Fleet News

Vauxhall Corsa



##vaucor.jpg --Right##IT is not often that someone hands you the keys to a £384,000 car - particularly when the vehicle in question is a three-door hatchback. Even more unusual is when you are invited to take the expensive prototype which holds the future of Vauxhall's small car development in its frame, off the beaten Tarmac and down dried riverbeds, across boulder-strewn unmade roads and finally into the depths of the South African bush.

The current Vauxhall Corsa is a fleet favourite and hit record sales in 1999, but with a heritage stretching back to the aged Vauxhall Nova, the time has come to pension it off, which is where the expensive car comes in.

It was one of several hand-built prototypes, costing a million deutschmarks each, which form the blueprint for the new Corsa, taken for weeks of testing in South Africa and which Fleet NewsNet was asked to help evaluate.

Small the current car may be, but it is a hard act to follow, with a lengthy run as Britain's cheapest car to run, according to CAP Motor Research, until it was overtaken by the Perodua Nippa late last year.

With annual sales of nearly 90,000 in the UK alone for the current Corsa and total world sales of about six million since it was launched in 1993, getting the new car right is vital to maintain healthy sales and win over buyers who will be using it in Britain's towns and cities.

Although zebras were the most common sights in South Africa, rather than zebra crossings, and the nearest roundabout was 400 miles away, there was a good reason for the African adventure.

A gruelling 1,000-mile drive in temperatures hitting 40 degrees centigrade was intended to put the specially made pre-production models through their paces and hammer out any weaknesses.

A team of UK journalists took a range of new Corsas from Cape Town on a round trip lasting three days, with much of the time spent off-road on punishing, unmade tracks, covering a total of 937 miles. We were just one of several teams which would put the cars through the same punishing journey several times over.

Seven cars were available to test on the appraisal, including two current Corsas, the 1.4 and the 1.2-litre. Five new models, in three and five door format, were the star attraction.

Rather than follow in current Corsa's footsteps, Vauxhall has started afresh, with a completely new design, although it still manages to retain hints of the old car it leaves behind. The wheelbase is a class-leading 2,489mm, while the front and rear is a radical departure from the current model.

The design of the new car was headed by Friedhelm Engler, chief designer, small car studio, who was also responsible for the new Agila, tested last week on Fleet NewsNet.

Beginning in Cape Town, the team, sandwiched between three back-up vehicles, covered 410 miles in the first day to Bushman's Kloof, a game reserve, for an overnight stop, followed by a further 410 miles to Franschhoek, well-known for its wine making and diamonds, before a 121 mile sprint back into Cape Town.

Engler said: 'We wanted to put the car through its paces before it is launched, so any important issues can be resolved in the final stages of the development programme.'

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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