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Friday 10th August 2012

Blood Brothers: Corsa VXR vs MiTo

Not the first hot hatch pairing that comes to mind. But these two actually share more in common than you might think



Let’s be honest, the humble Vauxhall Corsa has never been a thing of beauty, not does it possess a badge that that arouses great passion in PH circles. Yet as the second best-selling car in Britain it simply cannot be ignored - especially when GM goes to such lengths to make its baby hatchback more viscerally appealing. I’m talking of course about their latest Corsa VXR Nurburgring pocket rocket.

Refined on the Nordschleife, it propels the Corsa VXR from pretty warm to genuinely hot hatch and has elevated the unassuming Corsa to new-found heights of celebrity. Vauxhall must be absolutely delighted. But at £22,295 this top-of-the-range VXR Nurburgring Edition has now set itself against far more illustrious opposition, leaving the significantly better value £18,910 VXR to battle it out against rivals like the MINI Cooper S, SEAT Ibiza Cupra and Alfa Romeo’s MiTo Cloverleaf.

All four claim the same tried and tested approach – a turbocharged low-capacity high-efficiency motor mated to a three-door front-drive chassis. But whilst the Corsa VXR is the earthiest of the bunch, the Alfa Romeo MiTo Cloverleaf is undoubtedly the most cultured. Yet bizarrely these two share a platform in common. So what happens when these two distant cousins meet?


Family tree
First unleashed by Vauxhall in March 2007 the 192hp Corsa VXR follows in the footsteps of previous small hot Vauxhalls and traces its ancestry back nearly 25 years to the first Nova SR, which had in turn spawned successive high-performance GTE, GSi and SRi Corsas. With a top speed of 140mph and a sub seven-second 0-60, the three-door VXR is far hotter than any of its predecessors though - and cuts quite a dash with its aggressive bodykit, roof spoiler, triangular exhaust, blue brake calipers and 18-inch alloys. The interior too is seriously pumped up claiming shell-backed Recaros, a chunky flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, drilled alloy pedals and lashings of VXR detailing.

The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine comes with a limited overboost capability too, allowing for maximum torque whenever required and a specially tuned ESP system which optimises the brakes and power steering to the way in which the car is being driven.

Not wishing to rest on its laurels Vauxhall launched a limited edition of 500 Arctic VXRs with Glacier White paint in July 2008. Priced at £16,995 a Remus sports exhaust released an additional 15hp. A further similarly-powered £17,425 VX Racing Edition followed in February 2009 to celebrate VX Racing’s success in the 2008 British Touring Car Championship, whilst Vauxhall tuners Thorney produced its own take on the Corsa VXR theme with a wild 250hp  VXR-R in April 2009. With a Quaife limited-slip differential, adjustable dampers, a Miltek sports exhaust and a liberal remap delivering 290lbs ft of torque at 4,900rpm the £22,495 Thorney version wasn’t cheap – but it was fast. And if you couldn’t afford the asking price it also offered a slightly detuned 220hp VXR-S for a more reasonable £18,295.



Having shown what was possible Vauxhall decided to develop its own in-house equivalent which was eventually launched as the VXR Nurburgring Edition in 2011. With greater power and torque than the standard VXR it also boasts a mechanical limited-slip differential and a specially commissioned Bilstein suspension with expensive dampers and a reduced ride height.

Uprated Brembo brakes, retuned ABS and ESC systems also help to keep the Corsa pointing in the right direction, whilst new paint colours (including Grasshopper Green you see here) unique 18-inch 225/35-shod alloys, bespoke front and rear aerodynamic bodykit, twin exhaust pipes and a splash of Nurburgring logos complete the transformation. The asking price however is a hefty £22,295, but with over 6,000 VXRs already sold in the UK it’s a price some will still be happy to pay.

Just like the VXR which could claim a distant family link to successful rally and touring cars of the past, the MiTo Cloverleaf (or Quadrifoglio Verde as Alfa Romeo would prefer) also claims a soupçon of motorsport heritage with that famous green Cloverleaf symbol first appearing on successful Alfa Romeo racing cars of the 1920s.

The MiTo of course is an altogether more modern invention, not appearing in Cloverleaf guise until March 2010, but it packs a similar spec and performance to the standard VXR producing 170hp and 184lb ft of torque from its 1.4-litre turbo’d four-pot. With Dynamic, Normal and All-Weather active suspension settings available (also partly developed at the Nurburgring) the six-speed Cloverleaf is unique in its class, and also boasts with a short-throw gearbox, 18-inch alloys, Alcantara sports seats, twin chrome exhaust pipes, alloys pedals, cruise control, parking sensors, a rear spoiler and a fair splattering of Quadrifoglio Verde badges.

At £18,775 it undercuts the VXR by a negligible £135 and from July this year can be bought with the added reassurance of a five-year warranty. To date Alfa Romeo has sold over 700 UK examples in just two years.



Brothers in arms
Five years isn’t a long time in automotive manufacture, as GM and Fiat discovered when their strategic alliance – created with the best of intent in March 2000 – descended into bitter acrimony and eventual collapse in 2005. But it was still long enough for both parties to collaborate on a range of ventures, the most successful of which was the creation of a joint small car platform first employed on the 2005 Fiat Grande Punto. Since then the same platform has been used on the latest Fiat Punto, the Vauxhall/Opel Corsa and the Alfa Romeo MiTo, as well as a whole range of less inspiring Fiat Group, GM, Peugeot and Citroën machinery.

Jointly developed in Turin, an evolution of this platform for the high performance Abarth Punto became the starting point for Alfa Romeo’s chassis engineers with the MiTo Cloverleaf. So the same floorpan, a similar wheelbase and possibly even some shared steering, suspension and transmission components then. And the joint benefits are clear - hungry UK buyers have already snapped up nearly 15,000 MiTos with worldwide MiTo sales estimated at around 200,000. Meanwhile GM has shifted a whopping 496,112 examples of its latest Corsa D including 6,469 UK VXR models.



Family feud
In spite of their common DNA, at first glance these two hot hatches seem very different indeed. So different in fact that many wouldn’t consider there to be any sort of feud between them at all. After all the distinctive MiTo Cloverleaf is both playful and elegant and boasts an historic and iconic badge. Altogether more Milan than M1 the charming MiTo plucks at your heart strings, whereas the animalistic VXR boasts a far more fundamental appeal. Aggressive and confident, the Vauxhall unashamedly revels in its car park, rather than cat walk, styling and puts a metaphorical two fingers up to haute couture. Yet in reality these two are genuine rivals, with far more similarities than the supporters of either brand would care to admit.

Nowhere is that more obvious than on the road where they are hard to split in terms of overall performance and handling, despite taking different approaches to the problem. The standard VXR and MiTo Cloverleaf are also similarly-priced and specced (although you can pick up a second-hand VXR for a lot less because it’s been around for three years longer) claim similar residuals, near identical running costs and even possess equally-appealing tuning potential.

But however similar on the road (or the spec sheet) many Alfa buyers will consider the VXR simply too garish and brash, whilst some VXR aficionados will overlook the MiTo altogether. And that’s a shame because although these two hot hatches come from diverse branches of the same family they are both outstanding in their own way. And that means the only real winner here is the hot-hatch buyer.



VAUXHALL CORSA VXR
Engine
: 1,598cc 4-cyl turbo
Power (hp): 192@5,850rpm (Nurburgring 205@5,750rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 170@1,980rpm to 5,850rpm (Nurburgring 184@2,250-5500rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1,223kg
Top Speed: 140mph (Nurburgring 143mph)
0-62mph: 6.8secs (Nurburgring 6.5secs)
MPG: 38.7 (NEDC combined) (Nurburgring 37.2)
CO2: 172g/km (Nurburgring 178g/km)
Price: £6,500 to £22,595
Manufactured: 2007-on
Love it: It’s one of the best current hot hatches to drive
Loathe it: Draws attention - but not in a good way
Spotted: 2009 Corsa VXR, 23,000 miles, £8,750



ALFA ROMEO MITO CLOVERLEAFEngine:1,368cc 4-cyl turbo
Power (hp): 170@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft):184@2,500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1,145kg
Top Speed: 136mph
0-62mph:7.5secs
MPG: 47.1 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 139g/km
Price: £10,995 to £18,755
Manufactured: 2010-on
Love it: Don’t be fooled by the cute face – this car means business
Loathe it: The steering is far too light in DNA ‘Normal’ mode
Spotted: 2010 Alfa Romeo MiTo Cloverleaf, 24,000 miles, £11,950


Photos: Michael Ward 







   
   
Guy R Baker
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Author Discussion

mwstewart

Original Poster:

1,828 posts

71 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
Visually the Vauxhall is a more pleasing design though neither car has great proportions; the Alfa especially looks very 'dumpy'. I think I'd take the Corsa in a dark metallic blue or grey.

X5TUU

256 posts

70 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
having a 2011 Corsa VXR in Arden Blue I honestly didnt realise that they are so similar, but I still wouldnt purchase the Mito as there is something just 'missing' i think, but I do love the vxr and it drives really nice, and once you get past all the look a-like 1.2 and 1.4 NA models that seem to be 10-a-penny and loved by the local boyracer wannabees they are great cars

davidcharles

336 posts

77 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
as much as i like Alfa's , i think the Mito is just a bit too "cute" to be a hot hatch. kudo's to Vauxhall and Alfa for making them both though.

sheddy92

3 posts

23 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
I've always had the stereotypical opinion that the Alfa would be a naff hot hatch but after reading more around it, the looks and spirit of the car seem to be pretty appealing.

masermartin

1,116 posts

60 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
Hmm. I think you need to call Top Gear and borrow James May's Alfa-cliché moneypot.
Advertisement

sheddy92

3 posts

23 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
Ha ha, I agree. They are cool cars though.

Escort Si-130

1,782 posts

63 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
Nothing wrong with the Corsa styling PH< looks much better than the Mito. Dont like the Mito, mainly the front, headlights just do not blend with the rest of the body. One of the annoying things that turned me of the Mito was the advert on tv with that STUPID music aimed at the pink shirt type spikey hair dude.
Why has the VXR taken the styling theme of the Focus RS, although it looks ok.

I did not even realise though that these cars had similar underpinnings; more to the brain database of cars for me.

mac182

6 posts

51 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
Drove the Corsa VXR Nurburgring recently on track, back to back with the ‘standard’ corsa VXR. Approached it wondering why on earth anyone would spend 22K on a corsa. My preconceptions were proved wrong – the Nurburgring version was epic. The diff makes a massive difference at corner exit and the improved suspension (and presumably tyres) meant cornering felt much flatter and grippier. I was on the power in areas where I’d been lifting or on the brakes in the standard version. I’ve no idea what it’s like on the road, but full respect to anyone who stumps up 20K+ for one.

David87

3,132 posts

95 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
184 lb ft for the Nürburgring Corsa? That's a bit rubbish . It might be the chav in me coming out, but I think the Vauxhall looks way nicer than the Alfa.

WCZ

2,169 posts

77 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
is the nurburgring vxr in the same league as the other fwd greats like dc5/r26/focusRS ?

billzeebub

3,084 posts

82 months

[news] 
Friday 10th August 2012 quote quote all
the Alfa, no question

Dactub

184 posts

23 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th August 2012 quote quote all
billzeebub said:
the Alfa, no question
The Alfa looks like a constipated frog from the front Vxr for me.

bencollins

1,681 posts

88 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th August 2012 quote quote all
Nice article and photos, thanks.

T0M

509 posts

60 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th August 2012 quote quote all
Just ticked over 11k miles in my Corsa Nurburgring and couldn't be happier.

philmots

3,163 posts

143 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th August 2012 quote quote all
Although the Corsa may be an effective car it looks like its had huge crash through a Halfords store then driven out the other side.

Still, bet 16yr old girls love it.

Dave Hedgehog

7,030 posts

87 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th August 2012 quote quote all
Mito every time for me, however it is one of the few cars that looks good in red, it also look horrible in white (as a whist car owner)

lewisf182

1,228 posts

71 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th August 2012 quote quote all
I wouldn't really call the cloverleaf a fair comparison with the VXR, surely the binned Mito GTA would have been its natural competition? however it would have been a tad pricier, perhaps in the VXR Nurburgs price range.... But still id only describe the cloverleaf as warm and the VXR a hot hatch.

TNH

308 posts

30 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th August 2012 quote quote all
I think the VXR Nurburgring looks great and I hate to sound like the "£30k for a Golf" brigade, but £22.5k for a Corsa is simply too much money when you can now have a Focus ST for that.

tomv1to

108 posts

50 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th August 2012 quote quote all
The Mito is too meek. If you want a fast hot hatch with ties to traditional italian sports cars, you'd get an Abarth 500 SS, its cheaper than the Mito Cloverleaf, similarly specced, and faster round a track. The Mito may have a bigger boot, but if thats the only argument for the Mito why not look at the Punto Abarth.

I know the list price of the Nurburgring VXR Corsa is £22,000 but a quick scan on google will bring up a number of dealers offering brand new VXR Nurburgrings for around the £18,000 mark. If you are quick there are even pre-reg specials that come up from time to time for just £17,000.

When you add to the fact that you can get 0% finance on the VXR, and the lifetime warranty I would be quite happy to overlook the garish grills and interiors of the Corsa. I also happen to think that it looks quite handsome from the side.

IanJ9375

221 posts

99 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th August 2012 quote quote all
TNH said:
I think the VXR Nurburgring looks great and I hate to sound like the "£30k for a Golf" brigade, but £22.5k for a Corsa is simply too much money when you can now have a Focus ST for that.
Very easy to just jump at the RRP but most people have been picking them up for lot less!

1700 miles here - http://www.evanshalshaw.com/vehiclesearch/used/vau...




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