Coarser Corsa



Reach for those earplugs. Vauxhall’s Nova replacement has arrived. The old name has been ditched in favour of the Corsa handle which has adorned the equivalent Opel for several years.

Until the 1.6-litre GSi (with 110 bhp) comes on stream later in the year, the Corsa range is topped by the 82 bhp SRi, priced at £8900.

In some ways, the Corsa is redolent of the Mini Cooper. The suspension thumps and crashes over surface variations, the ride can be jarring and the engine is louder than the interior trim, which looks as though it was designed by someone let loose with a machine-gun loaded with Jelly Tots. At an indicated 80 mph, ie typical motorway cruising speed, the Corsa positively shrieks along at 4500 rpm. And though the engine is relatively punchy, assisted in part by a close quintet of ratios, you need to keep it fizzing above 4000 rpm if you want to make best use of the available grunt. For masochists and/or the aurally insensitive, you can take it all the way to 6500 rpm before a limiter brings merciful relief.

Thing was, you could always forgive a Cooper its noisy shortcomings on account of its vim and agility. The Corsa, in this guise at least, has neither attribute. The steering is slow and uncommunicative, the turn-in lazy. The driving position is a touch unsatisfactory, too; the pedals are off-set to the left, and anybody with large feet, or wearing broad-soled shoes, will have trouble distinguishing between the intrusive front right wheel-arch and the throttle pedal.

In Vauxhall’s defence, the car on trial was a pre-production Corsa, so showroom examples may have been relieved of a few rough edges.

Externally, GM claims it has produced “a soft, friendly, progressive shape for the ’90s without resorting to the retro-look which can alienate young male drivers”. Must say, I haven’t noticed the ‘retro-look’ putting too many blokes of the MX-5. To my eyes, the Corsa has a mildly archaic chic, similar to that deployed by Mazda (on the 121) and Nissan (on the Micra). The modern small car is rapidly becoming a self-caricature; you used to see this sort of thing doodled in schoolkids’ notebooks. Judging by the warmth of the reception for the new Micra, the Corsa too should score points for cuteness appeal.

Footwell apart, it’s roomy enough indoors, and although much of the instrumentation and switchgear is familiar, there are some nice new touches. The radio data display, for instance, is in a binnacle at the top of the dashboard, alongside the digital clock and a couple of feet above the sombre black Grundig control panel. The information is more easily digested than with more conventional stereos. Less satisfactory, and a GM fault of long-standing, is the absence from the main dash panel of a warning light to alert you that the rear fog-lamp is operative. Instead, the only signal is contained within the on/off switch, which is obscured from view by one’s right hand.

The gearchange is firm and positive, though you can’t hurry shifts through the wide gate. Brakes are reasonably effective, though there is a perceptible time-lag between depression of the pedal and the onset of retardation.

Summing up, this latest Corsa is reasonably vivacious, but a touch too crude to be enjoyably so. Hopefully, the GSi 16v will be kinder on the ears when it finally comes on stream. S A