James Ruppert
30/12/2011 09:13 | By James Ruppert

Expert Guide to buying a Vauxhall Corsa

Expert guide to buying a used Vauxhall Corsa (© Vauxhall)

The Corsa in a nutshell
Early ones now look old, under-equipped and quite unremarkable, but they are cheap and simple superminis. Much was improved both in 2000 and 2004 but the latest 2006 Corsa is the one to buy if you can afford it. This impressive supermini brings space, comfort, refinement and economy in a compact package.

First Drive: Vauxhall Corsa VXR (2007 onwards)

First drive: Vauxhall Corsa (2006 onwards)

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What are the Corsa stats?


Vauxhall Crosa VXR (© Vauxhall)

Fastest - top speed 140mph/0-60mph 6.8 seconds (1.6T VXR 2007)
Slowest - 97mph/0-60mph 16.0 seconds (1.0 - 2002)

Best - 60.1mpg (1.7 DTi - 2002) / 61.4mpg (1.3 CDTi 90 - 2009)
Worst - 35.8mpg (1.8 16v 2002) / 36.7mpg (1.6 T VXR - 2007)

Best - 115g/km % tax band C (1.0 12V ECO - 2005)
Worst - 190g/km (1.6T - 2007)

Insurance group
Lowest - group 1 (1.0 3 door Expression - 2006) / group 3 (Corsa 1.0 Club - 2003)
Highest - group 19 (SRi)

NCAP safety rating
Five stars (2006) / four Stars (2002) / three stars (2000)

How much for a Corsa?
£0-500 buys a 1994 1.4 LS 5-door with 112,000 miles
£2000 buys a 2003 1.2 Elegance 5-door with 102,000 miles
£3000 buys a 2004 1.0 Active 5-door with 45,000 miles
£4000 buys a 2006 1.3 CDTi Design 5-door with 71,000 miles
£5,000 buys a 2008 1.4 Club Automatic 3-door with 63,000 miles
£6,000 buys a 2009 1.4i 16V SXi 5-door with 43,000 miles
£7,000 buys a 2009 1.4 Design 3-door with 17,000 miles

Why buy a Corsa?
The Corsa is reliable and cheap to run. On top of that it has one of the most stylish and distinctive designs in its class with a surprising amount of room inside. Sadly that isn't enough to make the early Corsas one of the leading small hatchbacks. Buyers might not like the looks but they appreciate the fact that parts are cheap along with servicing, insurance and fuel economy. The added bonus is low used prices because there are so many around. So a 90s Corsa does it's shopping and local errands job well enough, it just doesn't have the refinement and on-road ability to match its rivals. However, the 2006 onward Corsa is a different matter altogether - it's spacious, refined, well-built and much more fun to own.

What's the best spec Corsa?

Vauxhall Crosa (© Vauxhall)

On earlier Corsas, specifications were always surprisingly basic and you can struggle to find power steering or a passenger airbag. So unless you are trying to keep the insurance group low, then steer clear of the Club or the Expression. Better to trade up to the Comfort or Life. Alternatively, on the early cars GLS and CDX specifications are the ones to have. Power steering was standard only from the GLS and sporty models and makes the Corsa much nicer to drive. On early 2000 models the Elegance brings in alloy wheels and air conditioning making the little car easier to live with. Well the air con does anyway.

Corsa updates

1993 - 2000 Corsa (Series B)

Vauxhall Nova replaced by Corsa name and built in Spain. 1.2 petrol and 1.5 turbodiesel are the economical choices. Sporty SRi and GSi 16V with alloy wheels and spoilers. October 1994 revised suspension and driver's airbag mostly standard.

2000 - 2006 (Series Corsa C)
Lotus-tuned suspension and tidied up styling. Ecotec engines for the 1.0, 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 sizes.

2006 - on (Series Corsa D)
All-new model with chassis based on the Fiat Grande Punto, but tuned by Vauxhall. Plenty of engine options with a 1.3 CDTi 90 and five star safety.

What should I look for on a used Corsa?

Vauxhall Crosa (© Vauxhall)

What you are mainly looking for is owner abuse. These are tough little cars, which means that an uncaring owner will leave problems to fester as the car will still work, but deteriorate.

Although the galvanised bodywork stays intact, the early cars are rotting in the usual places, wings, wheel arches and doors/tailgate. If there is a service history, the most crucial check is just when the cambelt was last changed. It really should be changed every 40K or four years to be on the safe side.

If the steering is heavy or noisy then suspect that the steering rack could be on the way out. Water pumps have been known to seize while exhausts break and leak too. In the main, it's brakes, tyres and exhausts, all those easy to abuse and neglect items. At the very least get your Corsa MOT'd before you buy...

What's the marketplace like for the Corsa?
Everyone wants a small, economical, easy to care for car, but the 90s models are starting to look very dated. However, if it's very cheap, a 1.0 or 1.2 could be the perfect first-time car. There is strong demand for these and also the economical diesels for those who want second cars that are not going to cost much to fill. Modified examples struggle to find homes and will be cheap to buy, but pricey to insure.

Which Corsas should I buy?
Buyers in search of economy have lots of choice. Those who prefer petrol power will find that the small 1.0i and 1.2-litre engines return diesel-like mpg figures of almost 50mpg. Of the three earlier diesel engines the 1.5TD is frugal yet manages to keep up with the traffic but the 1.3 CDTi from 2004 is the pick as the all-rounder.

The 16-valve engines are the most flexible. For power and economy choose from a 1.2, or 1.4. In fact, the revised models from 94 and particularly from 97 are much nicer to drive. The high-speed ones probably have too much power and they don't handle it well, so the smaller 1.4 SRi is better than the 1.8. The latest VXRs are pricey but excellent fun.

Where do I shop for Corsas?
Used Corsas are around in very large numbers. A popular hire car, it is now possible to find plenty at used car supermarkets. These will often be nearly new and at very competitive prices with the balance of Vauxhall's new car warranty.

The more expensive option is to visit a Vauxhall dealer. The warranty will be good, it is called Network Q and offers the buyer lots of protection and options, but your Corsa will cost more. Beware ex-driving school Corsas, which will have led very hard lives.

The Corsa has always sold well to the public and buying a clean example from one careful owner would be ideal. Early cars might have rust, 16-valve engines have needed attention under warranty and the clutch will be heavy at high miles. Check tyre wear and watch out for minor electrical failures. Do all the controls work?

Any alternatives to the Corsa?

Ford Fiesta
Ford's Fiesta is the obvious alternative, which, like the Vauxhall, has improved with each generation and is the clear choice of the keen driver. Comparing specifications, the Fiesta may also sneak ahead of the Corsa slightly.

Nissan Micra
Nissan's Micra is the driving school favourite and that means it really is easy to live with, but being a Nissan it has a welcome element of utter reliability. It can be just a tad more to insure, service and repair.

Volkswagen Polo
Volkswagen's Polo would be regarded as the classy alternative, but it will be more expensive and is likely to have even less equipment as standard. To spend the equivalent money you will always get an older and less comfy model. Some though prefer that badge.

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