Did You Ever Wonder About The Stefaneschi Triptych?

Although hardly breaking news, the latest Opel Corsa has arrived in the showrooms and examples are arriving on my street. I saw one. Is it really a Corsa at all, I asked myself.

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If we get in our time-machine and spin and spiral back to 1982 we would be confronted by the first Corsa which Opel sold until 1993 (hard to believe). Looking at the bold, boxy 1982 shape with its flared wheel-arches and the 2019 version , one could argue that the new PSA Corsa represents a mere return to form. You could also argue that PSA merely wanted to get Opel’s designers to apply Opel design cues to the most appropriate PSA platform available, the Peugeot 208 Common Modular Platform. That happened in 2017 after initial work using the GM G2XX platform was ditched.

1983 Opel Corsa: source

Let’s look at the dimensions of the new Opel. The wheelbase is 2,538 mm; the length is 4,060 mm; width is 1,765 mm and height is 1,435 mm. And let’s gander now at the Peugeot 208’s stats. The 208s’s wheelbase is 2,538 mm (the same, pretty much). The length is 5 mm shorter (nothing); the width is 1,745 (smaller, by a tad) and the height is lower than the Opel by 5 stupendous millimetres.

2000 Opel Corsa

The figures speak for themselves. The new Corsa is a208 in Opel drag rather than being a development of Corsa themes.

2006 Opel Corsa

Of course, the elephant in the shoe-box is that the last Corsa (below) from 2014 was merely a re-skin of the 2006 car and was past its best. That says more about GM’s maltreatment of Opel than anything about Opel. I am sure the design team were depressed at the prospect of trying to do a make-over of a 2006 design instead of developing something more substantial.

2006 Opel Corsa disguised as a new car.

Alas, history repeated itself with the Corsa F. At some point there arrived in Ruesselsheim’s servers a data dump of the CAD files for the CMP which included the hard-points below which the Corsa could not go. I am thinking here of the blue-foam armature used for clay-modelling. Clay is layered over this and the thickness of the clay is probably equivalent to the amount of expected relief of the surface.

Presumably the modellers had only about 15 mm of room to play with over most of the key dimensions. Hence the striking similarity of the cars’ profiles. Slightly mystifying is the fact that PSA are masters of the shared platform. The Xantia and 406 were sisters under the skin and you’d not really guess. The 508 and C5 are also pairs and, again, the re-use of hard-points is not very obvious (it isn’t obvious). So one has to wonder why in this instance PSA kept Opel on such a tight leash.

New and blue: source

One thing they could have done was go for a more raked tailgate and so keep some reference to the delightful arced roof of previous Corsas. Instead they sprayed Opel cues over the 208 and gave us a car that doesn’t really say Corsa so much as 2016 Mokka or 2017 Grandland.

Author: richard herriott

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

32 thoughts on “Did You Ever Wonder About The Stefaneschi Triptych?”

  1. Don’t forget that the 2006 Corsa D was an opelised Fiat Grande Punto. Parts under the skin are pure Fiat.

    1. I assume Richard’s definition of what a Corsa looks like is very much informed by Hideo Kodama’s work on the second and third generation cars. The former was only ever topped by the peculiar three-box Mazda 121 when it came to making sheets of steel appear pillow soft.

      Opel were smart enough to present the new Corsa alongside a first-generation GSi model at last year’s Frankfurt show, making the new model appear like a logical progression from the original Corsa. As is well known, the new Corsa was created in record time, after Tavares had decided to scrap the signed-off, GM platform-based model in order to instantly achieve sizeable economies of scale. What is less well known (or remembered) is that the Corsa E was also supposed to be based on a PSA platform – a plan that was cancelled late in the day too, resulting in the cheap re-skin effort that was eventually brought to market. What comes around…

    2. That shade of yellow is very pleasant and most certainly deserves a comeback.

  2. I suspect the imperative was to get something credible to the market as fast as possible to replace an ancient and uncompetitive model on which PSA was still paying royalties to GM. That being the case, the new model fulfils its brief. Moreover, at the risk of sounding elitist, I suspect the vast majority of Corsa buyers are little concerned with the subtleties of design, as long as it’s practical, reliable and looks ‘nice’.

  3. I sense PSA is struggling with what to do with Opel/ Vauxhall … so imagine how it must be feeling about FIAT, Alfa, Lancia, Chrysler. Of all the brands in the FCA portfolio, it’s probably only Jeep and possibly Maserati which hold real interest and value from a brand synergy perspective.

    1. Don´t hunt something you can´t kill, is the old saying. Most of FCA is deadwood. We know Lancia is dead, pretty much. Alfa shows no resurgence. Fiat has one useful product, the 500 line and that´s it. Maserati needs to go electric. Maybe the Jeep range is good for the US. I really don´t think Jeep is worth enough to justify buying the whole rubbish dump of FCA brands.

    2. it is a merge, i do not know the exact details, but PSA did not bought FCA. There was not a big exchange of money for the PSA-FCA operations, instead opel was an acquisition.

    3. Richard, once again you’ve missed FCA’s cash cow. The RAM pickup truck. Jeep plays second fiddle to that monolith in the FCA empire of losers, selling about half as many. I know you don’t live in North America and have no idea of the market these days, but between the US and Canada, they shifted over 750,000 of these vehicles in 2019. And sales haven’t really dropped during the pandemic on any US pickup truck sales, with RAM doing better than the others.

      Pipsqueak numbers of Fiats, Alfas and Maseratis really don’t matter. The big money is the RAM. And if you don’t remember that, you don’t get what FCA means to PSA.

    4. Bill: thanks for your reminder! I do tend to forget that one model. The numbers are astonishing and my own view is also constrained by my N European perspective. I might ask if even the Ram´s prodigious volume is worth the hassle of all the necrotising automotive heritage bundled up with it.

  4. In addition, don´t forget the bunch of brands that are stored in the “poison cabinet” from both companies.

  5. As a possible buyer I would consider opel corsa and not the 208 exclusively because of the interior, for me opel corsa is a good job from an aesthetic point of view.
    My curiosity is how much it costs to create a model like the opel corsa where the margin of change is small. if on the same platform they also create a point and a spear, because no, a person could choose between 5 models instead of 1 or 2 and it would be easier to find something of his interest, the same goes for Polo/Ibiza/Fabia, more or less.

  6. GME had apparently all but finished the development of a new Corsa when the company was sold to PSA and they switched track to make one based on PSA’s technology.

    Have images or details of the aborted effort ever leaked out?

    For me, the new Corsa that has arrived on the market is entirely forgettable, and continues a long and rather depressing recent tradition for Opel / Vauxhall. Why buy one of these rather than any of its excellent competitors?

    The search for Opel’s purpose continues.

    1. Hi Jacono, which would you consider as excellent competitor? If i had to buy a B segment new with 20k in my pocket, i would probably go for a Kia Rio and keep the rest. you are right it would be interesting to see what they had “produced till the aquisition”. Adam is not bad, I am looking forward to see the next Astra and Insignia.

    2. The Chinese Buick Excelle that did make it to market is probably a good indication, given it’s essentially a Corsa saloon.

    3. Marco,

      The Fiesta, Ibiza, Polo are all excellent… or you could pay more for an Audi if you wish. The Mini, Jazz, even 208 all offer a real choice by providing something different. Mazda 2, Citroen C3, new Yaris, Swift… the list goes on.

      If I were shopping in this market I’m not sure the Corsa would make my top five, which means I probably wouldn’t bother with a test drive. I appreciate this is all personal choice, and some people will love the Corsa for their own reasons, but I just don’t see what it offers over any of the others.

    4. Charles, thank you.

      Hard to tell from those spy shots, although a ‘more aggressive’ theme doesn’t sound great.

      The Astra platform is commendably light (partly because it was purposely designed not to accommodate massive wheels) so I suppose it would have been very possible to adapt it for a smaller car.

  7. Having seen my first current-gen Corsa in the flesh few weeks ago (in a candy red metallic hue), I can attest, to a certain extent, that Richard’s worries are well founded. If you forget = not easy to do – the horribly ill placement / size / proportioning of rear door handles, it is not itself a bad-looking product
    (viewed in isolation, not as an Opel). Still:

    1. It lost most all of what is, by now, firmly hewn as ‘Corsa identity’
    (Kodama’s magic is very underrated).

    2. The hatch/C-pillar/roof joint is overly complex, in a manner that’s
    totally un-Corsaic.

    3. Vorderwagen is overly pronounced, and (viewed from above) a rather square,
    bulky shape – part of which obviously pedestr.-safety-regs. dictated, but still
    it dominates the overall shape, which is not what one expects from ‘a legendary cute city car named Corsa’.

    What I liked about the car:

    -The way C-pillar flows (in a complex, but very convincing matter) into the rear bumper. It works superbly, although it is a bit too 208-tell-tale to be perfect.

    -The sub-beltline crease which is executed in a classy fashion, and shoots a class above its segment without looking pretentious/kitsch.

    -The distinct flare/bulge of the rear wheelhouse/wheelarch, its curvature/shape
    just goes tremendously well with the cabin glass curvature, DLO and the tight, circular wheelarch cutout.

    What I liked but doesn’t work:

    – The fake roofline extension into the top of C-pillar. A vague attempt to say,
    as if, ‘I am not a Corsa but let’s not forget what a Corsa is’. Pitiful, almost.

    Off-topic, I am more and more surprised at the level and magnitude of the 90s/00s Opels visual relevance in today’s rapidly de-Europeanised Strassenbild. Of all the cars from the ’90s/’00s era, Opels seem to emanate that exact visual quality (that ‘special something’ cliche) that has now all but disappeared from the streets.

    This leads me, once anew, to conclude that Kodama definitely deserves
    a closer look as one of the true Masters of the art.

    1. Excellent analysis, Alex, thank you. I’m happy to see it’s not just me obsessing about the 208 and Corsa’s rear door handle placement.

    2. Thanks for that. It seems to me that in the rush to design the car the designers forgot the underlying character of the Corsa and simply reached for the list of current Opel traits. It seems so sprayed on.
      I´d be interested to know if and how Opel design values were transmitted down the years at Opel. Although the models seem mostly about contemporary vernacular, there is an Opelness to most of them that emerges as time goes by. The first Vectra, for example, or the Kadett/Astra line. Even the current Insignia is echoing the character of Rekords from the 1970s (admittedly the more up-market ones). In contrast Renaultness and Fiatness are less palpable. Ford has been eerily consistent with the Escort/Focus though the Mk1 Focus is sui generis. Is it just from having the designer stare at the predecessors for years? Or do they have introductory lectures?

    3. Is it just because the designer has been staring at his predecessors for years? Or do they have introductory lessons? For me here it’s the top management that decides. VW Golf must remain VW Golf, no matter what, and I still wonder how they could approve VW 5.
      it would be interesting to see how many different options they start with. I once heard that Marchionne had the last word on headlights. (I heard).
      Again, do you have any idea how much it costs to have two different models coming out of the same line?
      how much it can cost to develop Ibiza once you already have the Polo?

      @DAniel would you be so kind to highlight the misaligment with one of yours nice photos with lines, please.

  8. Good evening Marco. Very happy to oblige. I had it in mind to do just as you asked. Here’s an unmarked photo of the 208:

    And here is it marked up:

    The red and blue lines mark the centre lines of the front and rear door handles respectively. The misalignment isn’t huge, but it is perceptible, and very unsettling.

    1. Nice yellow though. I saw my first Clio V in Valencia Orange today. What a refreshing change from the dismal colours that predominate at the moment.

      Alexpinaweiss: Corsaic. Definitely my word of the week!

    2. Hi Daniel, thank you very much!!! now it is clear to me! if you drink some Antrim water you will not notice that anymore!

    3. Hi Adrian, this yellow is also very nice, the colour that I do not see anymore is green.

    4. Your welcome, Marco!

      I’m afraid I’m not a fan of the ‘Antrim water’ although I am rather partial to Gin and Limoncello (separately, not together!)

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