Bold Corsa has a gem of an engine
Opel Corsa 1.0T Enjoy
Johannesburg - Once a popular choice among those seeking something fairly sporty on a budget, Opel appears well on its way to regaining its mojo at all ends of the spectrum, whether we’re talking classy “boutique” hatches named after the company’s founder or those pulse-raising OPC banshees that have more than earned that lightning strike through their badges.
Even the more sensible bread and butter products are getting their turn at the rejuvenation spa, with the new Corsa promising to shake things up in the compact hatch segment.
That said, I’m not quite convinced about the “all-new” label that Opel places on this latest Corsa. Sure, there’s an advanced new turbo engine under the bonnet and Opel has redesigned the cabin as well as every chassis component and body panel. Yet to save some money, Opel retained its predecessor’s body structure and, looking at the side and rear views, it becomes obvious that the designers didn’t have much free rein. Not that it looks bad, I just don’t think it’s a big improvement over the previous Corsa. It’s a different story up front though, where a huge trapezoidal grille and wing-shaped headlights with LED daytime running lights give it a refreshingly bold pose.
That revolution continues on the other side of that striking face, with Opel’s all-new one-litre direct injection turbopetrol engine fitted to all three versions and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Opel has ploughed considerable resources into making this the most refined three-cylinder on the block and it really shows. Despite the three-pot configuration, this little engine is so quiet and smooth-running that it really just becomes a distant hum in the background. There’s virtually no lag on pull-away, even at altitude, and it’s punchy at the bottom end, with its 170Nm of twisting force available from 1800-4500rpm.
With 85kW on tap, it’s also among the most powerful engines in its class, giving away only 7kW to Ford’s 1.0T EcoBoost, and the resulting performance is satisfying, a good few notches above the entry-level norm. Consumption is not half bad either; my car registered 7.6 litres per 100km after a few days of the urban traffic grind. When I finally got a chance to stretch its legs on a short highway stint, the Corsa bombed along quietly at low revs and I have little doubt that a longer stretch would have brought that aforementioned consumption number down considerably.
The rest of the package is also well sorted, particularly the ride, which is easily among the best in the compact class. What’s more, the steering has a solid and weighty feel and if you have rubber arms that prefer a light and loose feel, there’s a City button for you on the dash. The driving position is comfortable, and the pedals well spaced, but I wish they’d added a footrest.
I’ll bet money that whichever GM bean-counter decided to leave this out has not driven a manual car in the past 10 years, if ever.
Thankfully they know well enough not to skimp on the cabin furnishings and hence this Corsa has a new dashboard with higher-quality materials, and the mid to upper section features that touchy-feely slush-moulded surfacing that’s all the rage these days. It’s hard to fault it without resorting to nitpicking because Opel’s interior decorators have done a rather decent job in here, but the Adam’s uber-cool cabin has shown me what Opel is capable of and the Corsa’s dashboard and steering wheel design just seem a bit boring by comparison. Some of the controls and surfaces lower down on the dash also look rather cheap.
The level of features depends on which of the three grades you choose and while the base Essentia seems bare as a cave, even making you pay extra for an aircon, audio and bluetooth, the mid-range Enjoy featured here gives you all that and sweetens the deal with 16-inch alloy rims, multi-function steering wheel and driver information system.
Our car was optioned up with GM’s Intellilink infotainment system, linked to a seven-inch touch-screen and ready to talk to your smartphone. Pair it up to your device and you can have BringGo navigation with live traffic updates and Google search as well as Stitcher internet radio.
At R216 200, the Corsa Enjoy is cheaper and more powerful than the 66kW VW Polo 1.2 TSI Comfortline (R223 700) but can’t quite match the VW’s overall feeling of class and quality in my opinion.
Yet the other two cars I’d consider here, the Ford Fiesta 1.0T Trend and Mazda2 1.5 Dynamic, both cost just under R200 000 and seem to offer better bang for the buck. The new Corsa isn’t quite a benchmark setter, then, yet its sporty looks, refined road manners and its gem of an engine still make it well worth a place on your shortlist.
Opel Corsa 1.0T Enjoy
Engine: 1-litre, 3-cylinder turbopetrol
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Power: 85kW @ 5000-6000rpm
Torque: 170Nm @ 1800-4500rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 10.3 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 195km/h
Consumption (claimed): 5.0 litres per 100km
Price: R216 200
Warranty: 5-year/120 000km
Service plan: 3-year/60 000km
Ford Fiesta 1.0T Trend (92kW/170Nm) - R199 900
Honda Jazz 1.5 Elegance (88kW/145Nm) - R241 900
Hyundai i20 1.4 Fluid (74kW/133Nm) - R207 900
Kia Rio hatch 1.4 Tec (79kW/135Nm) - R241 900
Mazda2 1.5 Dynamic (82kW/145Nm) - R199 900
Renault Clio 0.9T Dynamique (70kW/150Nm) - R219 900
Toyota Yaris 1.3 (73kW/125Nm) - R194 800
VW Polo 1.2 TSI Comfortline (66kW/160Nm) - R223 700