Vauxhall Corsa VXR – Pocket Rocket
We have always admired Vauxhall for offering performance editions of its regular cars. As far back as 1966, when Vauxhall produced the then very desirable Viva GT, which was followed by the 2300cc Magnum and droop snoot Firenza, right through the a whole range of GTE products including the superb 16v Astras , the GSI versions of Cavalier and V6 Turbo Vectra and of course, who could forget the phenomenal 3.6 Twin Turbo Lotus Carlton, which touched 176mph and hit 60mph in just 5.1 seconds.
For years, Vauxhall have been a stalwart of the motor sport scene in the UK, with many wins in both in rallying rallycross and of course in The British Touring Car Championship, where since first competing in 1989 Vauxhall have won 7 overall drivers championships. Things haven’t changed much as this years BTCC champion Fabrizio Giovanardi won the title at the wheel of a Vectra, so its pretty clear Vauxhall are still at the top of the pile when it comes to building fast saloon cars.
So we are talking pedigree here!
In recent years, Vauxhalls performance vehicles have been branded as VXR , which includes vehicles such as Corsa VXR, Meriva VXR, Astra VXR, Zafira VXR, Vectra VXR and of course the stupidly fast 6 litre 414bhp VXR8.
We tested 3 of the fast Vauxhalls (see other road tests) but this test is all about the baby of the group, the pretty little Corsa VXR.
You have to say, the Corsa VXR is not a subtle car in terms of appearance and it wants the whole world to know that it’s something special so it’s going to shout about it. OK, some might say it looks a little “Max Power” or perhaps that Vauxhall raided the parts bin at Halfords to build it, but that’s OK, as there is just no need to fork out for an aftermarket body kit, when the Corsa VXR looks this good.
Triangles seem to have been the order of the day for the Corsa’s designers, and we wonder if they had a Toblerone fetish or perhaps just had some Dairylea in their packed lunches as they are everywhere, around the front fogs, supporting the door mirrors, forming the mesh in the front grilles and even the horny looking exhaust tailpipe is triangular. The front and rear valances have tasty looking louvers on their outer edges and at the rear, there is a Formula One style aerodynamic diffuser. Of course the car has the obligatory fat sills and rear wing perched on top of the tail gate. Another nice touch is the bright blue disc callipers that indicate the car is a bit special.
It’s pretty much the same story inside the Corsa VXR, Its exciting, there is a lot going on. Our car was fitted with Leather Recaro Shell Backed sports seats (like racing car seats) which were heated but these come in at a heavy £1000 option. The racing car theme is extended to the leather steering which has a flat bottomed rim and a rally car style straight ahead marker at top dead centre (maybe not too everyone’s taste). The wheel also houses the controls for the cars stereo and information centre. The dash is very attractive with clearly laid out instrumentation and this fabulous little trick where all of the dial needles run up to maximum when you turn the ignition on, then drop back and you can forgive anything of any car that does this for our money.
Sensibly though, as the driver, you do feel a sense of space inside the car and it’s light and airy and really feels like a much bigger car. The Recaro seats are hugely supportive and are super comfortable, particularly when you are chucking this little car around country roads.
Our car had the optional 18” alloys, which cost around £400 extra and whilst the bigger alloys have been criticised by some reviewers who claim they spoil the ride of the car and I have to tell you, we don’t agree with them, as we found the ride to be superb and frankly, we would be prepared to suffer a little worse ride in return for the way these big hunks of alloy looked when bolted onto our black Corsa.
So is the Corsa VXR all show and no go? Far from it, as somehow, Vauxhall have managed to coax out an amazing 192ps from the 1.6 engine and Vauxhall say this will push this pocket rocket from 0-60 in just 6.8 seconds and all the way up to 140mph if you had a legal road to try it on. This is a proper little racer.
We think the Corsa VXR blows its rivals away on both price and performance and for us, it represents the best value small hot hatch on the market.
I guess the closest competitor to the Corsa VXR is the Renaultsport Clio 197 and we recently tested the 197 Clio (see road test on this website) and although we loved its subtle and serious styling, the car just didn’t get looks or admiring glances the Corsa got and being honest, the 197 Clio, looks really understated when sat side beside the “somethings going on everywhere” VXR Corsa. Another thing we got tired of with the Clio was having to rev the thing so hard to get it to perform, even when trying to pull away from the traffic lights it had to be a big foot full of revs to get it to go the way you would expect, where as the Corsa VXR is like the faithful old Labrador grabbing its lead and jumping up you saying take me for a walk, take me for a walk, its eager to go somewhere, you don’t need to force it to go.
We felt the Corsa VXR was less compromised than the very small Mini and was more practical and easier to get moving than the Clio 197. We were not offered a Peugeot 207GT to test, but looking at the published figures, its not even close in terms of performance, so that takes it out.
In terms of practicality (we hadn’t forgotten that) the Corsa produces a CO2 of 190g/km and whilst that’s lower than most of its competitors, it is going to kill your flowers when you pull up your driveway. Vauxhall claim an average MPG of 35.8 which however is not bad for a 190bhp car.
We think the Corsa VXR is the finished item. We thought it was smooth and refined and offered stacks of space inside for a small car. The Corsa definitely has a “big car” ride and feel about it in a way the other baby hot hatches don’t and all round, it just feels like a civilised car (despite clearly being looney in many other ways) and of course, it’s effectively a Corsa, so it’s easy to drive, cheap to repair and has a proper warranty.
At just £15625 on the road, the Corsa VXR represents great value for money package. However if you have a bigger budget, you can spec the car up a bit by adding 18” wheels at £400, Leather Recaro’s at £1000, Climate Control at £275, Adaptive Forward Lighting at £250, Rear Parking Sensors at £250, Metallic Paint at £350, a Sight & Light Pack at £150, a Bluetooth Mobile Phone Preparation at £300, a 6 Disc CD Auto-changer at £400 or a Satellite Navigation system at £975.
So you could if you wished, take your Corsa VXR price up to £19,575 by specifying all the toys. But then you are marching into Ford Focus ST country and sorry if we were then faced with that decision, there would then be no contest as we would grab the absolutely superb Focus ST.
Buying cars for most of us is controlled by the price and with its £15,625 price tag, the Corsa VXR offers stonking value for money. It definitely doesn’t need all the extra bits and frankly, if you fit them, well you’re not going to get any more back for the car when you sell it, so you would be stupid to do so. If you like this car, buy it for what it is and buy it as it comes out of the box.
Vauxhall have for many years consistently offered performance for the masses in a way no other manufacturer has done. Even today, pound for pound, nobody can match Vauxhalls range of performance products. OK, other manufacturers have the odd performance model such as Ford’s ST Focus or Subaru’s Impreza Turbo, but no one offers a performance version in every model across the range in the way Vauxhall do.
Good work Vauxhall.
For a quotation on the Corsa VXR or on any other car in the Vauxhall range, please contact us.