Thumbs up for comeback kid
THE B-segment hatch accounts for about 40% of the passenger car market, so it will come as no surprise that most of the major players have an offering in this competitive arena, including models such as the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Hyundai i20 and the sales leading Volkswagen Polo.
Opel has been left by the wayside in recent years as its custodian, General Motors (GM), turned its attention to the Chevrolet brand instead, which I believe was a futile move. Granted, the bow tie wearing brand offered good value for money propositions in both the Aveo and Sonic variants, but these never quite netted the audience its rivals had, so the company had to devise another plan.
Enter the fifth generation Opel Corsa, which is now available in SA and will be spearheading GMSA’s B-segment onslaught as the brand looks to double its volume this year. In 2014 alone, the brand had a 36% year-on-year increase compared to 2013, according to Ian Nicholls, vice-president of operations. He said the forecast for 2015 is to double the volume, which signals the company’s intent to make the brand the bastion it once was. The Adam launched at the end of last year, the now available new Corsa, and the imminent Mokka crossover will all be instrumental in this growth. Niche models such as the Astra OPC and the forthcoming Corsa OPC will remain halo models of the brand.
The new Corsa’s styling takes cues from the Adam, particularly that front airdam replete with the logo. Sharper headlights, a sculpted bonnet, swage line on the side and the larger rear clusters are some of the design highlights. Most changes can be seen in the interior where some of the cheap plastics of its predecessor have been dispensed with and replaced with better finishes, which are right up there with its competitors. Passenger space has been maximised while the front seats are fairly comfortable and the scope of adjustment, in relation to the telescopic steering column, was also good.
Available in three specifications — Essentia, Enjoy and Cosmo — the models at launch in the Mother City were equipped with the company’s peachy 1l threepotter turbocharged engine with 85kW and 170Nm powering the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. In April the range will be bolstered by a 1.4l normally-aspirated variant with an automatic gearbox.
Perhaps not as punchy as the Ford Fiesta Ecoboost engine, the Corsa’s motor truly impresses with its refinement and smooth- ness. Even at the higher rev range, the engine continues to spin in a manner affiliated with much larger engines. Whether weaving through the mountain pass in Franschhoek or overtaking slower moving traffic, the engine makes a convincing argument over normally aspirated, slightly bigger capacity powerplants. Efficiency ranks highly for the new engine and the company claims a consumption figure of 5l/100km and 119g/km of carbon emissions, although a more realistic consumption figure of about 6l/100km is feasible in real world driving terms.
A seven-inch IntelliLink infotainment system is available as an option on Enjoy and Essentia models, and standard on Cosmo. It is compatible with both Android and Apple smartphones so you can use apps from your phone via the high resolution infotainment touchscreen. Specification is relatively good on the Enjoy and Cosmo variants we drove and all models, including the entry level Essentia, come standard with ESP, dual airbags and ABS. This has seen the Corsa score a five-star EuroNcap safety rating, which bodes well for those shopping in this segment where manufacturers sometimes skimp on safety items to undercut rivals on price.
The cabin is also well insulated and on a par with that of the VW Polo. The chassis is a balanced affair and even through some switchbacks it displayed fairly neutral handling through the corners. It should, in my books, be a prelude to the 154kW OPC variant, which will be made available here later in the year.
With both the updated Kia Rio and the new Hyundai i20 already launched, the new Corsa seems to have entered the game at a favourable time. While the Korean marques offer good specification and value, both the Corsa and Polo offer far superior driver enjoyment, thanks to the turbocharged engines. The Corsa has also moved the goalposts with regards to refinement and quality, which should see it compete more favourably with its rivals, particularly the Polo.
Pricing is also in the ballpark of competitors, and thus should not suffer the fate of its predecessor, which seemed a tad expensive for something that was rather long in the tooth compared to rivals. Thanks to its new-found class and refinement, the new Corsa is poised to ruffle some feathers in the segment.
Opel’s fifth generation Corsa set to ruffle feathers of its B-segment rivals The Corsa has also moved the goalposts with regards to refinement and quality
1.0T Essentia R185,500 1.0T Enjoy R216,200 1.0T Cosmo R236,300
The new Corsa takes some styling cues form the recently launched Opel Adam, while the rear, top, has hints of Astra about it. Middle: The interior is a major improvement. The IntelliLink system, above, brings the Corsa into the new era of infotainment.