Opel’s attempts to stay with Volkswagen as its old rival leaps up the premium ladder has perhaps not been entirely successful, but has nevertheless yielded positive results for those customers who do take the plunge. The latest Opel Corsa, for example, is a significantly more mature, upmarket product than its econo-box predecessor. In the process, however, has Opel given up some of its hard-won reputation for performance and driving enjoyment? A test of the latest Opel Corsa 1,4 Enjoy yields some interesting answers…
Opel Corsa offers premium polish, inside and outIn its latest guise the Opel Corsa is an inoffensive, yet subtly stylish product. There’s nothing flashy about it. Full colour coding has been applied, it rides on neat 15-inch alloy wheels and the roof spoiler is so neatly integrated you hardly notice it. There’s a lot of Astra in the overall style, which is no bad thing.
It gets even better inside where the ambience is vastly more upmarket than before. Although the plastics are generally hard, the look and feel of their surfaces suggests upmarket quality. Fit and finish is excellent, all round, and although the cabin is a bit sombre with all the black and gray plastic, the flashes of silver plastic go a long way to brighten things up. All the controls have a solid feel to them and work with typical German efficiency. The centre piece of the facia features a very neatly integrated audio system and rotary controls for the ventilation system. Remote audio controls are placed on the steering wheel, which features rake and reach adjustment, the latter a welcome surprise in this segment.
In general, the specification level of the Opel Corsa Enjoy is very good. The driver’s seat also boasts height-adjustment, so the driving position is excellent. In typical Opel fashion, the seats are superb with good side bolstering. The sound system features an auxiliary input point, electric windows are fitted at the front, the headlights can be adjusted for height and there’s even cruise control. General Motors SA has also specced the Opel Corsa Enjoy with a good balance of safety equipment. Not only are dual airbags fitted at front, along with the expect ABS, EBD and BAS support for the brakes, there are also Isofix mounts for child seats in the rear.
(Not much) powerThe Opel Corsa Enjoy is powered by a 1,4-litre petrol engine that delivers a meagre 66 kW and 125 Nm of torque. It is coupled with a five-speed manual transmission. Now, one has to keep in mind that the extra solidity that the new Corsa offers carries a weight penalty. As a result, the little engine has its work cut out to move the Opel Corsa along with much verve. Still, it’s good enough for general use in town and the motorway, but overtaking situations at speed require some careful planning and use of the slick transmission. Although the engine does not deliver much power, it does however exhibit excellent refinement and doesn’t mind working hard. Drive in a leisurely manner, and you should come fairly close to matching Opel’s fuel consumption claim of 6,2 litres/100 km but, generally speaking, you’ll average closer to 7,5.
Leisurely approachPrevious Opel Corsa models tended to fizz with energy, urging their drivers to exploit their performance-oriented drivetrains. This new model, however, is very different. The focus is very much on comfort and relaxation. The engine’s lack of power on its own doesn’t promote any kind of enthusiastic driving, and the suspension set-up is similarly focused on taking it easy.
Riding on 185/65 tyres and with its MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension tuned for comfort, there’s plenty of bodyroll in the corners. The upshot is, of course, excellent ride comfort, which is ultimately more important for the target market. In fact, this Opel exhibits suspension tuning that’s similar to what you’d expect from a French car. Boasting electro-hydraulic steering assistance, the Corsa’s steering wheel is almost completely devoid of any feel or weighting. For some its lightness will be a bonus, but perhaps a bit more weight at higher speeds, even if it was artificially done, would be welcome.
Opel Corsa Enjoy - VerdictIn many ways the Opel Corsa is a very likeable little car. There’s sufficient space for a small family, it’s got all the necessary comfort and safety toys, build quality appears to be excellent and it’s a very comfortable daily driver. It may lack oomph, and it’s dynamically a no-show, but this will not bother the majority of shoppers in this segment. But it must be said that it’s probably grown up so much, that the typical Opel sparkle we’ve become used to is hard to detect. For Opel’s sake, let’s hope its new-found quality is enough to bring new customers to the brand, because some of its long-time supporters may be put off by this dramatic change in approach.
- Quality interior
- Standard specification
- Ride comfort
- Flat-footed performance
- Zero steering feel
Engine: 1,4-litre, petrol, four-cylinder
Power: 66 kW @ 5 600 rpm
Torque: 125 N.m @ 4 000 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Wheels: 15-inch alloy
Top speed: 172 km/h
0-100 km/h: 12,4 seconds
Fuel economy: 6,2 litres/100 km
- Renault Clio 3 1,4 Expression: Similarly sized and specced to the Opel Corsa. It’s an underrated car, with good perceived build quality, more power and good safety features. It’s also a bit more “perky” to drive.
- Honda Jazz 1,4 DSI: The most practical car in this segment by a country mile and boasts the highest levels of customer satisfaction. Don’t expect any fireworks, though – it’s a car for sensible people.
- Mazda2 1,3 Dynamic: Although it has even less power than the Opel Corsa, the Mazda is lighter and feels far livelier. It has a more youthful, zesty, character, but is not entirely unpractical, though the boot is on the small side and it’s not as refined.