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What - Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi 75 ecoFLEX Start/Stop
Where - November 2010
Price - £13,695
Available - Now
Key rivals - Ford Fiesta Econetic, SEAT Ibiza E Ecomotive, Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion
Summary - Great in theory, but this combination of 75hp engine and Vauxhall start/stop tech doesn't work. Even with it, the car doesn't qualify for free road tax, whereas the faster but pricier 95hp version does. We know which we'd go for...
We like - Advanced start/stop solution, solid cabin, torquey engine, a 70mpg Corsa.
We don't like - Soggy handling, soft and wallowy ride, vocal engine, illogical in this guise when the other Corsa start/stop does 80mpg...
Gallery: Vauxhall Corsa Start/Stop
Read another Vauxhall review
Vauxhall is the latest car maker to join the throngs of firms offering engine start/stop devices. BMW started the trend in earnest a few years ago; now, almost every mainstream brand is providing the auto engine cut-off functionality.
Vauxhall is late to launch its solution, but says that start/stop is finally coming on various models in its range from now. The first Vauxhall to get this easy way of improving fuel economy (particularly in town) is the eco Corsa diesel, as a £260 option.
Buyers are not going to get much to look at for their money. There is an 'eco' button on the dash, to disable the engine cut-off at idle if you so wish (surely, 'anti-eco'?). But, apart from an 'Auto Stop' mark on the rev counter, that's it.
Vauxhall's really missed a trick here. For this is a very well thought out system - even featuring a supplementary water pump to provide warm air when the engine's turned off. In most start/stop cars, the fan blows cold when the engine shuts down. Surely it's worth more than a bootlid 'ecoFLEX' badge?
Following start/stop convention, the Vauxhall system is completely automatic. When drivers come to a halt at traffic lights and take the car out of gear, the engine shuts down. Pressing the clutch pedal automatically restarts it in a split-second.
It can be off for over 5 minutes before auto-restarting, says Vauxhall. That's 5 minutes' relief from engine clatter, then: this is a smooth and free-revving engine, but a vocal one, too. Acceleration is OK for an eco diesel, but the racket isn't.
The gearchange is also very slack and sloppy, and first gear in the five-speed box is 'tall'. Lots of pulling power means you don't have to use it much though: the diesel Corsa pulls readily uphill, even at very low engine revs.
The Corsa does have an odd anti-stall trick though. Engage gear, lift the clutch and the revs automatically rise a little. This means you can pull away without using the throttle, or (less advisably) hold it uphill with the clutch easily. Some might find it useful...
Ride and handling
This is an incredibly soft and squidgy car to drive. By the superb standards of the Ford Fiesta, the Corsa's amount of roll in corners, and degree of body float at speed, seems like something from a bygone age.
The ride isn't bad as a consequence, soaking up bumps and roughness fairly well. But even here, press on and the body float will make some feel queasy. It's a strangely old-fashioned approach for a supermini of 2010.
Up front, the Corsa has a very grown up interior. It does not feel like a small car, as it has plenty of cues from larger Vauxhalls. The dashboard has a heavy-duty finish that feels built to last (even if the look is plasticky in places), while the dials are clear and no-nonsense.
There's also the benefit of that heater that still blows warm air, even engine-off. Pity the seats are so soft. Sporty Vauxhalls have great seats, so it's a shame this doesn't filter down the range. There's plenty of space in the back though, and the boot is deep, if short.
Visibility is a problem. Low sides give a clear view when manoeuvring, but the front A-pillars are extremely thick and obstructive. Rear passengers in the 3-door also have poor visibility due to the radical windowline: in this respect, the 5-door is much more passenger-friendly.
We like how the start/stop system operates. Instead of having a warning light, there's a marking on the rev counter, to which the needle points when it's operating. This reminds you that the engine's still 'live' and in start/stop mode.
Economy and safety
This is where we struggle with Vauxhall's logic. The 1.3 CDTi 75 start/stop Corsa emits 105g/km CO2 - a useful drop over the standard car's 112g/km. But not as good as the 1.3 CDTi 95 engine's 98g/km, a figure it achieves without start/stop!
The significance is that the more powerful car would get free road tax, whereas the start/stop motor tested here would not. Vauxhall clearly recognised this discrepancy - so has stopped selling the non-start/stop 95hp version. Now, you can only get a 95hp engine WITH start/stop, producing 94g/km CO2.
Confused?! The upshot is a car that does 67.3mpg in basic form, 70.6mpg with start/stop - or 80.7mpg in 95hp start/stop form. We think Vauxhall has made this far too confusing for buyers, and wish it could have got the 75hp engine below 100g/km.
As it stands, choosing start/stop on the 75hp model gets you better economy, but no other tax savings - and you have to pay £260 extra for the privilege of having it. We'd rather thus haggle for a deal on the much better 95hp version, and get free road tax for life...
The MSN Cars verdict 3/5
The Corsa start/stop, in 75hp diesel form, doesn't stack up against its main rivals. They offer free road tax. This doesn't. Buyers may thus struggle to see the appeal. Vauxhall HAS achieved very impressive results with the 95hp version, which is genuinely green. We'd steer buyers to that car then, as this version is one that seems to lack real purpose.
|Need to know|
|Engines diesel||1,248cc four-cylinder turbodiesel|
|Torque lb ft||140|
|Top speed mph||101|
|Rating||Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi 75 Start/Stop|
|Ride & handling||**|
|MSN Cars verdict||***|
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