First Drive: Vauxhall Corsa GSi – 6/10

Despite an all new version in the pipeline scheduled for later next year, the Corsa remains a strong seller in the range. To keep the interest flowing a new sporting model has been introduced – the GSi 1.4 Turbo but this one is cheaper to get into.

I have just sampled the car at the Bruntingthorpe proving ground…

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The new Vauxhall Corsa GSi – from £18,995
This year marks two anniversaries for Vauxhall Motors Ltd. Firstly, the Corsa has reached twenty five years in production (originally launched in 1993) and the GSi brand title marks thirty years in 2018. After a few years being mothballed the GSi title was re-introduced earlier this year with the Insignia GSi. Now we have the Corsa GSi – a three door sporty themed 1.4 turbocharged pocket rocket that hopes to muscle into a piece of the action against successful rivals like the Ford Fiesta ST and Suzuki Swift.

From a distance, this new model almost emulates the recently discontinued VXR model which we all know about, but despite the equally sporting GSi title this one is all about reaching out to a bigger audience by being a touch more cost effective. Its powered by a re-mapped version of the 1.4 turbo that features heavily in the current Corsa, Astra and Mokka X. Power stats are upped to 148bhp and 162Lbft of torque – both figures being considerably less than the outgoing 1.6 VXR model… but that’s the gist of the exercise to be fair.

“it really does look like a VXR from ten paces… just don’t look at or mention the exhaust tailpipe and its easy to fool your chums into thinking you’ve bought something much more lavish, expensive and considerably more powerful”

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If it wasn’t for the exhaust tailpipe you’d be struggling to differentiate the GSi for the VXR
From a looks point of view, I think Vauxhall have pretty much achieved what they set out to do. I love the false air scoop on the leading edge of the bonnet and the optional 18″ diamond cut alloys have a nice pattern that really emphasis the get up and go nature of the GSi title.  Many will notice the front bumper, side skirts and back spoiler from before – as mentioned above, it really does look like a VXR from ten paces… just don’t look at or mention the exhaust tailpipe and its easy to fool your chums into thinking you’ve bought something much more lavish, expensive and considerably more powerful.

“I noticed the pleating of the leather reminded me of a similar pattern found on the classic Viva HB GT that dates back to late 1960s – did someone at Vauxhall demand this touch or is it purely my old age and imagination playing tricks on me?” 

The demonstration cars came with some lovely looking optional Recaro sports seats. I noticed the pleating of the leather reminded me of a similar pattern found on the classic Viva HB GT that dates back to late 1960s – did someone at Vauxhall demand this touch or is it purely my old and age imagination playing tricks on me? Either way, its a nice interior that feels well screwed and glued together. Other little detail touches included a chequered flag detail embossed into the tacho and speedometer, sporting alloy pedals and a small and chunky leather trimmed steering wheel.

Its driving position is decent enough and all the current Corsa ergonomics still remain. Owing to the stature and size of the sports seats, getting into the back isn’t the easiest or most dignified affair and some may grumble about the fact the GSi only comes in a three door flavour. Personally I don’t think that’s a bad thing as I reckon the three door looks far far better as a shape and is still passable even now… despite the current Corsa silhouette dating back to late 2006. Notable points I found displeasing were the clutch pedal being too high and over the shoulder visibility marred by the wide wing back effect of the front seats.

Out on the road the urban ride is firm and fidgety although the age demographics of customers will probably not mind this too much. Vauxhall made great play on the day about the GSi having a specially developed Koni damping system and specific suspension bushings developed in alliance with Opel engineers in Germany. These unique dampers feature performance specific valves to combat unsettling ride effects at higher speeds on undulating roads. As mentioned, the urban ride is very stiff but once some speed is dialled in the car rides rather well be it on the highway or a more demanding B road.

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Familiar Corsa dynamics still work well but starting to look out of date. Good ergonomics are still strong points but I wasn’t impressed with the gearshift action or the high clutch pedal. Monochrome computer display on the instrument panel looks dull but I like the chequer flag effect to speedometer and rev counter – a subtle touch of detail.
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Quick Vauxhalls and Recaro front seats go back longer than I care to remember. These optional wing backs look the biz and hold you in place. The plaiting of the leather had me dreaming of *Viva HB GT’s and other yesteryear nippy Vauxhall cars – *One for you to Google if you are under the age of 45!
Handling-wise the GSi grips and corners pretty well. The steering has a pleasing weighty sensation at the wheel and the road feel is communicated to your fingertips via the meaty rim. All in all its a decent car to drive and it feels quicker than the 148bhp would have you believe. Unfortunately it was spoilt in my opinion by the test car having a stiff, notchy gearshift quality, a very high clutch pedal and a cumbersome uncomfortable feeling gear knob. The beefed up front brakes do more than the required task of scrubbing off the speed without being too sharp or fierce around town – a tough balance to achieve normally.

“…economy and Co2 stats fall behind class rivals it must be said. However the younger age of driver this model is out to court may well care less for carbon footprints… perhaps worrying more about burnt rubber and looking good at the drive-thru”

In honesty there’s a lot in the cars favour. Firstly the price is on a par or undercuts main rivals like the Ford Fiesta ST and Polo GT by considerable amount – £4k in the case of the Volkswagen. Secondly, the Insurance group of 20E also gets a younger age of driver behind the wheel – its also reasonably well equipped too. Its economy and Co2 stats fall behind class rivals it must be said. However the younger age of driver this model is out to court may well care less for carbon footprints… perhaps worrying more about burnt rubber and looking good at the drive-thru. Bless `em… I was the same at their age!

The all important figures tell us of a 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds and a maximum just shy of 130mph – not earth shattering but as I have mentioned already it feels much quicker than it really is. I drove it on a mixed road 65 mile route that included most types of road, I found it peppy, grippy and good fun. All in all it feels safe, solid, secure and refined when cruising. Not the best all round warm hatchback but the GSi brand has its followers, it still looks cute and will hopefully keep the interest in the model until its all new replacement comes along… later next year.

WHATS GREAT:)

  • Feels a lot faster than it actually is
  • Lovely engine note when you push that little bit harder
  • Entertaining handling and grip with pleasingly little under-steer
  • Good overall build quality inside and out
  • Refined when cruising at motorway speeds
  • Low insurance costs (20E)
  • Mid to top end power delivery is smile inducing
  • Excellent brakes

WHAT GRATES:(

  • Lack of driver safety assistance technology
  • Corsa dynamics starting to show its age in some areas
  • Monochrome instrument graphics look dull compared to most of its rivals
  • Below class economy & Co2 figures
  • Gearshift action feels stiff and imprecise
  • Some rough urban roads or bad pot holes really shake your bones
  • Optional Recaro chairs are snug but hinder over-shoulder visibility

 

QUICK STATS:

Price:    From £18,995

Power / Torque:    148bhp with 162Lbft from 2750rpm

Performance:    *0-60 in 8.9 seconds with 128mph max

Economy / Co2:    *49.6mpg combined / 139G/km

Available From:    In the dealers now

For more information of the Corsa GSi or Vauxhall range CLICK HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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