Tuesday 29th November 2011


We loved the Opel version; how does it translate to RHD, B-roads and a Griffin badge?

Vauxhall, it's probably fair to say, has a bit of an image problem when it comes to hot hatches. However unfair it may be to the Luton Griffin, which has produced its fair share of decent fast hatches over the years, there is a general perception that hot Vauxhalls are driven by 'the wrong sort'.

Thus, while Renault basks in the glow of being perceived as a genuine 'enthusiast's brand', Vauxhall is illuminated by the sodium glare of the Maccy-Dee car park. This seems to be particularly true of the Corsa VXR - which is especially harsh since the little Vauxhall, although not as deliciously chuckable as a Renaultsport Clio, has always been a fine hot hatch.

The Corsa VXR Nurburgring is Vauxhall's (or more accurately Opel's) answer to that, a statement of intent from GM that says 'we are about a lot more than torque steer, turbos and body kits'.

And you have to say Vauxhall has gone to some considerable effort to make its point. There is a Drexler mechanical limited-slip differential, stiffer progressive-rate springs, monotube Bilstein dampers and revised bump stops. These changes make the car 20mm lower at the front and 15mm lower at the rear. There are new four-pot calipers on the front brakes, while ventilation has been increased for all four discs, and the forged wheels are half an inch wider but shave 200g off the weight at each corner.

Power-wise there's 205hp (versus 192hp for the standard car) and 207lb ft of torque from 2250-5500rpm, meaning a properly Clio-chasing 0-60mph in 6.5secs and 143mph top speed.

The big question is, of course, whether the Corsa Nurburgring can face up to the epic little terrier of a hot hatch that is the Renaultsport Clio on Good-ol' British B-roads. When he tested it at the Euro Speedway Lausitz for us, Adam Towler reckoned that it just might. So were his hopes justified?

The short - if infuriating - answer is yes and no. Yes, because the little Corsa is so much more planted than the standard car - put it into a tight, bumpy corner as hard as you dare and it will simply turn in and grip, dealing with the ripples, ruts and scars of the road surface with extraordinary flair for one so small. Yes, because even though the steering is a bit lightweight it's still super-keen to change direction, and accurate with it.

Yes, because it offers a decent chunk of power. Yes, because the Recaro seats are great and because you can get a pretty darn decent driving position from the hugely adjustable wheel, though there is always a whiff of one-box MPV.

So why no? Why doesn't the Corsa quite stack up against the hardcore Clio? Well, without a proper back-to-back comparison we wouldn't like to say anything categorically, but there is a sense that, although on an objective level it would be hard to separate the two cars, subjectively the Corsa is still a tiny bit remote. It's still a fine hot hatch and we're still blown away by its abilities - it's like saying Marlowe isn't quite the playwright Shakespeare is - but the Clio is just that bit more visceral, that bit more alive.

There's also the small matter of image - we don't want to sound like car snobs, but there is something about a fast Vauxhall that makes many people turn their noses up, VXR8 and Monaro arguably excepted. One of my neighbours, in fact, felt the need to come over and tell me that the Corsa Nurburgring was lowering the tone of the street and that I should move it. He was joking, of course, but that he still felt the need to bring up the subject is telling.

But the killer for the Corsa is price. The hardcore version of the Clio - the Cup - costs £16,930, less than the standard car. The Corsa VXR Nurburgring costs £22,295. That's three-and-a-bit grand more than the cooking VXR. And that's a lot of money for a Vauxhall supermini, no matter how you cut it.

Author: Riggers