Lexus RC 350 F-sport
THERE is always a spot of wariness when a manufacturer releases a new variant with a Sport badge tacked to its tail, especially when it proves to be the Corsa 1,4T Sport – the range’s current halo model. Cynics could argue it’s merely a stop-gap between the entry-level models and the headline-grabbing OPC.
However, Opel has claimed that there’s more than just a badge and increased spec at play with the 1,4T Sport, citing extensive chassis and suspension reworking, and a tuned version of its widely applied 1,4-litre turbopetrol as the most notable upgrade. We took a drive through some of the most engaging passes in the Oudtshoorn region to see what the new apex Corsa is all about.
Opel was never going to let the Sport steal any of the OPC’S aesthetic thunder and, consequently, the cosmetic treatments have been somewhat low-key. Externally, the OPC-LINE styling kit comprises extended sills and bumpers, a more pronounced exhaust finisher and carbonfibre-effect coatings for the wing mirrors and central grille louvre. Furthermore, the Sport rolls on a set of 17-inch anthracite-coloured alloy wheels shod with 215/45 R17 rubber.
Opc-derived touches, including a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, bespoke gearknob and handbrake, and metallic pedals are among the highlights of an otherwise familiar, but nonetheless solidly built, Corsa cabin.
While the cosmetic alterations are subtle, the 1,4-litre turbopetrol powerplant, which develops 103 kw and 200 N.m in the Astra and Mokka, for example, has been tuned to deliver 110 kw and 220 N.m in the Sport. And apart from a lowered ride height, the suspension has been tweaked; stiffer front spring rates are said
Opel endows its light hatchback with genuine sporty appeal
to rein in body roll and reduce the model’s propensity to understeer.
But do these changes justify the 1,4T’s Sport moniker?
Scything along the likes of Outeniqua and Robinson Passes, the Sport proved a fairly nimble and likeable little hatch.
The engine spools up briskly, getting you into the meat of that 3 000 r/min turbo sweet spot in no time, and feels torquey enough to prove reasonably entertaining. It’s just a shame that, like most small turbo engines, any semblance of a sporty exhaust chortle is slurped away by the blower, making the car sound rather ordinary even when it is driven in anger.
Although the gearshift still exhibits a slightly rubbery feel that isn’t conducive to rushed changes, it’s pleasantly short and precise in its action.
Like the standard car, the Sport feels a little bit lofty in its stance and there is noticeable, but not unnerving, body lean under hard cornering. The steering, although possessed of reasonable weight, is not that communicative. Combined with driver aids (traction control, stability control) that interfere with little provocation, the car has a fairly entertaining, but ultimately forgiving, persona.
Most of the roads on which we drove were of the typically unbroken-but-slightly-rippled topography encountered in the Southern Cape, and didn’t overly challenge the Sport’s springs. That said, the ride proved reasonably supple on less-than-forgiving sections, although coarse surfaces did introduce some noticeable tyre roar into the otherwise wellinsulated cabin.
Given its near-r260 000 asking price and (present) halo placement in the new Corsa line-up, the Sport’s standard specification is pretty generous. Among the
The Corsa Sport has a fairly entertaining, but ultimately
niceties are: (deep breath) auto lights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, LED daytime running lights, electric windows and mirrors, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone navigation and app integration, air-conditioning, reverse camera with park assist, cruise control as well as bi-xenon headlamps with cornering control.
A R5 000 option pack adds blind-side alert and automated parking assist.
Those expecting an OPClite experience will be all too aware that, performance-wise, there is a yawning gap between this car and its heavyweighthitting brother. But approach the Sport for what it is – a warmed-up version of an already capable B-segment hatch – and there’s lots to like. The cosmetic treatments may be a tad too subtle for some, but the Sport adds a welcome touch of zest to the Corsa line-up. Yes, it is a warm light hatchback, but a charming one.
FROM TOP: the Sport rolls on purposeful 17-inch rims; the 1,4-litre turbo is reasonably punchy; flatbottomed sports steering wheel just one of the cabin’s highlights.