Driven in SA: Opel Corsa 1.4 Turbo
By: Dave Abrahams
Maybe it sounds a little feng shui but, essentially, what GMSA has done is to de-clutter its Opel Corsa hatch range for 2014, introducing a clean-burning new turbopetrol engine and re-arranging the spec levels to produce four distinctively different derivatives.
Each has its own character - especially the 1.4 Turbo Enjoy, released in South Africa this week as one-sixth of a 'shotgun' salvo with which GMSA served notice that Opel intends to be taken seriously again in our motoring lexicon.
Its 1364cc Ecotec twin-cam turbofour is tuned for efficiency rather than kick-in-the-pants performance, running a relatively mild 9.5:1 compression ratio for a quoted delivery of 88kW from 4800-6000 revs, backed by 175Nm all the way from 1750-4750rpm.
At first pull-away the 1.4 Turbo Corsa seems mild-mannered, almost understated - you want to ask, “Turbo - what turbo?” - but in fact that wide spread of power and, especially, torque, enables it to gather momentum deceptively quickly, without any slam-bang powerband, turbo lag or torque steer, reaching 100km/h in a fraction more than 10 seconds and going on (given enough road - fifth gear is very long) to a creditable 195km/h flat out.
Two more positives: being force-fed, it will give away little if any of that 88kW at altitude and, thanks partly to a standard-fit idle-stop function, Opel is able to claim average fuel-consumption of 5.5 litres per 100km in the somewhat unrealistic EU combined cycle, and CO2 emissions of just 129g/km.
On the road it feels typically “Opel” - solid and very planted, with firm suspension and accurate if slightly remote electric power steering, along with confidence-inspiring road manners thanks to sophisticated Macpherson-strut front and compound-crank rear suspension.
The steering column is adjustable for both height and reach, and the driver's seat for height, making the Corsa's accommodation very accommodating - with the sole exception of the (very) long-travel clutch pedal.
This is apparently an Opel thing; every derivative we drove on this multi-model launch (other than the Astra 1.4 auto!) exhibited the same characteristic, somewhat exacerbated in the Corsa's case by the lack of a dead pedal.
It took a bit of getting used to, but paid off with a smooth and sweetly linear clutch action - hill-starts are a doddle in the Corsa.
The 1.4 Turbo is available only in five-door Enjoy trim, featuring colour-coded bumpers, door handles and mirror housings, air-conditioning, a multi-function steering wheel, 16” alloys and a stylish new matte-black instrument panel with translucent elements.
It also shares with the rest of the Corsa range an upgraded sound system with Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port and a new graphic information display.
The centre-stack layout is less cluttered than most competitors, the fabric-upholstered 'comfort' seats are just that - if a little light on lateral support when your driving partner is having fun - while the cabin furnishings exude the same ambience as the road-holding: solid.
It is perhaps that air of unruffled competence which best explains why Opel has retained a remarkable level of brand loyalty in South Africa despite its troubled recent history.
The Corsa 1.4 Turbo Enjoy retails for R195 400, which includes a five-year or 120 000km warranty and a three-year or 60 000km service plan.