Vauxhall Corsa VXR: Review

Launching the new Vauxhall Corsa VXR at Knockhill circuit in Scotland is very apposite. This is the only track in the UK that can be run in both directions and as a hillclimb venue too, so its multi-purpose nature reflects what Vauxhall is trying to achieve with the smallest of its VXR range.

Visually restrained in typical VXR fashion...
Visually restrained in typical VXR fashion...
It may have many roles to fill, which Vauxhall addresses with the standard model and an optional Performance Pack. But it is also claimed to be the most focused VXR. Such is the boast of Volker Strycek, boss of Vauxhall's VXR division and 1984 DTM touring car champion.

Strycek has considerable pedigree with motorsport, so he's not one to say these things lightly. He was also on hand at Knockhill to put his claims into action, showing most of the assembled field of eager hacks a clean pair of Remus tail pipes.

Across the board
To give the new Corsa VXR improved performance, Vauxhall has not increased the outright power, which stays at 205hp at 5,800rpm, but improved power delivery across the rev range. This is achieved with a new air intake, fuel injectors, turbo intercooler and engine management system. There is also that exhaust developed with Remus that now exits via two round tail pipes rather than a central triangular pipe.

205hp, 143mph and 0-60 in 6.5. Safe
205hp, 143mph and 0-60 in 6.5. Safe
The result is the VXR delivers its maximum torque of 181lb ft between 1,900rpm and 5,800rpm compared with the narrower band of theNurburgring and Clubsport models' 2,250-5,800rpm spread. There is also now an overboost facility that adds a further 26lb ft for five seconds at a time when the throttle pedal is floored.

Vauxhall has also revised the gear lever to reduce its throw by 13 per cent, which delivers a shorter, better gear change, though it's still not as fluid and precise as a Ford Fiesta ST's. There is also a larger gap between gap between third and fourth gears than feels ideal, which is an irritation on typical UK A-roads.

Gap insurance
However, the engine's generous torque means you can leave the car in fourth where you'd be dropping to third in a non-Mountune'd Fiesta ST. Also, the changes to its engine mean the Corsa VXR beats the Fiesta ST from 0-62mph, taking 6.5 seconds to the Ford's 6.9. The Corsa is also quicker flat out than the Fiesta, hitting 143mph versus 139mph, while the engine sounds no better or worse than its competition.

Intellilink infotainment now standard
Intellilink infotainment now standard
Much more relevant is the way the Corsa VXR now feels more sophisticated and rounded as a whole compared to the Clubsport. While Volker Strycek says the Corsa is the most focused VXR model, this only applies if you opt for the £2.400 Performance Pack. This adds a Drexler limited-slip differential, Brembo four-piston calipers and 330mm front discs (up from the standard VXR's 308mm discs), 18-inch alloy wheels in place of the standard 17s, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres and retuned Koni FSD dampers.

Vauxhall reckons 40 per cent of Corsa VXR buyers will opt for the Performance Pack, which still brings the final price in at less than the old Nurburgring or Clubsport models. At Knockhill, the Performance Pack made a big difference, largely due to the Drexler diff and stronger brakes. You can feel the differential working as to pull the car through corners and resist understeer as the steering wheel wriggles a little in your hands, while the brakes are good on track and strong on the road.

Ride height 10mm lower than old VXR
Ride height 10mm lower than old VXR
As for the firmer suspension, if you're going to use a Corsa VXR for regular track days it makes sense, but the standard set-up is the better bet for normal road use. In standard form, the Corsa has a much more supple ride than the Performance Pack model or a Fiesta ST. While the Corsa doesn't quite have the Ford's flickable keenness to change direction, it's not far behind and the cushier ride and better refinement will make it an easier car to live with.

In or out?
Unfortunately, the Drexler differential is not available as a separate option, so you have to pay the full whack for the Performance Pack. That's a shame as the standard suspension with the limited-slip differential would be the ideal blend for faster road use.

Time to test the claims!
Time to test the claims!
Inside, the Corsa VXR has Recaro front seats that are similar to the Astra VXR's. They could do with a little more side support for thighs and upper body, but they are comfy and the driving position is easily adjusted to suit all but those with the longest legs. A unique VXR steering wheel and instruments do their best to lift the cabin over a standard Corsa's, while passenger and boot space is better than most hot hatches in this corner of the class.

With plenty of standard equipment, the £17,995 starting price for the Corsa VXR represents good value against its competitors. If you want it to be the more focused machine Vauxhall intends, you need to spend that extra £2,400 on the Performance Pack. It pushes the price up but does give the Corsa VXR a different, distinct character from its rivals.

1,598cc 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 205@5,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 207@1900-5800rpm (with overboost)
0-62mph: 6.5 sec
Top speed: 143mph
Weight: 1,293kg
MPG: 37.7 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 174g/km
Price: £17,995




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Comments (99) Join the discussion on the forum

  • MrBarry123 16 Apr 2015

    It looks too tall and narrow from the rear.

  • GruntyDC5 16 Apr 2015

    MrBarry123 said:
    It looks too tall and narrow from the rear.
    Every Corsa VXR has had that issue to my eyes.

  • zerovira 16 Apr 2015

    ugly. Was thinking it was well specced and that it would be an interesting hot hatch until I saw the weight. 1400kg for a b class sporty car?

    Just no.

  • GTEYE 16 Apr 2015

    GruntyDC5 said:
    MrBarry123 said:
    It looks too tall and narrow from the rear.
    Every Corsa VXR has had that issue to my eyes.
    +1 - they've really done an enhanced re-skin of the 2006 Corsa and it shows - a bit like the Mk5 to Mk6 Golf.

    Too many wrinky old bits showing through.

    Should have started with a clean sheet of paper IMHO.

  • Martin_Hx 16 Apr 2015

    MrBarry123 said:
    It looks too tall and narrow from the rear.
    Definitely, like the new Skoda Fabia syndrome

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