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First drive: New Corsa OPC

2008-03-31 08:07
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Opel
Model Corsa OPC
Engine 1.6-litre, turbo
Power 141kW @ 5850r/min
Torque 230Nm @ 1980-5800r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 7.2 seconds
Top Speed 225km/h
Fuel Tank 45-litres
Weight 1280kg
ABS Yes
Airbags Front, side and curtain
Tyres 18-inch 225/35mm
Front Suspension McPherson-struts : A-frame arm with linear cylindr
Rear Suspension Compound crank : linear cylindrical coil springs &
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan 3 year/60 000km
Warranty 3 year/100 000km

Lance Branquinho

The cute and contemporary Opel Corsa has acquired a rather malevolent new sibling.

Joining the Astra and Zafira OPC models, the new Corsa OPC is a peculiar litter car. Is it simply a hot hatch boy racer with body tuppreware in the spirit of the old Corsa GSi, or could it be a discerning hot hatch giant killer?

Opel allowed us the rather significant privilege of using the daunting East London Grand Prix circuit for two days to formulate our own conclusion.

Visually arresting

For an entry level hatchback, the Corsa OPC shuns the reserved, stylishly raked styling profile of its cute three- and five-door Corsa siblings.

With a roof spoiler, aero gills carved into both the front and rear bumper, a shaded diffuser and distinctive triangular-shaped centrally mounted exhaust rounded off the styling package, it's hardly a placid looking little thing.

With a colour keyed crossbar across the grille and triangular shaped fog-lights carved into the front bumper the OPC - which sits 15mm lower than the rest of the Corsa range - has plenty of rear-view mirror overtaking presence.

South African customers have the added styling and performance boon of receiving 18-inch alloy wheels as standard - the rest of the world gets standard spec 17s - which fill the arches perfectly.

Mix-and-match interior

The interior does not quite manage to capture the visual drama of the exterior styling treatment.

The flat-slap Corsa centre-console - with the undersized buttons and control surfaces - remains, with coloured air vent surrounds, a thick rimmed sports steering wheel with thumb-grips and a aluminium drilled pedal set attempting to offset the rather underwhelming cabin.

Equipment levels are good. Beyond the embellished pseudo-racing trim items, the Recaro bucket seats are adjustable in six ways, banishing the notion that race-style buckets seats have to be uncomfortable or hinder rear-seat access. Additional interior features centre around infotainment, which includes an auxiliary input for MP3/iPod connectivity.

Small capacity, big kick

The Corsa OPC employs forced induction to acquire the requisite hot hatch performance credentials, boosting a 1.6-litre lightweight cast-iron block unit that tips the scales at only 131 kg.

Ensuring optimal flow and efficiency, the exhaust manifold features an integrated turbocharger housing, which minimises turbine lag. The turbocharger itself is a water-cooled unit derived from a joint venture development between Opel and Borg Warner, the renowned American automotive component supplier.

Camshaft timing has been revised too, with overlap reduced from 232-degrees to 223-degrees. All the technical jargon translates into 141 kW at 5 850 r/min and 230 Nm at between 1 980 - 5 850 r/min, whilst there is 266 Nm of "overboost" available for short peak performance periods.

Driving through a six-speed gearbox, and weighing only 1 280 kg, the OPC is quite brisk on paper, dispatching the 0-100 km/h sprint in 7.2 seconds and powering on to a top speed of 225 km/h.

Nordschleife certified

As has become the vogue with performance cars, the OPC has done its Nurburgring apprenticeship, and the dynamic lessons learned from the forbidding German proving ground have been calibrated and tuned into the chassis and suspension set-up.

The OPC rides 15mm than the rest of the range, as previously mentioned, while revised rear-axle geometry and increased stiffness reduces roll rated by 25%.

The ESP (electronic stability programme) has been revised too, having been tailored for a higher dynamic threshold.

Steering has been the bane of the Corsa range since its introduction locally, with the electro-hydraulic power-steering having an irritating off-centre behaviour that necessitates constant corrections while driving at speed in a straight line.

The OPC version sees revised ratios with straight tracking constituting a 13:1 ratio, and 90-degree angle (the average performance turn-in steering angle) recalibrated to 11,8:1.

Reigning in Opel's latest enfant terrible are ABS- and brake force distribution-assisted 308 mm ventilated discs up front and 264 mm solid discs at the rear, which are controlled by trademark OPC blue finished calipers.

Worthy junior Superboss?

So the OPC is a technically accomplished product, but does it live up to the hallowed OPC moniker? During two days of flat-out driving around the East London Grand Prix circuit, it proved to be a tenacious little pocket rocket.

The six-speed 'box shifts well, even when downshifting from sixth to third directly under heavy braking it does not baulk, nor do you muddle about between the shift gates.

Power is plentiful, but it is not a traditional screaming hot hatch. It dislikes going beyond 6 000 r/min; short shifting just before the six grand on the tach ensures you simply gather momentum at an astonishing pace on the wave of turbocharged torque.

Strong torque characteristics should enable the OPC to be a relaxed long distance cruiser too, especially as the revised suspension and performance-orientated rubber have not detracted too harshly from the standard Corsa's great ride quality.

With the revised steering ratios handling is great. At the East London circuit Potter's pass means going flat-out in fifth at about 200 km/h and it is hardly the place at which you want understeer, oversteer or any handling surprise beyond neutrality. And the OPC delivers. It tracks the chosen line with dogged determination at high speedsw while displaying ample grip.

The large disc brakes scrub off speed with massively reassuring efficiency, whilst the chassis remains benevolently composed too. In slower, tighter corners, the ESP reveals its decidedly sporting disposition, only intervening when your steering slip angle is way beyond measure and reigning you in when massive wheelspin or tyre scrubbing understeer is about to manifest itself.

In essence the new OPC is a very sorted hot hatch. Of the four colours available, you only have to bother with the black or blue, the red and off-silver are the hues to avoid.

The menacing exterior styling and underwhelming interior might not be the last word in styling synergy, but for potential buyers, especially at reef altitudes, the sweet turbocharged engine would be a strong sway factor in their purchasing decision.

The Corsa OPC is very much worthy as the latest incarnation in an esteemed lineage of Opel hot hatches. At a mite over R229 000, it also breaks new territory for a junior hot hatch.


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