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Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 16v review (2002-2006)
Engine: 1.2 in-line 4-cylinder
Fuel Type: Petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of Test: May 2002
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What is it?
A supermini that’s one of the staple models in this sector. It’s always high up in the UK sales charts, thanks in no small part to its popularity with fleets, rental companies and driving schools. The latest version is far better than its utterly mediocre predecessor, and comes as either a three-door or five-door hatchback. An MPV variant, similar to the larger Zafira, comes later this year.
Where does it fit?
Vauxhall’s 1.2-litre Corsa may lack the fizz of the more expensive 1.4-litre variant, but for many it offers a better blend of talents. It is smooth and quiet. Acceleration to 62mph in 12 seconds proves it as a good performer, while economy of 45mph is well up with rivals, too. Then there’s the low insurance groups it attracts and availability in budget, sporty and luxury-orientated variants. It’s the definitive Corsa, within a range competing against formidable competition - Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz, Peugeot 206 and Renault Clio, to name but a few.
Is it for you?
If you want to stand out from the crowd, a Corsa is possibly not the greatest choice. It does still look good though, particularly in sportier three-door guise. What’s more, the reasons why it does sell so well are numerous. The interior is roomy, comfortable and built to a high standard and also equipped more generously on latest variants. There’s a decent boot, it’s cheap to run, with that good fuel economy and very low servicing and insurance costs. It’s also dead easy to sell later on. Depreciation may not be the best, but there’ll always be someone willing to snap up a Corsa.
What does it do well?
The 1.2-litre 16v engine is probably the highlight of the Corsa; it’s very good indeed, with near-faultless manners, an ‘unburstable’ love of revs and very impressive refinement in all conditions. It can also be fitted with Vauxhall’s ‘Easytronic’ gearbox - a ‘clutchless manual’ unit. The overall ‘mature’ feel of the Corsa is also liked by many buyers; ride quality, refinement and motorway composure all feel like they’re from a class above, aided by big, supportive seats and chunky, sturdy controls.
What doesn’t it do well?
It lacks the ‘zippiness’ usually associated with small cars, despite that engine, making it less fun to drive than you’d expect. Superminis should be agile, responsive and eager, but although the Corsa is perfectly competent and even quite fast, it rarely feels as terrier-like as it should. The gearbox is not the greatest, while there’s the flair-free styling and plain image too, the latter an unfair carry-over from the tedious old variant. Surprisingly, early Corsas suffered from a few reliability niggles too, though these should have cleared up by now.
What’s it like to live with?
A hassle-free experience is almost guaranteed. For starters, there’s a Vauxhall dealer on every corner, making both choosing and collecting one a doddle, while servicing should also be inexpensive and infrequent - thanks to long service intervals. It’s mainly reliable, proven by all those driving school cars and the engine is good for well over 100,000 miles without problem. Vauxhalls tend to age well and the Corsa is no exception. It should still look fresh in a decade’s time, a legacy of good build quality standards.
Would we buy it?
It provides efficient transport day in, day out, with the ever-present attraction of powerful engines and sturdy, comfortable seats. The notchy gearbox and somewhat dull handling may not exactly fire us up, but we know the Corsa would always reassure us, and never be a liability - whether we were servicing it, repairing it or selling it. However, we also like small cars to be fun, and it’s here where the Corsa is less desirable.
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