Lexus RC 350 F-sport

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY: Gareth Dean

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

for­giv­ing, per­sona

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.

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