Corsa Revisited

As promised during the weekend here is a small reconsideration of the Opel Corsa, this time the 1.4 litre, 75 PS petrol five-door.

2015 Opel Corsa 1.4 Cosmo
2015 Opel Corsa 1.4 Cosmo

We had a short review of the 1.0 litre version in the summer of 2015 and decided it was okay. This time I have the 1.4 litre mid-spec version to try.

I can immediately say that the uprated interior decorations make for a much more festive feeling. The steering wheel looks like it’s the nice one from the Adam and so the upshot of this is that without wood and leather and shades of beige, it still makes for a comfortable and quite convivial driving environment. My notes, written up after a hard charging day at the wheel, list the nice steering, smooth uptake and HVAC controls that won’t cause you to

Opel Corsa interior
Opel Corsa interior

take your eyes off the road. They look like the Adam’s but don’t feel as slick though. In fact, they aren’t slick at all, merely acceptable.

Driving around town proved to be lazy-pleasant, laid-back and easy. I really like the urban steering setting which makes parking effortless (but the button is hidden from view). On country roads I did a small steering test, trying to see how slight the movements had to be before the car didn’t react. My passenger found this irritating so I stopped. Point proved.

The steering is quite responsive. Unlike Opel’s of old there is no sneeze factor: turn the wheel and the car turns to the appropriate degree. Nobody’s going to compare it to an Alfa 156 for steering directness but it’s a good interface. A bit of work is needed on the gear change. 2 and 3 can stick a bit, the rest work well. I will open a very big bottle of Aperol and some prosecco in celebration of the day I don’t write that about a car. I’ll follow it up with some St Raphael too.

On motorways the Opel’s suspension cuts out the bumps and thumps and no vibration can be felt through the controls. It has a short wheelbase so the ride is probably as smooth as it can be but still prone to mild choppiness. I noticed the road surface seemed to be the biggest source of noise. Depending on the surface the tyres would thrum, buzz or say nothing.  As I was driving home, I decided I could probably easily motor 900 km down to Basel in the Corsa. I noticed the road surface seemed to be the biggest source of noise. Depending on the surface the tyres would thrum, buzz or say nothing. Driving this car in Ireland could be problematic since the ROI features some very coarse road dressings.

The performance is adequate and I don’t mean badly adequate but precisely enough for what is a rather heavy car. The pay off is excellent refinement. So, for the driver it’s a pleasant vehicle and I will get to what else could be done with the Corsa from this basis later on. It has potential.

Before that I will turn to the downsides and they are all in the design of the non-driving interfaces and details. What it reduces down to is that there wasn’t an overall view of the car because why else would you have nice mechanical controls but vaguely vexing electronic ones. Let’s start with the decision to put the temperature reading on the screen on the centre console. I’d want that on the IP, please. That console screen glares, even when black. During the day it switches to a white background and hovers at the edge of peripheral vision like a rectangle of overcast sky.

The screen controls are activated using a touch-sensitive button that has been given a loud beep to replace haptic feedback. It takes too long to react. You can duck out from that by ordering the two low-level models, Essentia and Enjoy and get a dial-operated radio. I would probably choose that and spend some of the saved money on special order options like smaller wheels and higher profile tyres.

Another ergo failure is the placement of minor controls to the left and right of the steering wheel where they can’t be seen.  There’s no ashtray at all. Regarding small comfort features, the two cupholders are behind your elbow, between the front seat backs. There’s no rear centre arm-rest. Rear passengers are short-changed with hard elbow rests on the doors and they are too high. And on the plus side, there are two, separate lights for the rear passengers. Take note, Ford!

In the boot we find a nice feature: the parcel shelf can be slid behind the seat back instead of flopping around. The boot is usefully sized, attractively shaped and neatly trimmed and the mid-spec models have 60:40 split fold seats.

Fuel consumption. Now that’s the stammering koala at this particular opera. I drove to the speed limit. The car freighted two adults, two kids and four bushes in the back and got 40.9 mpg. The Opel Adam got exactly the same with a 1.2 litre engine. The consequences of the engine’s fuel demand is that you could expect the Corsa to drive 482 miles between fills. If you start in Calais and want to drive to St Jean Cap Ferrat (and who wouldn’t want to?) then you will stop in Lyon, a little before the fuel tank dries. In Lyon you can have a nice meal at La Vida, if it’s open. A quarter of the fuel will be left by the time you get to St Jean Cap Ferrat (two or three gallons out of eleven).

So, the essence of the Corsa is that it is a refined and solid car. What’s missing is a version with more visual ritz such as full chrome around the sideglass and a more sybaritic rear accommodation. Opel have the OPC and Turbo packs but are losing customers who want comfort more than performance, a Ghia version so to speak. I’ve seen the top-spec Merivas and Zafiras which shows Opel have the power to up-lux their cars. Peugeot have a rather glamorous chromed 208 which is eye-catching in its opulence. Opel need only tinsel this car some more and offer plusher fabrics to create a pleasing city micro-limousine; it’s more than half-way there already.

The exterior appearance? Have I forgotten to mention that? Elephant/room? Well, it’s far from a great face-lift – expedient – but overall, the rest of car more than makes up for it.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “Corsa Revisited”

  1. These screens seem to be more and more of a nuisance nowadays. I had the same feeling when I was given a SsangYong Tivoli as a courtesy car. The central display just couldn’t be set to a reasonable brightness level, especially at night – a constant source of distraction that could even prove dangerous. My C6 has a high-mounted central screen, too, but the minimum brightness level is low enough for nights, and you have the possibity to opt for a black background at all times. I wonder why this isn’t possible on all cars, especially given that the C6’s infotainment system isn’t famous for its performance or modernness.

    1. What I did with an Aygo was to put a cardboard sheet over the display. If it’s neatly cut and affixed with clear tape it looks unobtrusive.
      The screen brightness problem might be because they’ve aimed at satisfying customers with the poorest vision. These companies never respond to customer feedback. Their only channels are sales data and user-studies which are insufficient. I’d be happy with an answer like “we tried but….” or “it’s a balance of costs and pricing and though you may not like it, we prioritised things you can’t do without but didn’t notice….”

  2. A very informative reassessment, thank you. What shines through for me is the general overall competence of this class of car these days. Although ‘superminis’ are generally Golf’ sized these days (if you are old enough to recall the role of the Mk1 when it was first on the scene), it could be argued that they are all a lone driver or couple really need. In particular, levels of refinement, finish and equipment are quite astonishing.

    One thing about this Corsa, the engine. Did you write 75bhp from a 1.4l? That’s almost like Mk1 Golf! Maybe some things have not progressed so much …

    1. Thanks for taking a look. Like most of my hobby-horses, this one has not proved to be clickbait of any type. Yes, indeed. 75 power units from the 1.4 engine. It´s pulling 1100 kg unladen. Add two adults and two children and four small bushes then the weight is 1250, I suppose. After all this time, why are there any of these silly annoyances? And if a car is going to car four people give them proper places to rest their arms. I can´t see any reason not put in a centre armrest in the rear and the ones on the doors need to be soft not hard. At some point the physical design and electronic design parted ways. I bet the two teams are only weakly linked. It might come as a surprise to the shape designers how crummy the electronic UX is. I still quite like the car though. The steering was nice and the seats were good. But I´d have it without the silly panel.

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