HOW fitting that Vauxhall chose to launch the all-new Corsa in Dresden, home to some of Germany’s finest watchmakers.
In this far eastern corner of Germany, time is key. And so is Vauxhall’s timing of the launch of its new supermini.
The Corsa arrives in October and is the last of the current crop from the volume car firms to have received a makeover and size-up. Renault led the way with the Clio, Fiat followed with the Grande Punto and then Peugeot arrived with the 207.
But the Corsa is the latest and therefore will have the most impact in the next few months at least, especially as Ford only mildly facelifted the Fiesta earlier this year and an all-new model is still a few years away.
So what does the Corsa bring to the party? Naturally, it’s a lot bigger than the previous model and incorporates more ‘big car’ features than ever before, but to give it a USP Vauxhall has decided to follow the lead it took with the Astra and offer two versions.
The three-door Corsa is the equivalent to the Astra’s Sport Hatch with a sloping, almost coupe-like rear end. Coupled with the high shoulder line and aggressive front-end styling it looks really, well, sporty. By comparison, the five-door is more sober and sensible, although it shares the front-end look of the three-door model.
It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of this car to Vauxhall, such are the sales volumes involved. In its best year ever in 2003, Vauxhall sold 109,000 Corsas in the UK. The new model won’t hit those heights, but even so Vauxhall predicts sales of more than 80,000 in 2007.
Fleets will take around half of these, although less profitable short-cycle business is, in common with most other firms, being drastically reduced – hence the lower sales volumes. Paul Adler, Vauxhall’s brand manager – fleet, said: ‘We will continue to limit short-cycle business such as daily rental and courtesy cars, but of course we will still do it.
‘However, we will be sensible with volumes and this will be reflected in stronger residuals.’ Adler sees a strong division between potential Corsa drivers – the job-need group will be catered for with the lower-spec models, while the sportier versions will have more appeal to user-choosers.
Motability and driving school sales will account for a healthy percentage of business sales, too. Adler added: ‘We expect user-chooser fleet sales to go up through the new model, simply because it has a broader appeal.
‘Cars such as the Astra Sport Hatch are helping us to get more considered by non-owners and the Corsa three-door has that similar wow factor.’
But he insists there is enough appeal throughout the range to ensure there will be a wide spread of sales – something which will also help strengthen residuals.
The Corsa arrives in showrooms in October with a choice of three petrol engines – 1.0, 1.2 and 1.4-litre Twinport units, and three turbodiesels – the 1.3 CDTi in 75 and 90bhp guises and the 1.7 CDTi with 125bhp. The diesels will account for as little as 10% of the total sales mix, with fleets in particular more likely to opt for the 1.2-litre petrol engine.
The reason is simple – petrol economy in superminis is good anyway, and the higher price of diesel models means drivers will have to cover an awful lot of miles to recoup the extra outlay. Petrol prices begin at £7,495 for the 1.0 Life three-door and rise to £12,945 for the 1.4 Design five-door automatic. Diesel prices range from ££9,695 to £13,795.
The Corsa is well priced, and comes with extra equipment over the old model. With CAP predicting RVs of between 30% and 34% – a useful uplift over the old model which hovers between the mid to high 20%s – that equates to strong value for money.
|Model:||1.0i||1.2i||1.4i||1.3 CDTi 75||1.3 CDTi 90||1.7 CDTi|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||60/5,600||80/5,600||90/5,600||75/4,000||90/4,000||125/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||65/3,800||81/4,000||92/04,000||125/1,500||148/1,750||207/2,300|
|Max speed (mph):||93||104||107||101||107||118|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||50.4||48.7||47.9||61.4||61.4||58.8|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||134||139||142||124||124||130|
|On sale:||October||Prices (OTR):||£7,495–£13,795|
Behind the wheel
THE Corsa will be available with two different driving settings when it is launched in October, with sportier SXi and Design models available with a reprogrammed power steering system.
This gives more feel through the wheel and also makes it quicker to go from lock to lock. I only drove models fitted with this sporty system on the launch, but it does what it says on the tin.
There’s enough weight through the wheel and the assistance is only ever finger-touch light at parking speeds.
The nice, chunky wheel is a three-spoke affair while the gearbox on all versions has a positive shift which, again, veers towards sporty.
Much of the architecture in the cabin will be familiar to Vauxhall drivers, with buttons and instruments featuring a quality touch.
The main feature of the centre console is the stereo and heating/ventilation dials which are lifted from the Astra.
However, in an effort to make the interior appear more friendly, Vauxhall has designed a ‘face’ into the console – the two air vents act as eyes, the hazard warning button is the nose and the CD slot is the mouth.
The Corsa also offers big-car space, with enough leg, shoulder and headroom to make it feel like a car from the class above which, of course, it almost is.
A wide variety of engines will be offered, but I drove two – the 1.7 CDTi turbodiesel and the 1.4 petrol.
With 125bhp the diesel gives the Corsa plenty of mid-range oomph but it’s the 1.4 Twinport engine which suits the Corsa best.
While performance isn’t at the same level as the diesel, this unit is peppy enough to make around town work lively while also being relaxed enough at motorway speeds.