RAC Cars News

#WeLoveCars

2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR First Drive

By raccars Published

Vauxhall Corsa VXR Factsheet

Price: From £17,995 (model tested: Vauxhall Corsa VXR Performance Pack, £20,395)

Gearbox: Six-speed manual

0-62mph: 6.8 seconds

Top speed: 143mph

Fuel economy: 37.7mpg

CO2: 174g/km

On sale: Now (first deliveries: May 2015)

Insurance group: TBA

Three UK Vauxhall Corsa VXR facts

1: The average age of a Corsa VXR buyer is 28 – and most of them buy on finance 2: The 1.6-litre turbo engine is the same as the previous version; it’s the chassis that’s received most of the engineering work 3: The £17,995 starting price point is better value than the outgoing model – a rare case of a new car being a better deal than the one it’s replacing

What is it?

The new Vauxhall Corsa VXR is an enhanced version of an already-bombastic hot hatch. First launched in 2007, it married a hot 1.6-litre turbo engine with bold, standout styling and an expert-tuned chassis.

It remained a racy choice even as newer competitors belatedly arrive; it’s a rival to the Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTI and well-established RenaultSport Clio, today sold in 200hp turbo guise.

Last year, Vauxhall rolled out an extensively revised new Corsa, with a fresh interior, crisp new body styling and suspension given a thorough makeover with challenging the class-leading Ford Fiesta in mind. Now, for 2015, the enhanced Vauxhall Corsa VXR has gone on sale – and it’s now even more potent…

Vauxhall has fitted as standard the tuned-up 205hp 1.6-litre turbo engine previously reserved for the special £22k Nurburgring edition. With prices starting from £17,995, it’s thus immediately a standout bargain – and that’s before you factor in the enthusiast-friendly Performance Pack option. Vauxhall is getting serious with the new Corsa VXR – and, as we found it, the results justify this…

Styling and interior

The old Corsa VXR was standout at launch but time has dulled the impact of its looks. The new one pushes the wow factor right back up, and how. A striking new front end has big air intakes for the turbo and brakes, a unique additional air intake above the grille, plus moody LED running lights that help it stand out on the move.

There are sharp alloy wheels, more sculpted body sides and, at the rear, an all-new twin exhaust arrangement that makes the Corsa VXR look particularly potent. Factor in some bright metallics and you’ve a hot hatch that’s certainly going to cause a stir.

The Performance Pack, which costs £2,400, enhances this further – big 18-inch alloy wheels, bigger front brake discs (with red calipers), a more focused suspension tune – and, as we’ll see, something else that makes the Corsa VXR rather special…

Performance

The engine is actually one of the oldest parts of the car, carrying over from the old one largely unchanged. The 205hp boost is welcome though, delivering 0-62mph in an exciting 6.8 seconds, before going on to 143mph.

It’s a very flexible engine, with strong low-down pull that gives the Corsa VXR an energetic, sprightly feel. It has the muscle of a larger engine and you’re left in no doubt the Corsa is a performance car.

Even better, when revved hard, the engine is exceptionally smooth and free-spinning, adding to the satisfaction. The exhausts make a nice rort too and, although it’s ultimately only as fast as the competition, rather than significantly faster than them, it feels nice and exciting to drive. A much-improved six-speed gearbox is another big step on over the old car too.

Handling

Vauxhall fits clever Koni ‘Frequency Selective Dampers’ to the new Corsa VXR. This trick tech allows the car to remain relatively supple over bumps but much more alert and poised when surfaces get challenging. That’s the theory, anyway: luckily, they work in practice too.

There are two levels of ‘FSD’ damper, and we drove a car with the optional Performance Pack, benefitting from firmer and more focused dampers. While lacking the ultimate poise of the Ford Fiesta ST, they work well and give the Corsa VXR plenty of alert agility; it certainly feels like a sporty hot hatch.

It also rides better than the rather jittery Fiesta. It’s hardly magic carpet, of course, but there’s that bit more composure over rough roads that justifies Vauxhall’s use of the expensive Koni tech.

Another thing Vauxhall’s fitted to Performance Pack cars is a Drexler limited-slip differential. This allows drivers to get all the power down cleanly in corners without spinning it uselessly away. While the action is somewhat aggressive, firmly snatching the wheel at times, it endows the Corsa with excellent front-end traction and bite in corners – and also gives it a sharp, pointy character that makes for a charismatic drive. It’s a superb addition.

Price and value

The standard Corsa VXR is now a bargain. £17,995 for a 205hp car this well equipped is excellent value, particularly as it comes with Vauxhall’s latest touchscreen Intellilink system that allows easy integration with smartphones and even low-cost integration of sat nav.

On the face of it, £2,400 seems rather a lot extra to pay for the Performance Pack. In practice, it’s a bargain. The mechanical tech it adds on is easily worth this, and the effect it has on the drive is pronounced. Vauxhall expect half of all customers to take the Performance Pack: we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually much higher.

Fuel economy

Here’s where the Corsa VXR certainly isn’t very good. It averages just 37.7mpg which, in 2015, isn’t very clever at all. It comes with a heady 174g/km CO2 figure too, placing it in tax band H: that’s significantly higher than its rivals.

A Ford Fiesta, for contrast, averages 47.9mpg and emits just 139g/km. This places it in tax band F, which more than halves the annual cost of VED road fund licence. It’s the most obvious weakness of the powerful, entertaining engine and really lets the Corsa down.

Verdict: 2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR

The new Corsa VXR is a big step on, particularly in Performance Pack guise. It adds real character to the small hot hatch sector and is an interesting, great-value alternative to the class-leading Ford Fiesta. It isn’t ultimately as crisp as the brilliant ST, and is nowhere near as economical, but those after a charismatic, quick little sports car would do well to check it out.

Looking to Buy?
Search for cars