DRIVEN: VAUXHALL CORSA VXR NURBURGRING
Forget the dubious image; we reckon the latest fast Corsa's a fine hot hatch
Right, that's been said: now let's take a closer look at the actual car, because there's a lot more to this Corsa than marketing spin and a questionable price tag.
The 'Nurburgring' title might sit rather uneasily with the Vauxhall brand, but it makes more sense when you realise that this car is a wholly Opel OPC (Opel Performance Centre) product. Headed up by ex-racer Volker Strycek, OPC has its development centre at the 'Ring, and conducts much of its testing there, including a 10,000km durability slog that, in the case of this particular car, was conducted by another Opel employee: BTCC and DTM legend 'Smokin Jo' Winkelhock.
The diff is part of a number of chassis revisions to take place. The standard VXR dampers have been junked in favour of much more expensive Bilstein inverted monotube items combined with some stiffer, progressive rate springs (VXRs have linear springs) and new bump stops. The car is 20mm lower at the front, 15mm at the rear, while the diff has 40 per cent lock on acceleration, but none under braking save a little pre-loading in the name of increased stability.
There's also a little bit more power: 207bhp (210ps) on 100ron, 202bhp on 98ron in the UK (the VXR has 189bhp), with up to 207lb ft of torque from 2250-5500rpm on overboost. This is achieved via a remap that increases the boost pressure to 1.2bar (from 0.9) and reducing the exhaust backpressure (the Nur has chunky twin pipes in place of the faddish VXR triangle exit). Performance-wise, you're looking at 0-60mph in around 6.5sec and 143mph flat out - pretty much level with the Clio RS 200 and the Mini Cooper S JCW.
The Recaros grip you tightly, but the current Corsa still has more of an MPV-feel to its driving environment than most of its rivals. Nevertheless, get on the throttle and the Corsa snaps forward with real guts: compare the torque figure with the Clio's 159lb ft at 5400rpm and it's not hard to see that, while the Renault might be making lots of noise, it's the Vauxhall that really gets going at low-to-mid revs.
Surprisingly, there's little turbo whistle (it's almost exclusively induction roar), and this is a small turbo engine that enjoys revs. What genuinely surprises it what happens in the corners.
This is where the Corsa is staggeringly effective. It's incredible just how much grip it manages to find, even on relatively ordinary tyres (Michelin Cups were tried, but until warm the back end was quite 'lively', according to Kubel). The same thing happens in faster corners: you turn into the corner using a rack that doesn't weight up much, but is very fast once on lock and accurate, and the car suddenly wakes up. It has much more poise than the standard VXR, staying just on the right side of nervous, and you can apply more and more power until your sides are really digging into the seat bolsters.
Nevertheless, the Corsa's big test will take place on the road, and no more so on a typical British B-road. It also needs to face up to the Clio RS 200. The Clio bristles with aggression, growling and spitting at low revs and screaming to the limiter, with great steering for a 'modern' and superb adjustability, it worms its way deep into your affections like few other cars currently on sale. It's surely on its way to joining the usual suspects in the pantheon of hot hatch greats, but without doubt there're going to be situations where a Corsa VXR Nurburgring is going to leave it gasping...
Oh, and the 'Ring time? Around 8m35s if you're interested...
207 (202) bhp @ 5,750
207lb ft @ 2,250-5,500
1,307kg (EC inc 75kg driver)
Top speed: 143mph