Vauxhall Corsa VXR Nurburgring Edition

Depressing isn’t it, to find the name of the world’s greatest track appended to that of what is by some distance not the world’s greatest hatch? What next? The Kia Picanto Nürburgring? The Tata Nano Nürburgring? And why have other circuits not been dragged into it? A yellow Ferrari Francorchamps might be quite nice to have tucked away somewhere.

I digress. Forget the word association game; fact is I’d not be gracing these pages with a Vauxhall Corsa if its only point of interest was an ill-judged addition to its name. In fact Vauxhall has given this Corsa a specification that should interest anyone with a penchant for hot hatchery. It starts with the 202bhp liberated from its 1600 engine, continues with some bespoke Bilstein suspension developed on a certain rather long German race track, collects a limited slip differential on the way and concludes with a new and powerful Brembo brake system. It certainly sounds very serious.

In fact it’s rather funny. I’ve only driven one on a race track but was at first amused and then shortly after enthused by the thing. It feels properly quick, deploys its power effectively and grips keenly to any given corner.

So I should probably have left it at that. But the thing with driving small mass-produced hatches like this on race tracks is that the temptation to drive them not on the limit but some distance beyond is invariably overwhelming. For this I blame Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams for once showing me what happened if you turned into Silverstone’s Stowe corner in a Renault Clio Williams without braking. Naturally the car started to spin but as soon as he had piled on all the opposite lock there was, he just nailed the throttle pedal to the floor, it snapped straight and off we went again.

Mete out such abuse to the Corsa and you’ll soon find it lacks the finesse to cope. It gets ragged and twitchy, and while it’s fun for a while, you soon learn it’s better just to drive within itself.

Who should care that its composure falls apart under such provocation? Probably no one, but that’s what you expose yourself to if you name your car after the world’s greatest race track. The Corsa is undoubtedly the best VXR product I’ve tried, but those who pondered what moniker to apply are not the first to make the mistake of writing a cheque the car can’t cash.

Andrew Frankel