The Skoda Kamiq came third, with 16,848 points. The other two finalists, the Renault Clio and Nissan Juke, followed.

The judging process included a two-day test at the former Formula 1 racetrack, Istanbul City Park. Jurors, who represent 95 percent of the European population, carried out extensive tests and attended detailed presentations from finalist brands. 

AUTOBEST 2020 Best Buy Car for Europe

“It was a very balanced final five,” said jury president Ilia Seliktar. “All the finalists are great examples of what is today a ‘Best Buy Car’ on our continent.

“Last year at AUTOBEST, we said that the next winner of Best Buy Car of Europe should be an electrified new product,” said AUTOBEST founder and chairman Dan Vardie. “It is exactly what happened, and the new Corsa is a perfect example of electrification for the masses.

‘The new Corsa is the first car to democratise the future of electric motoring, helping people in Europe embrace the future confidently as the next normality.”

AUTBEST 2019 winners

Luc Donckerwolke

Other AUTOBEST awards have also been revealed. Hyundai Motor Group design chief Luc Donckerwolke has been named DESIGNBEST 2019 victor, for a track record that includes work at Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini.

His current portfolio includes the Hyundai, Kia and upmarket Genesis brands.

Mazda’s Skyactiv-X technology has won the TECHNOBEST 2019 prize, for combining the best of petrol and diesel engine tech – and potentially giving a new lease of life to the internal combustion engine.

Skoda’s ‘Laura’ personal assistant has won the SMARTBEST 2019 tech. This in-house development by Skoda took the prize for showing that cars needn’t merely be software carriers for technology companies.

Finally, Volkswagen’s promising new ID.3 electric car has scooped the ECOBEST 2019 prize.

AUTOBEST awards aim to find the best offering for Europe’s real-world car buyers. Jurors, including the author, vote using a matrix of 13 criteria, weighted to price, service network and versatility. Design and new technologies are also significant voting criteria.

AUTOBEST member countries

AUTOBEST 2020 Best Buy Car for Europe finalists

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Holland
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Republic of Macedonia
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • UK
  • Ukraine
2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

Vauxhall Corsa 1.2T 100 SRi Nav 2020 review

2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

The current Vauxhall Corsa has ended its long run as a British best-seller. If such an aged car can achieve that, what can this smart-looking all-new one do? That’s what Vauxhall retailers will be looking forward to finding out as 2020 nears.

We have already driven it overseas, and this gave us a good insight into the all-new car’s strengths. (It genuinely is all-new too, developed using technology shared with new French owner PSA, in a break-neck two-year sprint). Now it’s time to see how it copes with the unique roads of the UK.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

Although Vauxhall, unlike many small cars these days, offers a diesel-engined Corsa – and, in 2020, will launch the all-electric Corsa-e – the best-selling engine will be the 1.2-litre petrol. The cheapest is the non-turbo 1.2 75, but it’s the turbocharged 1.2T 100 that will sell best. We tried it in sportier SRi Nav guise.  

Again, Vauxhall thinks the SRi variant might prove most popular, vying with the lead-in SE grade. Prices start from £18,700, £2,350 more than a comparable SE (all new Corsa are five-doors, and the £15,500 entry price looks good next to the cheapest Ford Fiesta at £16,495); it’s only available with the 1.2T 100 engine but, given the upgrades it has to its chassis, this makes sense.

Because, uniquely, SRi models gain extra bracing for the front suspension. Strut tower tie rods is an upgrade you only normally see in high-performance cars. Chief engineer Thomas Wanke says it makes the front end more rigid, improving on-centre steering feel and making the Corsa respond more positively, with less delay, to steering inputs.

SRi variants also get bolstered sports seats, dark-tint rear glass and roofliner, sporty red trim for the dash and unique front and rear bumpers. A black roof and A-pillars is standard too; taking them in body-colour is a no-cost option.

Notably, Vauxhall offers no optional extras for the Corsa, other than metallic paint and a spare wheel. Buyers instead choose packs: the base SRi can be upgraded to SRi Nav (as tested here) for £500, goodie-packed SRi Premium for £1,240, or SRi Nav Premium which combines both. Easier, more straightforward AND better value for money: the days of the optional extra may be numbered.

On the road

2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

The 1.2T 100 engine is a likeable thing. It makes a smooth, throbby noise and has good pull from low revs. Despite being turbocharged, there’s barely any delay when you press the accelerator and it’s good at lugging up hills without needing to change down a gear. It’s quiet too.

It’s not really an engine that you’ll rev through, though. Power tails off over 5,000 rpm: somewhat counterintuitively, there’s sometimes actually a boost in power when you change up a gear. The gearbox is light and precise if you shift gently, but feels slack if you’re more forceful.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

All Corsa SRi have 16-inch wheels (only Elite Nav and Ultimate Nav have 17-inch wheels). These are good for ride quality, with the new Corsa smoothing off the gritty roads around the Goodwood launch venue ably. The suspension is also nicely controlled, with a good blend of firm control and absorbency.

The suspension works quietly as well, which is good for refinement and gives a nice feeling of integrity. It’s as good as some bigger cars in this respect. And it handles neatly, with not too much body roll or sway in corners.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

The steering does feel sharper and more precise than the alternative Ultimate Nav car we drove. It makes the Corsa SRi feel a wieldy little thing – not as engaging as a Ford Fiesta, sure, but still very good, and with a more comfortable and less tiring ride. It’s also night and day better than the old Corsa.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

SRi seats are excellent, with broader seat bases than the regular cars, and chunky side bolsters. The moody black interior is sporty, with a bold red line that runs the full length of the dash. A 7-inch touchscreen is angled to the driver and looks upmarket; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Fixtures and fittings are decent quality and the soft-touch dash top is nice to see.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

The driving position is fine. The pedals are a bit close, which the driver resolves by sliding the seat back further, to the detriment of rear space. Taller passengers in the rear should sit behind the passenger: the dashboard is hollowed out, so they can slide their seat further forward. This shows off the positives of the rear cabin – comfortable seats, plenty of footroom and adequate headroom.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

The 309-litre boot is class-competitive, and the opening is wider than the old Corsa, so it’s more practical.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

Niggles? The folding rear seats don’t sit flat, the manual handbrake has an unusually long travel, the door arm rests are narrow and, on our car, both auto headlights and auto wipers seemed to have a mind of their own.

Verdict

2020 Vauxhall Corsa SRi

The new Vauxhall Corsa is a big step on from the outgoing model. How it drives has been transformed; it’s now thoroughly class-competitive, with an appealing blend of sportiness and comfort. Its refinement and engine response are major plus points and the SRi-specific suspension, styling and seats are all reason enough to choose it.

Vauxhall at last has a front-running supermini again, one that looks smart and feels appealing inside. This is an extremely competitive sector, with some excellent alternatives, but the Corsa is up to job of taking on the Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio and others.

Time to watch the new car sales charts with interest – Ford Fiesta, you may at last have met your match…  

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

2020 Vauxhall Corsa review: testing the impressive new ‘people’s car’

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

The new Vauxhall Corsa is a crucially important model for the brand. Long overdue, it has to revive the battle with Ford’s Fiesta for the title of Britain’s favourite small car.

Thankfully, early testing suggests the 2020 Corsa is the car to do exactly that. It’s a very impressive all-rounder.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

It has few obvious weaknesses, and many standout strengths. It looks appealing, is comfortable and reasonably premium inside, and has an excellent 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine. Most refreshingly, it drives extremely well, light years ahead of the old Corsa, and already seems set to be a supermini sector front-runner.

The comparison tests will come when it arrives in the UK in January 2020. Until then, let’s explore why the long wait for a new Corsa looks to have been worth it.

First impressions

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

Vauxhall has made the new Corsa more car-like, rather than the MPV-infused style of the current model. The bonnet is longer, the windscreen steeper, and there’s more space between the wheels. This makes it look a lot bigger than it actually is – length has grown only slightly, to just over four metres.

It’s a very smart-looking car, very Germanic. The lines are clean and confidently-cut, with nice, simple but premium-look surfaces. The new Corsa appears a more expensive car than before. Several times, the designers mentioned it being more of a competitor to the Audi A1.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

There are some nice touches. The flared wheelarches, for example, inspired by the Vauxhall Nova and Mk1 Vauxhall Corsa. The contoured ‘wedge’ on the body sides is also distinctive, and the rear has a sporty rake. LED lights all-round make it look upmarket, too.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

Inside, there’s been a big lift. Quality has been stepped up, with nicer soft-touch plastics and a more refined finish. The infotainment screen is crisp and ‘real’ heater buttons make a welcome contrast to packing everything into the touchscreen, Peugeot-Citroen style.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

Vauxhall always makes great seats and they’re excellent in the new Corsa, nicely firm and supportive. The large chairs of the sporty-spec GS-line grade are particularly impressive.

The seats are also mounted much lower than in the previous Corsa, so you feel like you’re sat within the car, rather than teetering on top of it. A reasonably high window line, plus the tall dashboard, enhance this ‘cockpit’ feel.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

The longer wheelbase has made stepping in and out of the rear easier (just watch your head: the side of the roof dips down a bit).

Adults sat behind adults might find it feels a bit cosy, but there’s sufficient space there not to feel squashed – enough room for heads and knees, and plenty of room for feet. It’s more comfortable than, say, the latest Renault Clio. The 309-litre boot is also well-shaped, earning good practicality points.

On the road

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

The vast majority of Corsas will have a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, producing either 100hp or 130hp. It’s the same one used by the Peugeot 208 and Citroen C3; the Corsa actually shares underpinnings with the latest 208, courtesy of new owner Groupe PSA.

Indeed, Vauxhall actually had a previous Corsa, built on old owner GM’s technology, pretty much ready to go. Then the company was sold – and a staggeringly-fast two-year redevelopment to build this car began. That’s why the old one lingered too long. And why the engineers are so proud of what they’ve achieved.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

We were spoiled, getting to drive a range-topping 130hp version first. The car was paired with the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox, too. It’s an impressive combination, with the smooth-shifting transmission coupling nicely to the throbby engine.

There’s strong pulling power and an enthusiastic rasp when driven quickly. As the Corsa is a bit lighter than the old one, it’s fun on twisting roads.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

The 100hp version doesn’t short-change you, though (luckily, as the 130hp Corsa isn’t yet confirmed for the UK). If anything, its torque is even more impressive, lugging up hills with ease even from low revs. The clutch is positive, the six-speed gearbox is snappy (and more direct than in many Peugeots and Citroens), even the noise it makes is appealing. It’s not a silent-running engine, but it’s a cheery-sounding one, so you don’t mind.

For research purposes, we also drove the diesel, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder. This is much less impressive. It has a narrow power band, with negligible pull below 1,500 rpm – you often have to change down from sixth to fifth on motorways, and it will simply refuse to pull forward at slow speeds if you’re in the wrong gear. It seemed to deliver very good real-world economy, but when the petrols are so pleasant, it’s not worth the £1,200 extra over the 1.2 turbo.

The new Corsa has a big car, grown up feel. The ride is stable at speed – it feels made for fast German autobahns. It’s tauter than its French siblings in town, but it also rides quietly, with controlled bump-thump. Handling is wieldy, with easy and responsive steering, and its noticeably lighter on its feet than the old Corsa.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

It corners without too much roll, feels wider-tracked and lower to the ground, benefiting stability and driver confidence. The only unusual observation was a more jiggly and unsettled ride in the diesel running 16-inch wheels than the two petrol cars on 17-inchers. It might have been the eco tyres fitted to the diesel: keep an eye on it in the UK.

Special mention must go to the headlights. The Corsa has LED headlights as standard – or, as an option, the supermini sector’s first Matrix LED lamps. These are made up of sections that switch off individually when an oncoming car is detected, so you can have full main beam without dazzling the other driver.

On an evening test route, they proved incredible. No small car has ever had headlights this crisp and bright. They may sound like an extravagance, but once you’ve sampled them, you won’t want to go back.

First verdict

2020 Vauxhall Corsa

The new Vauxhall Corsa is a massive step on from the old model. As the British brand’s most important car here in the UK, retailers will be breathing a sigh of relief at once again having a thoroughly competitive car to sell against the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. All have their own strengths, but the Corsa is now good enough to square up to them with confidence.

It’s a stylish-looking car, with Germanic, premium lines and an upscale interior. It drives like a bigger car, the turbo petrol engine is likeable and the package is backed up with a good array of standard safety features. There are even some standouts, like the Matrix LED headlights.

The diesel is disappointing and rear space is only just enough, but otherwise, the Corsa is at last back to being a supermini contender worth a closer look.