It used to be the case that if you were in the market for a small, economical family hatchback or perhaps a second car then the only choice you had to make was between the Ford Fiesta or the Vauxhall Corsa. How times have changed. With decent offerings from Kia, Hyundai, Volkswagen and the like, any vehicle wanting to be successful in this sector really needs to stand out from a very crowded marketplace. What then is unique about this 2014 Corsa? What makes it memorable? And most importantly, can it deliver a fun driving experience whilst also taking the children to school, going to the supermarket or travelling further afield? Let’s find out!
As most small family hatchbacks will spend a fair chunk of their time travelling around the local area it was lucky that I needed to visit a relative a few miles away in Morley, West Yorkshire this week as this would accurately replicate the type of journey that this car will be used for. The route contains a mix of town driving and duel carriageway with a final, short stretch of the new, intelligent M62 (more of which at a later date!) Depending very much on the time of day the traffic, which can add anything from 1-30 minutes onto the travel time, dictates your speed and mood. Turning right onto Leeds road at the start of the journey gives the first opportunity to really test the low down acceleration from the 1.2 litre petrol engine revving quietly away under the bonnet. At 11:30 on a Saturday morning the traffic is busy with few Corsa size gaps. It is the type of morning that doesn’t warrant a timid approach. Push the pleasantly short throw gear lever into first, dial in around 1500 rpm and be ready to pounce when the right gap appears. With a light feel to the clutch and steering it is easy to jump forward, turning right as you go, a quick raise of the hand to thank the driver behind for leaving a space, and it’s off to Morley.
Keeping up with the traffic is easy and instinctive in this Corsa as there is a decent amount of torque available from 2000 rpm with good, but not outstanding, acceleration from 3000 rpm. For the more economically minded, the normally aspirated 1.2 engine is more than happy to drive along at 1500 rpm in fifth gear which equates to roughly 30mph, just remember to drop down a gear or two when you need to speed up again as acceleration in fifth from such low revs is non existent. Continuing to wind my way out of Bradford it is easy to see why the Vauxhall Corsa continues to perform consistently well in the UK sales charts reaching no. 3 behind the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus with 81,783 sales in 2014. It is an easy car to get in and go.
My drive so far has backed up the feeling of space, comfort and modernity that first impressions gave. The engine continues to provide willing forward motion, the gears are fluid and easy to use whilst the steering continues to relay information from the road through to your fingertips. Road noise is kept to a minimum but the ride is a little skittish when speeds rise yet comfort is good at town speeds. Once on the A650 ring road heading out of Bradford you come to a slight incline, with cars overtaking at speed it is easy to spot the main shortcomings of this 1.2 power plant, at town speeds the engine has willing and friendly performance but when you really need it, the gearbox needs using more than you might think. To keep in the powerband the engine must be stirred to above 3000 rpm, anything less and even when your right foot is pushed deep into the carpet you get more noise but nothing else. The 1.4 ltr engine doesn’t appear to have these issues and is certainly something that you need to weigh up against the fuel and CO2 benefits of the smaller engine.
Perhaps I’m being harsh here as the car will do everything asked of it and once used to the engine you find yourself driving within the parameters where the Corsa seems happiest, just expect to use the gears more if you wish to maintain a more rapid forward momentum. On the motorway the car feels happiest at speeds between 65-70mph with little noise filtering through to the cabin to distract the driver. All in all, a good, solid performance.
Once arrived at Morley it’s time to reflect over the performance of this JCT600 Energy Special Edition Corsa. Over a mix of roads, traffic and conditions it’s performed admirably, the steering is light and responsive, the controls have a good weight and feel to them and the car handles and brakes quickly and safely. I just wish that it had a touch more power as I can’t help but think that with a full compliment of passengers and luggage the extra weight could become telling. Next time I’ll be looking at how easy the equipment present is to use whilst on the move and can this likeable car work with a family as Vauxhall no doubt intend.