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Tested: Corsa OPC

2008-12-03 08:31
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Opel
Engine 1.6l, turbocharged
Power 141kW @ 5 850r/min
Torque 230Nm @ 1 980-5 850r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 7.2 seconds
Top Speed 225km/h
Fuel Consumption 9.8l/100km
Airbags Six
Tyres 225/35 R18
Front Suspension McPherson-struts with A-frame arm and coil springs
Rear Suspension Compound crank with linear cylindrical coil springs
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan 3 year/60 000km
Warranty 3 year/100 000km
Price R243 950
Rivals Renault Clio Sport

Lance Branquinho

A contemporary, spiritual successor to the legendary Opel Superboss.

Opel acolytes might scoff at such an inference, but in the sanitised world of 2008 – versus 1990 Superboss vintage – the Corsa OPC, with its crash safety credentials, ‘officer-please-arrest-me’ styling and turbocharged power, is as naughty a hot hatch blend as regulations will allow.

Though smaller than its Astra OPC sibling, the Corsa runs it close in the performance stakes, without sacrificing any of the visual drama so dear to most hot hatch aficionado’s.

What’s it about?

It’s a hot hatch, suburbia’s idea of what a performance car should be. It goes quickly (loudly too, if possible) in an outrageously styled three-door body configuration, which can still be justified to your partner (and insurance company) as possessing redeeming hatchback practically.

Opel has a proud (Superboss) and sometimes notorious (200ts) history of hot hatch performance models locally.

Entry level hatchbacks have seen a significant increase in equipment levels, NVH refinement and safety specification - pandering to the demands of middle segment buyers engaging in a downward purchasing trend.

It was only a matter of time before a suitable performance orientated range of small hatchbacks was intruded to woo repayment strained larger hot hatch owners.

Subsequently the Opel performance hatch heritage is writing a new chapter locally, albeit in a slightly smaller - though by no means less dramatic – font in the guise of the Corsa OPC.


Aesthetic balance and proportions have never been hallowed concepts underpinning the styling principles of hot hatch design; Corsa OPC is no different.

Adorned with all means of body Tupperware, OPC’s cut-out front and rear bumper gills, its pseudo aerodynamic rear-diffuser and deep cut front spoiler (housing triangular fog lights) render a presence about as inconspicuous as Johan Stemmet’s Noot Vir Noot shirts…

Point is, the standard Corsa is a thoroughly decent looking car, and not in the bulbous, city-car styling scheme of things.

The rakish profile has been fleshed out and detailed very neatly with the OPC kit, and for the kind of buyer active in the hot hatch market, it should be mighty appealing – especially considering local buyers are spoilt with 18-inch standard alloys, whilst all other markets make due with 17-inch mags. You forgo a full-size spare wheel - or even space saver - for a tyre-repair kit though.

On the inside

Inside it’s very much traditional Corsa fare – catering to a slightly lower common aesthetic denominator. A flat-slap Corsa centre console (with those irritatingly undersized buttons and control surfaces) is embellished by coloured air vent surrounds.

A thick rimmed sports steering wheel with thumb-grips and aluminium drilled pedal set further bolster the boy racer feel.

As ornate as the exterior styling package is, the interior – bar perhaps the Recaro bucket seats and thick rimmed steering wheel – fails to extend the OPC theme. The coloured air vent surrounds have a cheap, aftermarket feel whilst the glossy, piano-key centre console surface finish looks odd, and registers fingerprint residue diligently with each touch.

Although tangibly a fantastic item to steer with, thanks to its ergonomic rim design, featuring thumb grips, the steering wheel, with it’s squared off pseudo-aluminium bottom insert, featuring an OPC motif, is simply beyond tacky…

Beyond the embellished pseudo-racing trim items, those Recaro bucket seats are adjustable in six ways, quashing any ergonomic doubts concerning race-style bucket seats being either uncomfortable or hindering rear-seat access. Infotainment benefits from an auxiliary input for MP3/iPod, whilst the multifunction steering wheel keeps audio functionality within thumb reach.

Safety is catered for by six airbags; dual front and side, augmented by a front curtain set-up.

On the road

Fortunately the Corsa OPC is not a plastic-fantastic styling exercise majoring on driveway appeal without any dynamic substance.

Emission certified and suitably downsized, the 1.6l turbocharged in-line four delivers 141kW at 5 850r/min, and 230Nm of torque between 1 980 – 5 850r/min – with 266Nm allegedly available on ‘overboost’ for short bursts of peak performance.

Scrutinise those figures and you’ll surmise the Corsa OPC is a hot hatch of the new school, where in-gear flexibility and linear acceleration (not to mention low-speed driveability) are the hallmarks, instead of tachometer red-line markings the far side of 7 000r/min.

Featuring revised camshaft timing overlap (reduced from 232-degrees to 223-degrees) and an exhaust manifold integrated turbocharger - jointly developed by Opel and Borg Warner - performance is keen without being frantic.

The turbocharged engine characteristics ensure there’s always a wedge of torque to speed one along, and though 0-100km/h figures in the mid seven second bracket and 225km/h top speed credibility are fine to brag about at a braai, the overall driving experience is garnished with uncanny refinement.

Riding 15mm lower than the rest of the Corsa range, the OPC has been Nurburgring tuned (a veritable rite of passage for all and sundry these days) and subsequently features revised rear-axle geometry and more enthusiast biased ESP.

Mercifully, the maddening standard Corsa power steering – which requires constant highway speed correction – has been recalibrated; the OPC sports a straight tracking ratio of 13:1, and 90-degree angle ratio (the average performance turn-in steering angle) recalibrated to 11,8:1.

Handling is well sorted, though the short wheelbase can unnerve inexperienced drivers who leave their braking too late on turn-in – quite easy to do too, as the 308 mm ventilated discs up front and 264 mm solid discs at the rear provide massively reassuring stopping power.

Although the turn-in behaviour and feedback lacks the linear nature of a Clio Sport, and body roll comes into the question on occasion, overall lateral grip is monumental; it requires huge resolve to upset the Corsa OPC at medium to high speeds.

The reprogrammed ESP does attempt to blend the turbocharged torque delivery and prodigious grip levels, but at times, in tight corners or uneven surfaces, the inside front wheel does spin away momentum, generating understeer and ruining the overall handling fluidity. I would love the Corsa OPC with a genuine mechanical limited-slip front differential…


Small car, big presence. Featuring styling perfectly on cue for the hot hatch brigade, and sporting surprisingly palatable driving refinement, Corsa OPC is a hot hatch for our credit crunched, polar-icecap melting world.

Unnerved by a sense of trepidation downsizing from your big-boy hot hatch will incur a significant performance penalty? Let me dissuade you.

The Corsa OPC is plenty quick, and its open road overtaking capability (surely the most important real-world performance yardstick) benefits greatly from forced induction power.

I have no qualms concerning the exterior styling package - besides the triangular exhaust idea they nicked from Honda’s Civic hatch. It’s a hot hatch, it’s supposed to look brash - you hardly expect Corsa OPC to go on display at the Guggenheim museum of modern art.

The interior, despite being a focused driving environment with the ergonomically tailored bucket seats and steering wheel combo, is trimmed in downright dubious taste though.

Contain your boost addiction powering out of slower corners, and it makes a great little point-and-shoot hot hatch; with ample low-rev torque to trundle down from Jozi to Cape Town come December.

Although the Renault Clio Sport is still the more linear handling, fluid drive, if you live on the Reef, the forced induction OPC is probably the hottest small hatch of the batch.

If money was no object though, there is something Mini, but might impressive about a JCW, but although similar in size, the R67 550 price difference is simply too vast in the current financial climate.


- Looks like a proper hot hatch
- Goes like a pocket rocket
- Oddly refined when driven placidly
- Awesome Recaro seats


- Having to change up before 6 000r/min in a hot hatch
- Torque induced front-wheel drive wheel scrabble
- Aftermarket interior appointments
- Central exhaust – where’s the tow bar going to fit?



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