By coincidence, on the heels of the Opel Adam Rocks, DTW has a chance to test its stablemate, the Corsa. Here are the main points of the news.
Having an opportunity to drive the “new” Corsa meant I could assess the car in isolation but also compare it to its zanier sister, the Adam. Mechanically the two cars are not far apart and the same goes for price. An Adam Rocks costs £14659 and an Opel like the one tested here costs £13,330 and more, depending on spec. The latter is a bit larger than the former and the Corsa comes in three and five door options (why no estate or convertible I wonder?).
When the “new” Corsa was announced in 2014, I felt that Opel had made a bit of a mis-step by offering what is very much a facelift and not a completely new body-shell. The main architecture of the earlier car is on plain view, with almost all exterior panels changed a bit but the roof looks to be identical to the predecessor.
The main changes are inside the car where a new dashboard, seats and hard trim are to be found. Other changes are about the electrical and infotainment bits. The touchscreen is large and easy to use and thankfully the HVAC controls are still dials not buttons. (I notice they are a lot less refined in their action compared to the Adam).
In the course of my day’s test I concentrated on all the old-fashioned mechanical aspects. I have no interest in Bluetooth connectivity and infotainment I didn’t bother to explore those aspects. That meant I didn’t notice what might be a lot of useful improvements to the car that other buyers might find of greater importance than I did.
Sitting inside the car after having experienced the Adam, you realise how ordinary the Corsa is and perhaps how ordinary most cars in this class are. There’s nothing wrong with anything in view. All the controls are where you expect (and the City steering button is still obscured) and the seats are comfortable. There’s a little flash of red trim across the dash to cheer things up. But that’s about it. There is not much sense of fun about this car. The lesson to take from this is not that the Corsa is worse than its peers but rather that the Adam rather spoils one with its small touches of extra quality.
As you drive off, the gears work smoothly though I think that there is a bit more engine noise than I would like. The Telegraph disagrees. I get the impression the 1.0 litre motor is working hard and you can hear it thrumming. It’s not obtrusive but you are aware of it when moving up the rpm scale. Apart from that, the rest of the car is refined and easy going.
The two things one notices about the Corsa as it is now is that it’s a car that is in isolation pleasant and easy to operate and better than the predecessor. None of the major controls irked. In particular, I note that the steering steers in a way that makes the car act as directed, when directed. Most of my recent drives (all of them in the tiny and smallish class) have not had terribly nice steering. The Cactus has scored well in this regard and the Corsa goes one better in that the steering reacted immediately to my inputs and if it steered left-right-left suddenly the car acted distinctly to each direction before settling down to straight ahead again.
The Corsa’s ride quality strikes a much better balance than the shorter-wheelbased Adam. I liked the way it handled urban, country and intercity roads. I feel it has been set up with a comfort bias and this is to be applauded. The effect is that there can be some dive and squat under braking and acceleration. This is a valid compromise. It would be easy to travel a long distance in the Corsa without feeling worn out.
Rear accommodation in the five door is quite good in terms of room. I had room to spare when I sat behind myself. The arm-rests are a let-down though. They seem to be about five centimetres too far forward so your elbow does not land on a very big expanse of flat. The side view is airy and the forward view good enough to avoid one feeling blinded by b-pillars and head restraints.
The rear seats can be moved forward slightly to increase the room in the boot or they can be folded down nearly flat. There is a step between the seat back and the floor of the boot though. The solution to this is to have the seat base fold up and have the seat back fold into the space left over. I am not sure why this has not been done. It’s worth building in as it results in an almost flat floor. My Peugeot 205 did this and it meant the load bay was large and neat. The Corsa’s boot encloses 285 litres with the seats up and 1100 with them down.
In terms of equipment, drive and build quality, the Corsa is a decent car and I can’t think of a reason to tell anyone not to buy it. However, in strategic terms, Opel have done themselves no favours by retaining so much of the outgoing car. This is a very competitive market and I think that even four more years of the Corsa as it is will cost Opel dearly in lost sales. Making so many good and noticeable changes to dynamics, infotainment and the interior is work undermined by the unconvincing exterior. It really does smack of a disguise and not a free-standing design.
The second lesson learned is what a marked difference there is in joie de vivre between the Adam and the Corsa. I think a case could be made for offering a version of the Corsa with all the nice features of the Adam. What I didn’t like about the Adam was the restricted space in the back and I didn’t care for the choppy ride. A Corsa trimmed like an Adam would address those points and make for rather a lovely little device, a mini-luxury car of the sort once offered in the form of the Renault 5 Baccara and the Lancia Ypsilon. With an Adamised interior the Corsa would be much more believable.
As it is, it’s a decent, comfy, useful car that is missing the visual signals to advertise this.