JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng – Since 1994, Opel has sold more than 180 000 Corsa units in South Africa – a remarkable figure when one considers the domination of the B-segment by the locally built Volkswagen Polo. While the original Corsa was not sold in South Africa, we did receive the second-generation model, which ultimately became the legendary Corsa Lite (remember the Lite Side of Life adverts?).
Some 27 years on, the sixth-generation Corsa has rolled onto local dealer floors. With impressive tech and some serious engineering having gone on, it really does deserve to sell well. Pricing starts at R274 900 and stretches to R386 900 for the Corsa Elegance 1,2T driven here.
The Corsa sits on the newly formed Stellantis group’s EMP1 platform, which also underpins a plethora of small hatchbacks and crossovers within the family (think Peugeot 208 and 2008, as well as the latest Opel Mokka). Interior legroom and luggage space benefit a little from a longer wheelbase and some trick packaging of components, also resulting in a notably more aggressive and somewhat more planted appearance than the little German’s predecessor.
The Corsa presents as a handsome contender with its pronounced bonnet crease, beefy wheel arches and two-tone roof (the latter standard on this flagship Elegance model). Other neat cues such as the wing-shaped daytime running lights and forward-sloping C-pillars combine to create a bang-on-trend and attractive package.
Remarkably, this Corsa weighs 108 kg less than the model it replaces, thanks to daintier powertrains and a significantly lighter body-in-white. What this translates to is an eagerness and alacrity on the road, emphasised by the 1,2-litre, three-cylinder motor we sampled on the launch. A reworked version of PSA’s award-winning PureTec motor, the lively triple offers 96 kW and 230 N.m, and is available exclusively in the range-topping Elegance model where it is mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission.
As a result, the Corsa affords drivers a rather nippy and engaging experience, with the 0-100 km/h sprint taking a claimed 8,7 seconds. Thanks to a kerb weight of just under a tonne, the Corsa exhibits minimal roll in the corners, too, and the engine and gearbox make for a wonderfully tractable pairing when accelerating up to highway speeds or during overtaking manoeuvres. The aforementioned lack of lard plus the powertrain combo work together with the Corsa’s low drag co-efficient of 0,29 to return impressive fuel economy, too; we averaged an indicated 6,4 L/100 km over our 300 km, a smidge higher than the manufacturer’s claim of 6,3.
Alternatively, the Corsa can be had with a naturally aspirated 1,2-litre unit with peak outputs of 55 kW and 118 N.m, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. However, this combination was not available to sample at the launch.
Safety is also front and centre – across the range you’ll find ABS, EBD, stability control and six airbags. Touchscreen infotainment and front electric windows are also standard on each of the three derivatives. The mid-spec “Edition” model adds rear electric windows, too, as well as front and rear park assist and a 180° panoramic reverse camera, a larger (seven-inch) infotainment system with IntelliLink and six speakers.
As you’d expect from the range-topper, the 1,2T Elegance features a number of gizmos and gadgets for drivers and passengers to enjoy. A single USB port up front and two at the rear ensure that smartphones remain charged, with such devices able to be linked to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the infotainment screen. The IntelliLink interface isn’t quite as slick or information-rich as the systems found in competitors such as the Ford Fiesta with its Sync arrangement, but it does the job and the capacitive touchscreen is a far cry from the resistive unit used in the previous Corsa.
In addition to the above, the top-spec model receives gloss-black and chrome exterior elements, auto-dimming mirrors, heated front seats, LED headlamps with high-beam assist and high-end safety kit such as front-collision alert with traffic sign and pedestrian detection, along with low-speed automatic emergency braking.
Leather adorns both the steering wheel and gear knob, and the seats are finished in a leather-cloth combination. Boot capacity is a not-too-shabby (claimed) 309 litres; however, the Polo’s impressive claimed 350 litres is still the segment standard. The Corsa’s rear seats can be folded down via a 60/40 split, thus increasing loading space quite significantly should the need arise. It should be noted, however, that despite the extra legroom all round, a six-foot passenger would not have a fun time in the rear on a long trip – the seatbacks of the front pews make provision for knees and shins, but not much. Headroom is also a little wanting in the rear.
All models in the range come standard with a three-year/120 000 km warranty (and roadside assistance), as well as a three-year/45 000 km service plan. This is on par with Volkswagen’s offerings in this segment, but not quite as impressive as the Kia Rio’s five-year/unlimited mileage warranty or the Mazda2’s three-year/unlimited mileage service plan.
The new Opel Corsa is a neat bit of kit and serves as a wonderful alternative to the segment staples in what has become quite a hotly contested class. Offerings such as the aforementioned Fiesta and Rio plus the Nissan Micra all do the job well and each has its unique selling point, but there’s no denying the gravitas of the Volkswagen nameplate and the venerable Polo (sales figures are testament to this). Add to that pricing that isn’t far off that of the mighty Polo and what you have is quite a challenge for Opel’s marketing team.
Author: John Whittle
Model: Opel Corsa Elegance 1,2T 96 kW 6AT
Price: R386 900
Engine: 1,2-litre, three-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 96 kW
Torque: 230 N.m
0-100 km/h: 8,7 seconds
Top speed: 208 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 6,3 L/100 km
CO2: 143 g/km
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Service plan: Three-year/45 000 km