The Opel Corsa supermini has had a legendary history dating all the way back to 1982 when the car was first sold in the United Kingdom and Europe. Only in the early 90’s did the Corsa make its presence in South Africa with the B shape model. Built on a General Motors front-wheel-drive (FWD) platform the early Corsa models were one of the few supermini hatchbacks available in SA until Peugeot, Renault and VW came along. The battle of the superminis has raged on ever since and now in 2021 we have on test Opel’s latest offering, the all-new Opel Corsa 1.2 Turbo Elegance.
Following the merger between Peugeot and Citroën, the old Corsa was scrapped and its replacement was built on the PSA Common Modular Platform which is shared by numerous other French cars such as the Peugeot 208 and 2008. Say what you will about French influences, but the new Corsa is a huge step up in terms of refinement and build quality compared to the old one. Based on the exterior alone the Corsa looks a lot more well balanced and poised than its predecessor especially the wider bumpers that exemplify the car’s width adding about 30mm. The car sits on 16-inch alloy wheels fitted with 195/55/16 tyres all round contributing to the body itself looking rather handsome. It is also longer and taller than before, and now only available as a 5-door hatchback. Our test car was white making it less attractive visually on the road. I would think a more dynamic colour such as red or blue would give the car a sportier look. The front-end styling is plain not attracting much attention, which is in contradiction to the rear view which projects a far more modern look. The twin tail pipes add to the attractive rear sporty design.
Interior quality and features
Inside the cabin the attention to detail is certainly not lost. The interior of the new Corsa ditches the dated look of the older models for a more minimalist layout. You get a 7-inch instrument cluster which has clear displays and it is also customisable via a button on the indicator stalk. Unfortunately, the displays do not show any fancy graphics or change colours while you’re toggling between driving modes, which is different from other Peugeot models, and it feels like it was designed to be useful or practical rather than attractive. Most buyers of this car probably won’t be too concerned with this and will probably be excited by the modern interface rather than the traditional dials.
The infotainment screen is a 7-inch unit and has physical buttons under the screen itself, we enjoyed the use of a volume knob something we are seeing less and less in today’s modern cars.
Other nice touches in the cabin include the piano black surround on the gear lever and the buttons for the safety monitoring systems (Lane Departure Warning/Active Lane Keep Assist and parking sensors). In totality the cabin is a mixed bag with plenty of switchgear sourced from PSA.
Round the back the passenger seats are firm and supportive. Two adults would have no trouble with the rear seating and the split 60:40 seats can be folded down to expand the Corsa’s 309 litre boot. (one of the best in its class)
Performance and economy
On the road, the chassis feels rather stable with marginal body roll when turning. The handling is what you would expect from a traditional good French auto manufacturer. The cabin is also incredibly well insulated and quiet with the engine hum barely audible over the sound of the air conditioning. Under the hood the 1.2-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder engine is also sourced from PSA. The perky little unit produces 96kW’s and 230Nm of torque, which is plenty for a car that weighs just over a ton. On paper the car completes 0-100kw/h in 8.7 seconds although it absolutely feels quicker than the claimed figure.
The 6-Speed Auto gearbox is a match made in heaven for this 1.2T. We did find the lack of steering wheel mounted paddles a missed opportunity by Opel to really make this Corsa feel sporty and give the driver more control over the shifts adding that element of fun. Another missed opportunity is the rev counter which is basically just a think bar that runs across the bottom of the screen. A larger rev dial would have been a nicer option to have given that the Corsa has a digital display, it’s a huge oversight on Opel’s/PSA’s part. The electric steering rack is rather numb and lacklustre with minimal feedback at slower speeds. It is however incredibly light making parking extremely effortless, very easy to manoeuvre.
It’s a quick perky little car. Given its weight (or lack of it) and power performance, you could really take this car up a twisting back road and thoroughly enjoy yourself. It’s very easy to live with and although when it arrived it didn’t look like the most exciting car in appearance, especially from the front, it delivers a good solid driving experience. It maybe a stretch to make this statement but the Opel Corsa has become a very desirable car, for me at least, and we would advise potential buyers not to be put off my the somewhat plain exterior styling. The rear is certainly sporty and once inside and behind the wheel you may be pleasantly surprised and even impressed. Maybe the French acquisition really did pay off.