When reader James wanted a small workhorse with enough grunt to do its job with ease, he decided to go with the "prettier" option.
It's always a hot topic among the passionate: Ford's Fiesta or Opel's Corsa; Focus ST or Astra OPC; Bantam or Corsa Ute. They are just two makes out of the hordes of choices, with both releasing a huge variety of overpriced, yet good quality, rides on our shores.
When I first saw the Opel Corsa Utility in 2004 I was truly amazed at how far this Brazillian hand-me-down had come from its predecessor. Some might disagree, but I thought when comparing the sub-tonner with all the rest, this was, well, just prettier.
In 2007 I bought the 1.8l Base model and haven't felt an inkling of regret since. As far as aesthetically-pleasing mini-bakkies go, this one just looks a little "meatier" (for lack of a better word).
Opel released this model with a low-choice ratio to the rest - only a handful of colours, two engine types (1.4i and 1.8i) and three divisions, from the Base, to Club and Sport models. Even the price increase as you went up a model or engine seemed fixed around R20 000. Power steering standard on all models.
All this leaves what I can only describe as beauty in simplicity. I needed a good quality car that, when I drove it, actually felt like I was driving, not floating. I didn't want half the price of the vehicle to go to ABS, airbags, aircon, electric windows and a host of acronyms that
only really come into play when you put it into a wall.
Keep it simple
I also didn't need a car that has to go to dealer every time the clock is out. I wanted a good quality basic car with a stiff suspension to feel the road, and maybe a little juice under the hood to add pleasure to the experience.
The Ute is all that and more. The square sided exterior panels fit together nicely and really look good; they seem to give the bakkie a character and uniqueness of its own opposed to some other makes that leverage off their sister design concepts. Honestly, the Bantam looks exactly like the old Fiesta with a different rear, inside and outside.
I suppose the Ute is meant to be used more as a tugboat than a street racer. Even though Opel ripped the GSI motor out and shoved it in there, the 1.8-litre motor still has somewhat average go-power.
It churns out 79 kW and 160 Nm at 2 600 r/min, covers 0 - 100 km in 9.78 seconds and has a 185-km/h top speed, all of which isn't excessive but is fun. It allows you to load up fully and still have an easy drive, as well as the ability to overtake two cars and a truck going uphill with ease if you need to. It has the best loading capacity in its sector with a payload of 840kg - apparently. Consumption is also average for a 1.8 motor, so there's nothing special there.
Considering the car is aimed closely at the business sector needing a runaround workhorse, Opel has cleverly accepted that some will take it for personal use so they have compromised on its interior.
Sparse, but practical
The Base model, being the cheapest, has vinyl seats and rather cheapish-looking plastic, but the layout is okay. The Club and Sport models share better interiors.
There's enough space behind the seats for a couple of speaker boxes, maybe an amp, a jack and toolkit, as well as a laptop. This cannot be easily seen from the outside. The spare wheel is under the load bay and uses a pulley system that locks cleverly under the rear bay door so that it cannot easily be nicked without unlocking that door first. Nice one Opel.
Lastly, I'm not sure if the engineers struck it by pure dumb luck or if they really meant it, but the exhaust note is bliss. It really sounds like a beast of a machine from the inside, yet is not too noisy. It still corners like a bakkie though, so don't get too exited.
The verdict here is that the Corsa Ute is a very well designed, cheap, durable donkey with affordable services. It's truly something you can use to load five bags, garden chairs, a braai, a set of golf clubs and a whole lot more (except the kids) to head out on a three-week holiday to nowhere.
Also, it has all the pros of driving a bakkie in the city with none of the cons, such as needing a four-litre V6 to slug your way to work every day.
Affordable in all areas
Attractive in comparison
It's a bakkie, and it eats Bantam bakkies (shame they just keep trying)
A dream on dirt roads
Base model has rather cheapish plastic interior
Rather cheap feeling interior dials / controls
It's supplied and serviced by GM
I wonder if Opel ever considered a Ute OPC?