Johannesburg - GSI is an abbreviation that needs no introduction, at least not to anyone with even the mildest fascination with things automotive.
Over the years the badge has adorned some pretty hot vehicles (no need to remind you, Boss) as well as some not-so-hot cars, but that’s a topic for another day.
The Corsa GSI was recently launched in South Africa, as the first Opel to wear this badge in well over a decade, and it certainly looks the part.
Opel has given this little hatch some seriously wicked kit. 18-inch GSI-specific wheels. Large rear spoiler. Redesigned front bumper with honeycomb grille inserts. Carbon look mirrors.
There’s a big party inside too, thanks to a stunning set of Recaro buckets with integrated headrests - because life is too short to drive cars with boring seats.
It’s all enticement so far, but can the rest of the car cash these cheques?
Yes, and to a degree no. It’s important to realise that the GSI is not a hot hatch of the kind that would compete with the GTIs of this world.
Powered by Opel’s familiar 1.4-litre turbopetrol engine, which produces 110kW at 5000rpm and 220Nm from 3000, it is at best a warm hatch of the kind you’d pit against the Suzuki Swift Sport. Which is not a bad thing - the world needs more vehicles like this.
On the road though, the Corsa GSI takes a bit of getting used to. It is a bit laggy so you need to put some effort into keeping the motor in its sweet spot above the 2000rpm mark. Get into that habit and it feels brisk enough, but you need to get rid of any illusions that you’re driving a hot hatch.
Thankfully this is the kind of car in which you can experience a great deal of satisfaction without going fast. It sounds rorty, like Opels of yesteryear. The manual gear stick has a solid thunk to it. Thanks to OPC-tuned suspension, it hugs the road and it’s an agility that you can fully enjoy thanks to the nicely-weighted, communicative steering.
For something that’s not particularly fast, this car has a serious feel-good factor.
It’s also a relatively comfortable daily. Though the ride is firmer than average, it sails comfortably over everything except over-sized speed bumps. Plus it’s got all the interior comforts you’d want, including Opel’s latest touchscreen infotainment system and climate control.
The only real put off is the price tag of R365 900, which comes uncomfortably close to the far more powerful Polo GTI. One feels for importers like Opel, with their full exposure to the weak rand, but in the end the GSI just doesn’t make the best value case for itself. Which is a pity because it’s an extremely likeable little hatch.