ROAD TEST: Opel Corsa OPC
The first thing that struck me about the Opel Corsa OPC was its pureness of purpose. It's not trying to be anything other than a hot hatch.
Rivals like the Polo GTI have grown up a bit. Buy the VeeDub and you get more comfort, refinement and the ability to meet the in-laws with out looking like a 'Friday night drags' junkie.
Instead the Corsa OPC is an unashamed boy racer and it shows in every aspect of the design. It (fairly recently) underwent a small facelift that's given it a sharper face, and that's my excuse for testing it.
Outside it's startlingly sporty. A set of 18-inch alloys with contrasting inner sections make it look planted enough to drive upside down and the street racer persona is reinforced by boy racer fashion items like the distinctive triangular side mirrors and sporty bumpers with 'aero gills'.
Peek inside and the first thing you'll notice is its large Recaro bucket seats that wouldn't look out of place in a race car. Don't sit down too quickly, though, or your tail bone will think you've landed on concrete - these seats are hard! That said, they're not as uncomfortable as you'd expect and they'll keep your frame in place while you're destroying its chunky shoes at the next track day.
The dashboard is not too out of the ordinary by Corsa standards, with chrome detailing splashed throughout and a Piano Black central fascia. The upper dashboard of the facelifted model is finished in 'soft touch' plastic, but the lower parts still look cheap and nasty and the glove box panel on my test unit was out of alignment with the dashboard. But that's enough nitpicking on the interior quality.
The real magic happens when you fire up its high-boost 1.6-litre turbopetrol engine.
Pushing 141kW at 5850rpm and 230Nm from 1980rpm, it's certainly at the sharp end of its size class.
Mash the right pedal into the floor and it pulls like a bullet train, as soon as you manage to contain the wheel spin - which happens very easily. The engine's flexible enough too, meaning it can spring into action even from low revs and you won't have much of a problem with turbo lag, even at altitude.
Our sister title Star Motoring managed a 7.9-second run at Gauteng altitude, which despite being marginally slower than the latest VW Polo GTI (which managed 7.1s), is still one heck of a run. The Opel's overtaking acceleration was particularly impressive though, the little hatch needing only 6.5 seconds to sprint from 60 to 120km/h in third gear.
But while wheel spin can be an issue, the Corsa OPC hasn't inherited its Astra and Kadett ancestors' torque steering habits - it gets off the line quite cleanly.
As a natural by-product of its 18-inch rubber and lowered and stiffened suspension, this OPC is really nippy through the bends and will delight you come track day.
But the stiff suspension does give it a rather firm ride but while it's certainly not comfortable by any stretch of the imagination, it wasn't particularly uncomfortable over most surfaces.
Just take a look at it any you get the gist of what this car is about - a pure, uncompromised hot hatch in every respect and that's where its charm really lies. Just a pity the price tag is not all that competitive because there is lots to choose from in the pocket rocket parking lot.
Would I pick the Corsa? I'd be very tempted, for sure. But I'd probably end up settling for the even faster and more comfortable Polo GTI. Does that mean I'm starting to get old?
Opel Corsa OPC - R274 300
Alfa Romeo Mito QV (125kW) - R271 150
Audi A1 1.4T S-Line (136kW) - R312 000
Citroën DS3 155 Sport (115kW) - R276 400
Mini Cooper S (135kW) - R290 723
Renault Clio RS (148kW) - R259 900
Volkswagen Polo GTI (132kW) - R274 900