Review: Vauxhall Corsa VXR

Review: Vauxhall Corsa VXR
Review: Vauxhall Corsa VXR

The Corsa VXR is taking on some pretty talented pocket rockets… and sadly falls short

You don’t buy hot hatches for rational reasons. A modicum of spacious practicality, sensible running costs and comfort-enhancing equipment would be nice, of course. But once the basics are ticked, what buyers really lust for are cars that go fast, sound great, handle sharply, stop crisply and generally deliver a heavyweight shot of excitement whenever you hit the road in them.

Two of the best are the Ford Fiesta ST and Renault Clio RS 200. With the Corsa VXR, Vauxhall is going up against them – and in terms of engine excitement, it’s undoubtedly up there. The 1.6-litre turbo is admittedly a little flat at low revs, but let them build and it delivers a proper burst of high-rev acceleration. Against the clock, it’s undoubtedly a rival for the others.

But then the cracks start to show. For starters, the engine is raucous and boring to listen to. The gearbox is clunky, the clutch bites too high and the brakes feel fluffy. The steering is too light and doesn’t tell you much of what’s going on beneath the front wheels: fine in town, not so fine on a twisting back road.

We can forgive it a stiff, bouncy ride, as that’s the norm in this sector. What we can’t overlook is the fact handling doesn’t benefit from this firm setup. There’s too much lean in corners, it can’t cope with mid-corner bumps and there’s way too much front end-scrabble when powering out of corners.

No fear, you might think: Vauxhall offers a VXR Performance Pack, that includes bigger wheels and brakes, revised dampers and a limited-slip differential. Well, the price is far too fearful and even this isn’t able to turn the Corsa VXR into anything like a class contender.

Things improve inside… to a more average overall performance. The figure-hugging seats are good, for example, although it’s hard to get a good driving position, particularly if you’re tall. Visibility isn’t great, either. The dashboard is simple and it is equipped with a comprehensive seven-inch Intellilink infotainment system: it even includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Space in the rear is decent, but getting in there is a struggle – those racing-style front seats don’t hinge forward very far to let people in. They also, infuriatingly, lose their seating position when you let someone into the rear. Further back, there’s a large boot, and the rear seats fold to increase it further, albeit with a steep lip in the floor.

Turning to costs, the Corsa VXR is competitive with a Fiesta ST and Renault Clio RS on paper. But people don’t buy these cars outright, they tend to buy on PCP finance schemes, and here the Corsa is much less competitive. Blame its weak residuals: you’ll pay far more per month for this than even a top-spec Fiesta ST3.

The 1.6-litre turbo engine is also a thirsty old beast, which impacts on company car tax for the handful who may consider one as a fleet car. Equipment levels are strong though, with air con, comprehensive touchscreen, DAB, heated windscreen, cruise control and those fantastic Recaro sports seats all standard. You even get xenon headlights included in the list price.

But it’s not enough. Although it’s a sharp-looking thing with a strong engine, the Corsa VXR is way off the pace in terms of handling and driver engagement, while its raucous engine makes it a drag to use all its power, and hefty running costs further chip away at its appeal. It simply doesn’t make sense, no matter how irrational your motives for buying a spicy hot hatch.

 

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