We put the ergonomics of our A7 to the test
Vauxhall Corsa 1.7 di review (2002-2006)
Bodystyle: 3- or 5-door hatchback
Engine:1.7- litre in-line 4-cylinder
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: June 2002
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What is it?
A supermini that's one of the staple models in this sector. It's always high 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, is due later this year.
Where does it fit?
The 1.7di is the entry-level diesel in the Corsa range. It offers performance equivalent to the 1.2-litre petrol engine offered in Vauxhall's supermini, for slightly more initial outlay. Obviously it's a car bought for its impressive consumption figures - the 1.7di unit returning around 60mpg on the official combined cycle. It faces stiff competition from rivals like Ford's Fiesta, the Citroen C3, Peugeot 106 and 206, or indeed the VW group's diesel offerings, as well as the extremely impressive dci engines offered by Renault in their Clio.
Is it for you?
If you want to stand out from the crowd, a Corsa might not be the ideal choice. It does still look good though, particularly in sportier three-door guise - although the 1.7di is a bigger seller as a five-door. The interior is roomy, comfortable, built to a high standard and more generously equipped on the latest variants. It has a decent boot, it's cheap to run, offers excellent fuel economy and very low servicing and insurance costs. It should also be dead easy to sell when the time comes. Depreciation may not be the best, but there'll always be someone willing to snap up a Corsa.
What does it do well?
The 1.7di diesel engine is an able performer, especially in the consumption stakes, despite lacking common-rail technology. As an introduction to diesel motoring it's a decent enough start, too, but there are better alternatives out there. The overall 'mature' feel of the Corsa is liked by many buyers; ride quality and motorway composure all feel like they're from a class above, aided by big, supportive seats and chunky, sturdy controls. It's cheap to insure and retains its value quite well in such a busy marketplace.
What doesn't it do well?
There's no escaping the fact that the 1.7di engine is old. Competing against rivals that have embraced common-rail technology the Corsa's unit feels rather sluggish in its responses and isn't the last word in refinement. It's a heavy lump too, and you feel the extra weight over the front wheels. You can't criticise its consumption, with 60mpg possible, though extracting those sorts of figures will make for painfully slow progress. It's far from an exciting choice and surprisingly, early Corsas suffered from a few reliability niggles too, though those 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 almost 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, as 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.
Would we buy it?
There's no doubt that Corsa ownership is likely to be a painless experience, but (and it's a big but) it's ever so slightly 'worthy' in a market that's awash with enjoyable and characterful rivals. Comfortable, spacious, reliable and a dealer on every corner are attractive positives to prospective owners, but on the downside, the Corsa lacks any real flair. If only Vauxhall had been a bit braver with the styling we'd be more keen to recommend it, and with certain petrol engines it's certainly worth a look - but the 1.7di offers nothing to better its diesel rivals, being low tech and ultimately feeling it. If it were our choice we'd have to look instead at the superb 1.5dci units offered in the Renault Clio and the 1.4HDI engines in the Peugeot/Citroen and Ford model ranges.
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