Stodgy steering and a notchy gearchange were often added to the litany, although it didn't seem to do Corsa's sales performance any harm: it ended 1999 at number two in the UK top 10 with 86,799 units, behind Ford Fiesta and accounting for a third of total Vauxhall sales.
But with a time advantage of at least nine months before the new Ford Fiesta comes on stream, and the five-door hatchback ready to join the three-door variant next month, Corsa is well placed to win ground from its arch rival.
It is already winning over its past critics thanks to increased width and wheelbase and, crucially, much improved dynamics. The stiffened body is all-new and the chassis, conscripted from the Astra, has been given DSA (Dynamic Safety) treatment. Together, these changes amount to a car with significantly more living room, a much smoother ride and responsive handling. All the engines (1.0 12v, 1.2 16v, 1.4 16v, 1.8 16 v, 1.7 TDi 64bhp and 1.7 TDi 74bhp) have extra refinement, performance and cleanliness, and standard equipment is upgraded.
On-the-road prices start from less than ú7,500 on-the-road in three-door Expression (internet only) trim and rise through Club, GLS, Comfort, Elegance and SXi to ú13,495 for the SRi 1.8 five-door. This test looks at the forthcoming Elegance five-door with the 89bhp 1.4-litre ECOTEC-4 petrol engine.