South Africans appear to have grown accustomed to receiving new models soon after their international reveals, so you can imagine our agony after having to wait close to a year for the latest generation Opel Corsa to arrive on our shores.
And now for more bad news - the numbers assigned to South Africa are lower than expected, but really just because our European counterparts are greedy enough to have shown a greater demand for the car than initially anticipated.
Be that as it may, the super cool Corsa is now with us and available in two bodystyles with two engine derivatives and three levels of specification.
It is also packed to the rooflining with several features being introduced to this car - and even segment - for the first time.
Nice-to-haves include a Flex-Fix integrated bicycle rack, double cargo floor and a personalised key system that allows seven different functions and settings to be stored on the key. Neat!
Award winning diesel
But perhaps the biggest feather in the little car's (fuel) cap is its adoption of the award-winning 1.3-litre CDTI Ecotec engine. The unit was voted the best in its class in the 2005 World Engine of the Year awards.
The CDTI engine produces 66 kW at 4 000 r/min and a peak torque figure of 200 Nm is available between 1 700 and 2 500 r/min.
This four-cylinder 16-valve engine uses common-rail technology and a variable geometry turbocharger and is equipped with a five-nozzle multi-injection system to ensure a fine fuel spray that translates, in real terms, to reduced fuel consumption and lower emissions.
In its stock form, the engine is Euro5 compliant though it has been stripped of its diesel particulate filter (DPF) to accommodate our local fuel quality. This, according to GMSA, has had no effect on the car's performance.
Drive is to the front wheels via a six-speed gearbox and Opel quotes an average fuel consumption of 4.6 l/100 km. On a 250-km route around Cape Town, a quick check revealed that one unit driven had consumed just less than a quarter tank of fuel on a mix of highways and quiet back roads. Not bad, we thought.
This engine is mostly whisper quiet (apart from the expected diesel clatter at low revs, though this is surprisingly muted in the latest Corsa) and its power is delivered with a typical diesel punch. Keep it in the 2 500 to 3 000 r/min range and it also transforms into a superb cruiser.
GMSA is hoping this diesel will garner 20% of new Corsa's local sales. The local suits are hoping around 500 of their babies will find new homes each month - at least until allocation from Spain's Zaragoza plant is increased...
Fresh petrol power, too
Until then, as an alternative to the turbodiesel, a four-cylinder 1.4-litre Ecotec petrol engine with 66 kW and 125 Nm on tap from 5 600- and 4 000 r/min respectively, is another option to consider.
The engine uses Opel's Ecotec advanced electronic engine management system to provide optimised power delivery and improved fuel consumption.
This engine is mated with a smooth-shifting five-speed manual transmission, although a four-speed automatic transmission is available as an option on the five-door 1.4 Enjoy.
Opel claims average fuel consumption of 6.2 l/100 km for the manual and 6.8 l/100 km for the model fitted with the automatic transmission.
And while I never had a chance to experience the auto', the five-speed manual is an ideal match for the 1.4-litre petrol unit. I discovered, while popping about a set of mountain curves, that it does require a fair bit of revving to extract some real "performance" from it. And the Sport label, even down at the coast, seems a bit optimistic.
I would imagine, though, that the 1,4-litre is more suited to regular urban conditions anyway. But if lightning speed is what appeals to you, perhaps you should just hang tight for the OPC version...
Inside the cabin, I am happy to report that the typically Opel fascia, while remaining neat and ordered, is more angled towards the occupants for better visibility and easier operation. And the amount of cabin space is amazing, especially considering the car's compact exterior dimensions.
However, this could also be attributed to its relatively long wheelbase (2 511 mm) and wide track (1 485 and 1478 front and rear).
And while you'd struggle to tell just from looking at the two bodystyles, both three- and five-door models are of equal length and height (3 999 and 1 488 mm, respectively). The three-door GTC-lookalike is slightly narrower, though.
However, general fit and finish appeared fair in all the models sampled and material quality of both the upholstery and fascia plastics seemed durable.
Specification levels across the six derivatives are fairly high, too.
The base 1.4 Essentia (five-door) is fitted with 15-inch alloys, steering wheel adjustable for reach and rake, power side mirrors, height adjustable driver's seat, air conditioner with pollen filter, cup and bottle holders, electro-hydraulic power steering and a RDS radio with single front loading CD player.
The Enjoy trim level can be applied to manual and automatic versions of the 1.4-litre petrol engine and the 1.3 CDTI. All models are only available in the five-door bodystyle.
Enjoy adds cruise control, a storage drawer under the front passenger seat, double cargo floor, remote central locking, seven-speaker audio system with satellite steering-mounted controls and onboard computer.
The Flex-Fix bicycle carrier can also be specified for this model.
The range-topping five-door 1.4-litre is offered with the Cosmo trim level and comes equipped with 16-inch alloys, leather-covered steering wheel, front fog lamps, heated side mirrors and front seats with added bolsters.
The three-door 1.4 Sport rides on a sports suspension lowered by 20 mm and 17-inch alloy wheels. It has variable speed-sensitive power steering, a sunroof (that looks deceivingly panoramic-like from outside the car) and sports front seats.
Standard safety equipment on all models include ABS brakes with EBD and BAS, Straight Line Stability control, Cornering Brake Control and up to four airbags.
All cars, apart from those specified with the Flex-Fix option come with full-sized alloys. The Sport derivative gets a 16-inch spare.
Cars are sold with a three-year/60 000 km service plan and 15 000-km service intervals are required across the range. A three-year/100 000 km warranty is also offered.
The rest of the Corsa family?
The little diesel unit has to be the pick of the bunch, but if you're in need of some serious need for speed, wait a while for the sexy little OPC version to drop. That is expected in the second quarter of 2008.
Until then, however, you'll have to deal with the existing spread. GMSA confirmed at the Corsa launch that there are no plans to introduce more tasty derivatives, including the GSI model.
The company also confirmed that despite new Corsa only being available as a hatchback, the current Corsa Classic sedan is being discontinued.
Corsa Lite and the Corsa Utility will continue unchanged, though cosmetic upgrades are expected for the Brazil-sourced sub one-tonner.
New Corsa pricing:
1.4 Essentia 5-door - R 124 910
1.4 Enjoy 5-door - R 138 490
1.4 Sport 3-door - R 147 580
1.4 Enjoy A/T 5-door - R 149 650
1.3 CDTI Enjoy 5-door - R 150 440
1.4 Cosmo 5-door - R 154 980