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Vauxhall Corsa VXR review (2007 onwards)
Image © Vauxhall
Model: Vauxhall Corsa VXR
Bodystyle: three-door hatchback
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo, petrol
Transmission: 6-speed manual
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What is it?
One of a growing number of supermini hot hatches aiming to take the top dog position in the fiercely competitive world of rapid but diminutive hatchbacks. And it is coming out with everything Vauxhall’s got; huge 17inch alloys – with 18-inchers available optionally – an overt bodykit with revised bumpers front and rear, side skirts, a boot mounted spoiler and rear diffuser and a Recaro seated sports steering-wheeled interior. The Corsa VXR is not a hot hatch for the shy and retiring. It has the power to back up those looks too, its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine delivering 189bhp to the front wheels.
Where does it fit?
Right in among a melee that consists of the Mini Cooper S, Peugeot 207 GTI and whatever RenaultSport Clio 197 edition the French factory is building on any particular day. It’s a small group, and there are some notable absentees – c’mon Ford – as to be fighting here you really need in excess of 170bhp. The VXR is the second most powerful here, its 189bhp a handful of bhp less than the Renault, but the Corsa uses a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine in preference to the French car’s revvy 2.0-litre unit – which means the Corsa feels the faster car more of the time.
Is it for you?
Hot hatches are for everyone and the VXR Corsa doesn’t disappoint. Its power and performance wouldn’t have disgraced a supercar in the early ‘80s, yet it’s so friendly to drive you could lend it to your granny. The blend of that performance and a supermini hatchback’s versatility makes for an appealing package, and one that’s pretty affordable too at around £15,500. Really, with our roads so busy and cameras everywhere the small hot hatch makes a great deal of sense, and provides a great deal of driving pleasure.
What does it do well?
Well, the styling won’t have escaped you and there’s no denying that the VXR looks great. The performance is fun, the engine delivers its power nicely through the rev range - which means you don’t have to rev the nuts off it to extract its performance. The body control is good, even with those 17-inch alloys, and despite the VXR’s far more aggressive sporting suspension the ride is rarely harsh – actually coping with nasty slow speed bumps with aplomb. The shell-backed Recaro sports seats are excellent, the thick-rimmed steering wheel nicely weighted in action and the gearshift accurate enough. Being a supermini hatchback it’s pretty useful too, with a decent sized boot, and rear seats that are useable – if only really comfortable for children.
What doesn’t it do well?
Impressive as the performance is the Corsa VXR doesn’t have quite have the measure of the RenaultSport Clio’s extraordinary chassis, while the Mini Cooper S’s engine feels more eager despite its shortfall in bhp. The instrumentation lacks the sort of gauges you would hope a performance car would have - oil temperature, pressure and water temp gauges are conspicuously absent. The steering, though quick and decently weighted isn’t exactly loaded with feedback, and why Vauxhall persists in putting such preposterously large gear knobs on its VXR models is beyond us. The ‘Piano Black’ fascia inserts reflect streetlights badly at night too, which is distracting. As is the electric window switches in your peripheral vision that look like they are backlit by WWII searchlights.
What’s it like to live with?
Brilliant, every roundabout becomes an opportunity to test the VXR’s excellent grip, the straights in between a chance to enjoy its acceleration. All this can be done with surprising fun at sane speeds, certainly not the license losing velocities that many performance cars demand before becoming interesting these days. So you’ll save yourself a fortune on track days, as merely driving the VXR day-to-day is fun. It’s practical too, unsurprising given it’s just a Corsa with a hot engine. Servicing should be a cinch with Vauxhall dealers everywhere and it’s fairly exclusive, the VXR factory only able to turn out around 2,500 a year – significantly less than its rivals.
How green is it?
Official combined consumption for the VXR is 35.8mpg but unless you’re doing lots of motorway miles you’ll not get that. 10-20% less is more likely in real-world driving – and less again if you try to match the 6.8 seconds 0-62mph time every time you see a white circle with a black line through it. CO2 emissions of 190 g/km is respectable though.
Would we buy it?
It would be a close run thing against the RenaultSport Clio and the Mini. We would probably have it over the Mini purely because it’s a bit different – Minis really are everywhere. With the Clio it would depend on the sort of driving we were doing. If the daily grind included any sustained high speed driving then the short geared revvy nature of the Clio would do our heads in. The Corsa wouldn’t and will still provide grins on more interesting roads. Sure, as a trade off you lose some of the Clio’s interactivity and feel, but as a daily driver the Corsa does make more sense. It is also less likely to fall to pieces than the Renault.
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