Fleet News

Vauxhall Corsa Eco

Vauxhall

Review

A green commitment by public sector fleets will help increase sales of the new Vauxhall Corsa ECO - described by its manufacturer as 'the most economical petrol car in its class anywhere in the world'.

This, coupled with the fact that many of those 'green' fleets are downsizing the vehicles they use, puts the ECO version of the small car in a good position, says Vauxhall's public service consultant Mandy Bonner.

The ECO package Corsa goes on sale this month and is based on the Club model. Including the £500 cost of an Easytronic gearbox, the car will cost £8,445 on-the-road.

Using the three-cylinder 1.0-litre ECOTEC engine, the Corsa Eco will use aerodynamic modifications and the Easytronic gearbox to help it achieve a combined fuel consumption figure of 57.6mpg and carbon dioxide emissions of 118g/km. The sequential manual gearbox with an automatic change function has been programmed so the engine will run in the lowest fuel consumption range, but will kickdown when required for overtaking.

Bonner said the Corsa was already Vauxhall's best-selling public sector fleet car and this should bode well for the launch of the ECO model. Vauxhall this year aims to sell 1,000 Corsa ECO models. She said: 'The Corsa is Vauxhall's number one seller into the National Health Service and as this type of fleet has a commitment to the environment we are confident the ECO model will do well because of its low emissions.

'A lot of public service fleets are downsizing because of tax reasons so this is the ideal car.'

At the Corsa ECO's launch in Germany, Martin Holzhofer, the manufacturer's manager, advanced engineering, workshop and test, said the strategy was to offer 'modern technology for a broad customer base at an affordable price'.

'That means no restrictions on every day use, no compromise in comfort and safety, no significant price impact and low running costs,' he said. 'We have always been convinced, and the experience of other manufacturers confirms this, that exotic designs neither sell well nor do much to protect the environment or help the customer.'

He described the Corsa ECO as 'the most economical petrol-engined car in its class in the world'. Holzhofer's German-based colleague, director of product engineering Karl-Friedrich Stracke, said the manufacturer's environmental guidelines 'define environmental protection as an important element in corporate policy and commit every employee to develop and build products that have the smallest possible impact on the environment'.

'This is not just a promise on paper, as you can see from the progress our model range has made in avoiding environmental impact and promoting the economical use of natural resources in recent years'.

Stracke added: 'We have come much closer to achieving the objective set by the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA).

'This target is to reduce the average carbon dioxide emissions of a manufacturer's fleet to 140 grams per kilometre by 2008.' He also said that General Motors regarded the fuel cell as a key technology for 'environmentally compatible mobility in the future'.

'The big advantages of fuel cells that run on hydrogen are their high efficiency and their zero emissions, provided that we use hydrogen from regenerative energy sources as their fuel,' he said. In this case the only waste products are water and heat, he explained.

Stracke said in terms of fuel cell technology the manufacturer's top development priority was to produce vehicles that were suitable for everyday use. 'When we offer customers a fuel cell vehicle, you can be sure it will provide the same comfort, convenience and driving pleasure as the cars we sell today, and at an affordable price,' he added.

Behind the wheel

PICTURE me, if you will, as a district nurse, because as a district nurse I am exactly the kind of person Vauxhall is targeting with its new Corsa ECO.

My journeys are short but frequent so I want a small but comfortable car - and having the choice of manual or automatic gearbox would be a bonus. It sounds flash enough to boast about in the hospital social club later.

As my employer has a commitment to the environment, it's a requirement that my car is economical, but it must be practical and offer the same driving qualities as any other entry-level model. I'll use the car at weekends too so it must look good - I don't want to be driving round in one of those funny-looking electric things.

If this is a fair case scenario, then step forward the Corsa ECO. While many Fleet News' readers will cite Mondeo, Passat or Vectra as typical fleet models, there are others who place the Corsa at the very top of their choice lists. The Scottish, so I'm told, are very partial to the Corsa, as is the National Health Service. The Corsa offers refinement in its own little way and I was quite surprised at how quiet it was - certainly a more peaceful cabin than a diesel. It's all to do with engineers 'cutting aerodynamic drag', Vauxhall tells me.

The Corsa ECO's Easytronic gearbox does away with the clutch pedal and offers the choice of a five-speed manual or fully automatic mode, which is handy for stop-start driving in town.

The rewards of this ECO technology is 57.6mpg in combined mode - compared to 50.4mpg for the normal 1.0-litre version - and well in tune with the best supermini diesels.

For city centre driving the Corsa ECO is ideal, but even on the motorway it cruises nicely. With a 1.0-litre engine it's not the quickest car off the starting line - in fact it takes 18 seconds to reach 0-60, so there's no point in turning up for the traffic light grand prix - but the Corsa has already been overtaken in the sporty handling stakes by the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, and 0-60mph acceleration is hardly the point of a green-minded car.

Driving verdict

For fleets keen to achieve the best fuel consumption, the ECO may warrant the extra £500 Vauxhall charges to cover the cost of the Easytronic box, but for others not so concerned about their mpg, it may not prove such a cost-effective choice.

It is, however, price competitive when compared to diesel equivalents, and with recent health scares surrounding diesel exhaust particulates, has an environmental case to make too.

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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