The new-generation Corsa has taken its sweet time to arrive in South Africa, but now that it’s here, how does it stack up against the country's best-selling compact hatches like the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai i20? We drove it around the Platinum Belt during the Opel's local launch to find out.
What’s new for the Opel Corsa?
This is the 6th generation Corsa and the 5th generation of the model to come to South Africa. It’s a nameplate with a lot of good history locally, whether in hatchback form or in the shape of a small pick-up, both of which were produced in Port Elizabeth. Sadly, the bakkie won’t be making a comeback any time soon, but we do have this neat-looking hatchback to fill some of the void left by the beloved bakkie.
Opel quietly snuck the entry-level 6th-gen Corsa derivative into the market during January 2021, but waited until the whole range was made available to pop the proverbial champagne and give it a proper introduction. The model we drove was the top-spec 1.2T Elegance, exclusively available in automatic guise and replete with all the bells and whistles of a high-end compact hatchback.
The Corsa is underpinned by a Peugeot/Citroen platform that will be widely used across the brands going forward.
Since Opel’s acquisition by Peugeot/Citroen and the groups subsequently joining with Fiat/Chrysler to form Stellantis, the decision has been made to use the Peugeot/Citroen platform across as many small hatchback and crossovers as possible. Our first taste of the EMP1 platform was with the Peugeot 2008 last month; EMP1 also underpins the Mokka, but that is only likely to arrive in SA in 2022.
This generation of Corsa is slightly lower than the model it replaces (by 48 mm), but packs more legroom and a bigger load bay than before thanks to the platform’s clever packaging/longer wheelbase.
Is the Corsa engine any good?
There are 2 engines available for now, a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre petrol, which produces 55 kW and 118 Nm of torque and a 1.2-litre turbopetrol with 96 kW and 230 Nm. The latter is the unit we drove at the launch and is exclusively mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine is essentially the unit from the 2014 Peugeot 308 and is a multiple Engine of the Year winner in its category.
The 1.2T Elegance model provides good performance and excellent fuel efficiency.
The performance from the turbopetrol motor certainly gives the Corsa a sporty feel, which is confirmed by its claimed 0-100 kph sprint time of 8.7 sec. While the European model features an 8-speed automatic transmission, the South African version has a 6-speed unit. The latter is sufficiently refined and it doesn’t appear to hinder the fuel economy (for having 2 fewer ratios) in any noticeable way.
One of the most notable attributes of the Corsa is its lightness. In its lightest spec, it weighs just 980 kg which, of course, helps when it comes to fuel consumption, acceleration and in-gear overtaking.
After completing our launch route (which comprised a 300-km round trip), Opel's newcomer indicated an average fuel consumption figure of 6.2 L/100 km, which is not only particularly good, but that number could certainly be improved in the long run. Overtaking acceleration is another highlight: the Corsa gets a move on when it needs to and doesn’t struggle (at all) to get up at freeway speeds.
What's the Corsa like to drive?
The Corsa has a lightweight chassis that provides agility and driver confidence.
This is a brand new platform for the Stellantis group, so you would expect it to be most effective in its early years (when it’s newer than the competition’s offerings). Somewhat surprisingly (given its predecessor's forgiving road manners), the newcomer's ride and handling are on the firmer side for the segment, but not bone-crushingly hard.
Gauteng’s abundance of deep, virtually undodgeable potholes where the instigators for the harshness, but out on the road the firmness translated to predictable handling, minimal body roll and agile cornering, the latter of which was complemented by a suitable level of steering weight.
By comparison, it’s sportier than the Polo and probably even more so than the latest Fiesta. It will be interesting to see how it stacks up against the 208, which should be available locally soon.
What’s the Corsa like inside?
Pictured is the mid-spec Edition derivative with a manual gearbox.
The 1.2T Elegance, as the turbopetrol-powered derivative is called, has a modern combination of mod cons and tech features. The seats are specced in a part-leather, part-cloth upholstery, while the steering wheel and transmission lever are both trimmed in leather.
Rear-passenger space is reasonably good, while the seats fold down in a 60/40 split if you need additional loading space. The load bay capacity is claimed to be 309 litres, which is a touch bigger than the Fiesta's boot, but smaller than that of the class-leading Polo, which is claimed to hold 350 litres.
Connectivity options entail a USB port up front and a pair of ports in the rear. Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatibility is standard on the Edition- and Elegance-spec derivatives. The display of the 7-inch infotainment screen isn’t as crisp and information-rich as the Composition Media pack for the Polo, for example. The screen doubles as a 180-degree reverse-view camera.
There are numerous luxury features on the 1.2T Elegance, including a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, heated front seats, LED headlamps with high-beam assist, traffic sign detection and cruise control.
Is the Corsa safe?
The Corsa meets the safety criteria of most buyers in this segment; items such as electronic stability control, 6 airbags, ABS and EBD are standard. The 1.2T Elegance derivative adds a driver-drowsiness alert function, collision-mitigating braking at low speeds, lane-keep assist and front passenger detection system to the safety offering. There are also ISOfix anchorage points in the rear for child seats.
Pricing and after-sales support
The Opel Corsa 1.2T Elegance we drove on launch retails for R386 900. It is sold with a 3-year/120 000 km warranty and a 3-year/45 000 km service plan.
Opel has chosen to price the Corsa above the Polo Highline auto, it will be interesting to see how that strategy pans out.
The Opel Corsa may be a little late to the party, but it doesn’t fall short in very many departments. The 1.2T Elegance we drove is admittedly a bit on the expensive side compared with its rivals, but the newcomer is very well-specced inside and probably boasts the best engine and transmission combination in the segment.
The lightness of the chassis makes the Corsa fun to drive and imbues it with excellent performance and economy. The ride quality is a little on the firm side, but feels stable in corners and at speed.
The interior finishes and infotainment system aren't quite up to the standards of Opel's main rivals. The connectivity options are acceptable but the infotainment system doesn’t offer much in the way of customisation and can be difficult to get to grips with. Some of the interior plastics are somewhat questionable around the transmission tunnel and door panels, but it all appears to be well put together.
It will be interesting to see how the new Corsa performs on the sales charts; historically, anything priced above the Volkswagen Polo doesn’t seem to attract much interest from local consumers...