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New Corsa: Let the engine tell the story

2015-02-19 21:07

IN THIS CASE, RED MEANS GO! This is the Gen 5 Opel Corsa, specifically the Cosmo model launched Feb 2015 in SA - a one-litre, three-cylinder engine, yes, but boy is it quick! Image: Opel


GMSA has (Feb 2015) launched the fifth generation (fourth in South Africa) of the now 32-year-old Opel Corsa with three models, each initially with a one-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine making 85kW! Good-looker, too. Images: Opel


  · Gen 5 Corsa continues 32-year history
  · ’Redefines segment’; innovative tech
  · New chassis and powertrain tech

If any car brands have really demonstrated the development of the small family car over the past 30 years it’s those that have been bold enough in the past couple of years to fit their products with a three-cylinder engine.

Doing so in a South Africa for so long obsessed with the letter V and the numbers six and eight must have been a worrying decision for vehicle distributors; the most recent being Opel – part of the General Motors stable – that this week introduced the one-litre, three-cylinder, fifth-generation, five-door Corsa hatchback.


The same turbocharged ecoFLEX (Opel’s capitals) engine powers the recently launched Opel Adam. A 1.4-litre version will arrive later in 2015 with an auto box and the cars will be available in showrooms in March. Prices are remarkably close to those of the previous model with three trim levels offered: Cosmo, Enjoy, and Essentia of which some require “option packages” to bring them to the level of competitors’ standard stock.

The entry model, for instance, is without aircon...

To put things in proportion, the four-cylinder 1.6-litre engine in a Ford Escort XR3i that I bought new in 1986 made 77kW/136Nm was considered kind of hot but the five-speed gearbox needed some stirring.

IMAGE GALLERY: 2015 Opel Corsa Cosmo

The mini-mill in this new B-segment Corsa that was launched internationally only four months earlier in Paris makes 85kW from 5-6000rpm and 170Nm from 1800-4500rpm – the benefit coming, of course, from a turbocharger – and drives through a very slick and sweet six-speed manual gearbox.

GMSA wasn’t shy about the launch route either – it included several mountain passes (Helshoogte, Franschhoek, Robertson) in the Cape Town hinterland at which the Corsa sniffed and whistled over in fifth, sometimes sixth, with occasional shifts down to third behind temporarily unpassable large vehicles.

There’s no delay in overtaking, either, and the Corsa proved to be one of the most relaxed small cars I’ve ever driven at the freeway limit; no frenetic revving, no high-revs noise – in fact 120km/h in sixth showed only a shade over 3000rpm. And a (sorry, officer!) brief sortie to 160km/h showed the engine to be just as comfortable as a two- or 2.5-litre car.

Weird, hey...?


The two cars I drove did, however, have their niggles; the first made a sort of death-rattle noise as the range-standard stop/start fuel-saver cut in and out at junctions (I was told of at least one more that did the same), the second developed a most annoying vibration noise from the facia assembly at cruise speeds and the hazard-lights button became stuck in its housing.

Another dislike: the two short and thick pillars, each pair forming the base of the windscreen frame and severely restricting vision on narrow mountain roads.

The Corsa (this, though the fifth-generation globally, is only the fourth in South Africa; we missed out on the first in 1982) and future sales are vital to the company, as Ian Nicholls, vice-president for GMSA’s local operations, explained.

“We have a very compelling offering,” he said. “We’re hoping to double sales volumes through 2015 after growing by 36% in 2014 and are putting huge focus on the Opel brand to go big.

“The Corsa is a key vehicle in growing volumes with its high-tech engine, outstanding fuel economy and its performance. It really offers excitement backed by German engineering.”


Already, he said, 110 000 were on order in Europe and the previous model sold 286 000 there through 2014. South Africa has also done pretty well: 152 000 have left showrooms here since 1996 – which is not so surprising. Opel has been in South Africa for 60 years during which the Opel Rekord was assembled for 40 or those years.

Globally, in its 32-years of existence, the Corsa has sold more than 12.4-million units.

The Corsa will also play a leading role in helping Opel to move from No.3 to No.2 top-seller in Europe by the end of 2016. It, along with the 27 new vehicles and 17 new power-trains to be launched in the next 36 months...

Opel SA sees the cars as “appealing to singles, professionals with young children, and young-at-heart drivers who love great cars and want something that will set them apart from the crowd”.  

The ‘face’ of the new car has wing-shaped headlights/daytime running lights and a trapezoidal grille with a bar supporting the Opel badge. Foul-weather lights are embedded in two low air inlets with model-specific chromed – Opel says the idea is to make the car look wider.

In profile, there’s a rising belt line to a roof aerofoil.


Wide and horizontally-split tail lights, the automaker says, help to create another illusion of extra width and incorporate the frontal ‘wing’ motif when illuminated – check our pictures.

Opel has chosen a chronograph style for the instrumentation – very neat – with supplementary controls on the steering-wheel; No cruise control, though, which I see as a failing. There’s also no ‘tween-seats lidded box (something I always find useful for house keys, cellphone) but plenty of cup/bottle holders.

Opel makes much in its media release of aerodynamics and sealing on the B pillar; there’s also lots of little pieces fitted Band-aids under the bonnet, one stiff piece of which could have been responsible for the second cars unpleasant noise – rather like blowing over a blade of grass stretched between your thumbs.

The Mk.V Corsa is five mm lower on, Opel says, a redesigned and stiffer chassis that includes a new and reinforced sub-frame. Bottom line: the car was great fun to chuck around the Cape’s glorious passes. All Corsas are now equipped with a push-button City Mode steering setting which reduces steering effort at low speeds for, say, parking.

Which, by the way and assuming you can afford the add-on, the Corsa Enjoy and Cosmo can do by themselves. The system recognises parallel and perpendicular parking spaces and takes over the steering, meaning that the driver only has to feather the brake and accelerator.

The base model has 15” wheels and 215-profile tyres.


All new Corsas, Opel says, “have a raft of standard safety equipment as well, ensuring nothing is left to chance”. These include ABS with EBD and BAS, adaptive brake lights and automatic hazard lights, disc brakes all-round, the latest in electronic stability control, six crash bags, tyre-pressure monitors, a pedal release system, IsoFix child seat anchor points, pre-tensioned seat belts, a seat belt reminder and an anti-theft alarm and immobiliser.

And for those who failed clutch control, hill-start assistance.

While the one-litre engine might be revolutionary, so is Opel’s award-winning IntelliLink infotainment system, which brings the connected world of smartphones and apps into the car, is available as an option on Enjoy and Essentia models, and standard on Cosmo. IntelliLink is fully compatible with the latest Android and Apple iOS-based smartphones.

The system has a standard 19cm colour touchscreen and its home page provides access to five major functions: phone, audio, gallery, settings and apps. Audio streaming via Bluetooth and USB also includes Gracenote music management and identification technology.

BringGo is IntelliLink’s navigation app. It can be easily downloaded from the phone’s app store and, once downloaded, the map data remains installed on the user’s smartphone, which means Corsa owners do not need an ongoing smartphone broadband connection to use the BringGo navigation system.


Frankly, the satnav didn’t work on either car we drove (or on those of a couple of other drivers we checked with), telling us frequently to turn left when the obvious direction was right, and other samesuch.

If the Stitcher app is downloaded more than 10 000 podcasts are in reach, including radio shows and live stations from around the world, via the Corsa’s IntelliLink touchscreen. Oh, and Opel mentions 70 000 radio stations through the TuneIn app.


1.0T Essentia: Start/stop engine control, gear-shift indicator, halogen daytime running lights, City Mode steering, power front windows and external mirrors, tinted glass, 15” steel wheels, black cloth upholstery, grey décor, single-piece folding rear seat, storage under the front passenger seat.

Option 1 includes aircon, six-speaker radio/CD audio which includes Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary compatibility and steering-wheel audio controls.

Option 2 adds 15” alloy rims, aircon and IntelliLink.

1.0T Enjoy: Adds the audio system and steering-wheel audio controls, trip data computer, accented gear knob and steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seat, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights, aircon, 16” alloy rims.

Option 1 adds IntelliLinkOption 2 IntelliLink, APA2, blind-spot alert and front and rear parking sensors.

1.0T Cosmo: Adds cruise control (Ah!) with a speed limiter, bi-xenon headlights with cornering light control, auto-dimming mirror, auto wipers and headlights, leather steering-wheel, IntelliLink, chrome detailing, black upholstery with Morrocana vinyl bolsters, silver highlights on the instrument cluster, interior ambient lighting, flexible cupholders and two seat-back pockets.

Option 1 adds APA2, blind-spot alert and front and rear parking sensors.

Corsa 1.0T Essentia - R185 500
Corsa 1.0T Enjoy - R216 200
Corsa 1.0T Cosmo - R236 300

Option packages
Corsa Essentia
Option Pack 1: Radio with Bluetooth, USB, aircon - R 12 200
Option Pack 2: IntelliLink, aircon, 15” alloy rims - R15 600

Corsa Enjoy
Option Pack 1: IntelliLink - R4000
Option Pack 2: IntelliLink, parking radar - R8000

Corsa Cosmo
Option Pack 1: Parking radar - R5000

All new Opel Corsa units have a five-year or 120 000km warranty and a three-year or 60 000 km service plan.

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