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Tested: Opel Corsa

2008-06-25 07:13

The Opel Corsa is an important model in South Africa's small car market.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Opel
Model Corsa
Engine 1.4-litre, in-line four petrol, 1.3-litre, in-line
Power 66kW @ 5 600r/min, 66kW @ 4 000r/min
Torque 125Nm @ 4 000r/min, 200Nm @ 1 700r/min
Transmission Four-speed auto, Five-speed manual, Six-speed manu
Zero To Hundred 14.8 - (auto), 12.4 - (manual), 12.7-seconds (dies
Top Speed 166km/h, 173km/, 172km/h
Fuel Tank 45-litres
Fuel Consumption 6.8l, 6.2l, 4.6l/100km
Boot Size 224-Litres
Steering Electro-hydraulic
ABS Yes, with BAS and EBD
Airbags Dual front
Tyres 185/65R15
Front Suspension Independent McPherson struts
Rear Suspension Torsion tube, compound link
Service Plan 3years/60 000km
Warranty 3years/100 000km
Price R167 640 (auto), R155 140 (manual), R168 520 (dies
Rivals Mazda2, Suzuki Swift

Lance Branquinho

Considering its ageing Astra, the latest Corsa is a key model for GMSA as a volume seller.

It is a decidedly more substantial car than the model most local buyers first had contact with in the mid 90s; the third generation Corsa sold locally is aggressively styled, with a comprehensive line-up of entry-level options.

We had the good fortune to test the 1.4-litre engine in five-speed manual and four-speed auto' trim, as well as the 1.3-litre turbodiesel, consecutively - over the period of a month.

All models were the full-spec Enjoy trim, and this enabled us to comparatively evaluate which Corsa would be most apt for local urban and extra-urban transport needs.

What’s it about

Corsa is GM’s world car. Dimensions are urban-commute friendly, with overall length a whisker short of 4 metres. Students, young families and commuters are the target market.

Whereas the original Corsa was bubble-shaped and featured some of the most dubious interior design trim patterns ever seen locally, the latest model is an exercise in restraint. Exterior styling is dominated by the steeply raked windscreen and oversized headlights, and overall it must rate as a comprehensively better looking vehicle than its predecessors.

Interior design does not have the same degree of differentiation from the previous range of cars as the exterior aesthetic has. The centre-console is practically carried over and its buttons are still irritatingly small and fiddly to operate.

Fortunately the Enjoy models have intuitive satellite controls on the steering wheel. In mitigation, the cabin has an airy feel and general fit and finish appears to be of a high standard with nary a rattle or trim detail out of alignment during the test period.


The aesthetic redesign from bulbous city car to grown-up urban warrior has seen a commensurate increase in standard features, too. Our Enjoy trim test cars had interiors kitted out with MP3/iPod-enabled sound systems, cruise-control as well as dual airbags up front.

Luggage space is a capacious 224-litres, which can be enlarged by 135-litres via a protected extra stowage space under the luggage bay floor.

Dynamic safety engineering extras include anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist and cornering brake control. Weighing in at only a touch less than 1.2 tons, the presence of rear drum brakes is understandable.

Under the skin

The 1.4 models are powered by a four-cylinder electronic fuel injected petrol engine producing 66kW and 125Nm; hardly lap-record threatening outputs, but competitive in class nonetheless.

Diesel power is courtesy of a 1.3-litre, four-cylinder direct injection turbodiesel mill producing similar power as the petrol models, but comparatively more torque with 200Nm peaking at a low 1 700r/min.

Manual gearboxes with five- and six-ratios respectively drive the 1.4-litre manual and turbodiesel versions, whilst an old school four-speed self-shifter transfers the power in the 1.4 auto'.

Suspension is via MacPherson struts and anti-roll bars at the front and a torsion beam with trailing arms and coil springs at the rear.

On the road

If you switch over from a Corsa Lite to one of the current Enjoy models you’ll appreciate the appreciable improvements in refinement and reduction in noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.

The current range of Corsa models exhibits class-leading refinement, perhaps representing the most relaxed driving experience in class from a NVH point of view. The seats are comfy, controls light and general visibility good.

From a performance point of the view, the auto' version, sporting only four ratios, is predictably slow. In traffic though, the car is quite painless to drive, and the driveline integration is seamless as a full auto, exhibiting none of the jerkiness that seems to plague smaller-engined cars paired with tip-shift gearboxes.

In five-speed manual trim, the Corsa is a neat drive, the 1.4-litre engine pulling quite willingly in third and fourth gear. Big-car refinement is the most lingering recollection of each driving experience.

In turbodiesel trim, despite the miserly consumption (4.6 l/100 km claimed), a low-on-paper torque peak and six-speed gearbox, performance is simply not up to scratch. Turbo lag is the issue. Low speed in-traffic overtaking or gap-nabbing manoeuvres need to be executed with a sober mind, requiring violent throttle applications as the turbodiesel 1.3-litre takes forever to built up to its 1 700 r/min torque peak.

One salient feature hampering the overall driving experience across all three derivatives tested is the Electro-hydraulic assisted power steering. Light at parking speeds it may be, but there is an inherent, fidgety nervousness around the centre point that necessitates constant corrections at highways speeds.

Although latest Corsa has neat chassis balance – and very resolved ride quality for a small car - the steering never inspires confidence in relation to placing the car on the road.


With market conditions predisposing many buyers to consider smaller model derivates as a primary purchasing decision, the small hatchback market has become forbiddingly competitive.

Although the Mazda2 might look funkier, the Corsa restyling package is an accomplished design – especially attractive in three-door trim – and the low noise levels and overall driving refinement should leave many buyers purchasing 'down' from the medium segment pleasantly surprised.

It’s let down by horrible steering and too much facia familiarity with the previous model though. If you’re keen on a small hatchback turbodiesel though, it’s the newest kid on the block…


  • Refinement
  • Quality
  • Interior space
  • Intangible power steering
  • Hardly a swift city-car anymore


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