2004 Opel Corsa Classic 1.4
Author: John Oxley
The Opel Corsa has made a big impact since it was totally updated - with more space and new styling - in October 2002. At the time we described it as "a quantum leap" and that it certainly has been.
Sales of the hatch and sedan versions combined total around 1 300 cars a month, and this makes the
Corsa SA's fifth best-selling model range after the top guns from Toyota and Volkswagen.
The latest Corsa is built on Opel's global chassis, but the sedan design completely originates from Brazil.
The sedan is much more evolved than the previous model, and now looks more unique as a model and less like a "hatchback with a boot".
I've also heard some pundits refer to the Corsa as a "baby Astra", and in style terms this is in fact what the car is. The Corsa's bonnet design has the same stylish curves and lines as the Astra, and also the same solid feeling.
But there is nothing "baby" about the space it offers. Head, shoulder and legroom are good for a car of this size.
And then there is the very spacious boot! It offers 432 litres of space, and if you drop the back seats this increases to 742 litres. This compares very well with bigger cars such as the Astra, the VW Jetta and even the BMW 3-series.
As far as its core design features are concerned, the sculpted bonnet gives a modern and aggressive look, while the neat tail has a built-in spoiler on the boot and huge taillights for that hint of sportiness.
When does "neat and tidy" become "bland"? That's a question you'll have to ask yourself with the Corsa, for there's rather too much black plastic trim, especially on the dashboard and centre console, with the bright shiny red hazard warning flasher button one of the few relieving features.
That said, the dashboard is nicely laid out, with speedo and revcounter as well as water and temperature gauges in the driver binnacle, and logical controls for heating and ventilation on the centre console.
The "hang-down" section of the console is neat, with the built-in radio/front loader CD an extra cost option. The glovebox doesn't lock.
Space in front is good, and the car is wider than the previous model so you don't touch shoulders with your passenger, while headroom and legroom are slightly better than the segment norm, back and front - but it's still better to sit shorter people in the rear.
The Corsa Classic 1.4 Comfort specification includes remote central locking, including the fuel filler; driver's side airbag; a convenience light for the luggage compartment; and a triple information display for external temperature, date and time.
Electric power steering is standard as is pre-installed wiring for a cell phone, and there's a vehicle security system with passive immobiliser.
The instrument cluster includes a rev counter and a headlight on warning buzzer. Seat coverings are Jacquard cloth. Windows are tinted all round and the laminated front windscreen has a shade band across the top for added comfort. Air conditioning is installed
Wheels are 14 inch steel fitted with 175/65 x TR14 tyres, while the wheel covers are bolt on.
All Opel Corsas are covered by a 36 month/100 000 km warranty. Anti-corrosion cover is provided for 36 months.
Under the skin
The Corsa 1.4 is powered by Opel's proven 1 398 cm³ fuel-injected engine which produces 66 kW at 6 200 r/min and 115 Nm of torque at 3 200 r/min.
Delta's fuel consumption tests show an overall fuel consumption of 6.8 litres/100 km at 100 km/h for this model.
The front suspension features MacPherson struts with subframe-mounted lower wishbones, an anti-roll bar, and gas-filled shock absorbers.
At the back there's a torsion beam axle with mini block coil springs, an anti-roll bar and, again, gas shocks.
There are 260 mm ventilated disc brakes at the front and 200 mm drums rear.
The 1.4-litre engine kicks out a remarkable amount of grunt for its size, and this particularly shows on long hills.
The car also impressed with its ride comfort - the longer wheelbase and extensive suspension mods made by local engineers have worked wonders with this car. That oft-maligned description "big car ride" certainly applies on the latest Corsa, while handling is crisp and positive.
We were also impressed by the very low noise levels, both mechanical and road noise, as well as an absence of intrusive wind noise.
Light steering makes the Corsa a doddle to slot into tight parking bays, but the car feels a bit numb at speed.
The controls operate cleanly, although the gearchange is a little rubbery. Good rearward visibility makes parking simple, but thick windscreen pillars obscure too much of the road ahead. Large door bins and a centre cubby aid storage.
The car feels solid and well put together, and there were no rattles on the test car.
The Corsa competes in a segment of the market where there is a steadily-increasing number of new entrants, each wanting their slice of the action.
That said, the Corsa's direct opposition, in terms of numbers, is the Volkswagen Polo, and it holds its head up remarkably well.
It is a well put together car, and has the advantage of being assembled right here in South Africa, ensuring good parts backup.
At the same time it's an easy and uncomplicated car to work on, and offers low overall running costs - which of course, includes fair resale values.
However, GMSA's policy of offering cheaper Chev-badged Daewoo models in the same segment can't help the Corsa's case at all.
Neat and stylish design
Good performance and economy
Glovebox doesn't lock