Now Corsa has raised the quality bar

I DID a lot of my early driving in a Corsa years ago when those models were cheap and cheerful.

I DID a lot of my early driving in a Corsa years ago when those models were cheap and cheerful.

Many people slightly younger than I learned to drive in them for they were a favourite of the British School of Motoring, among others.

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Sophisticated? No. Well-equipped? Not really. But they were solid and, for the day, pretty stylish.

Fast forward more than 30 years and Corsa is still going strong but it is no longer the entry point for the Vauxhall range. That falls to the new Viva (from £9,315).

Corsa, which costs from a little over £10,000, is a bigger, smarter and better equipped model. It doesn’t really try too hard to appeal to the young – that job falls to the similar-priced but funkier-styled Adam.

The Corsa, it seems, is more of an everyday car. Or, quite often, it functions as a family’s second car.

Tested here, however, is a rather different Corsa. It costs from – wait for it - £17,360. In fact, the test model with advanced park assist, bi-xenon headlights and a winter pack is £18,500.

Now, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a very expensive Corsa. It can’t quite decide if it is sporty or elegant. It tries to do both at the same time and to be honest it does a pretty good job.

But £18,750 would get you an Insignia – a very good car indeed. So, why would anyone want a Corsa for the same money?

Well, it’s all down to MINI. When this model first came on the scene it proved that small cars can be well-equipped. It created the premium compact car market and paved the way for everyone else, Vauxhall included, to deliver well-equipped smaller cars.

So, how does Corsa compare? It is finely equipped and looks good. Early Corsas were good-looking superminis back in the 1980s and 1990s but they lost their way a little later.

Now it seems Corsa is back on form. The current Corsa, the fifth generation, has a premium style to it. It rides and handles like a bigger car and has a fine range of engines.

Tested here is the 1.0 litre turbo which is amazingly good for such a compact machine. It has low emissions, high economy and pretty sprightly performance. You have to use the gears well to get the best out of it but it feels and sounds very good.

The specification is excellent. The key feature to this car is the IntelliLink audio system with digital radio. Basically, you can link your smartphone to the vehicle and you end up with a phone on wheels. Your music, satellite navigation system and other phone features are instantly available in the car. It’s a very clever and impressive feature.

The car is dashingly equipped, too. Cruise control, leather trim, sports-style seats, six airbags, speed-sensitive power steering, heated windscreen, air conditioning, sports pedals, USB connection with iPod control - it’s hard to imagine this is really a Corsa.

With a group 13E insurance and low emissions meaning you don’t pay road tax for the first years, it is easy to see the Corsa’s appeal.

Not as sleek or stylish as Adam, but a very good package.

Vauxhall Corsa 1.0i Turbo Limited Edition


Price: £17,360. Corsa begins at £10,635

Engine: A 999cc three cylinder turbopowered engine

Power: 115ps

Torque: 170Nm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Top speed: 121mph

0-62mph: 10.3 seconds

Insurance: Group 13E

Economy: town 45.6mpg; country 67.3mpg; combined 57.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 114g/km

Warranty: Three years’ unlimited mileage

Summary: Proof that it’s not only MINI who blend compact size with luxury