– Decent ride and handling
– Spritely in city driving
– Economical on fuel
– Hard cabin plastics
– Basic auto-gearbox option
– Average boot space
The budget sub-compact segment is something which we don’t really foray into these days unless by invite, given that almost everything in the game is familiar and boring. But when the German automaker Opel decided to return to the Middle-East after an 8-year hiatus, we figured we’ll check out what the brand is all about nowadays, from the ground up. When circumstances dictated the use of a rental car, we specifically asked for the all-new 2014 Opel Corsa sub-compact hatchback.
With only 50 kilos on the odo, our car was a brand new specimen sourced from a rental agency. Being the most basic fleet-spec trim on offer, our Corsa expectedly looked basic from the outside, with black door handles, 14-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, and black plastic placeholders in place of fog lamps. However, as with any European car, there is a useful rear fog lamp. There is nothing to complain about the exterior styling of the Corsa, which sports a rather rounded stance with soft lines running along the sides, and incorporates the company’s trademark eagle-eyes-inspired headlights with integrated wing-shaped running lamps.
The interior of this German-built Corsa is understandably plain, comprising of hard plastics all around, well within class standards, with aluminium-look plastic trim, cloth inserts on all four doors, and even a bit of piano-black lacquer on the door handles attempting to uplift the ambience. Overall fit-and-finish seemed good, and almost everything appeared to be tightly put together.
There’s very good headroom and legroom in the front, while space in the back is average compared to some of its rivals, although only six-plus-footers are likely to complain. The rear seats can be reclined slightly, and folded forward completely for more cargo space. With the rear seats up however, the boot space is limited, although it is pretty deep, thanks to the lack of a spare tyre only, replaced by a puncture repair kit with an on-board air compressor instead. The seats are mildly bolstered, and a bit on the firmer side, though still offer decent comfort.
In this basic trim, the Corsa comes decently decked up with basic convenience features, such as power windows in the front, power mirrors, a good-sounding 4-speaker audio with AUX input, and an above-average manual a/c. The rear passengers have to make-do with manual wind-up windows in our tester. Safety features include two airbags, and ABS with EBD and EBA. Ergonomically, there is nothing to complain about, as everything is well within reach, although it may take a while to get used to the spring-loaded light and wiper stalks.
The real difference in the all-new Corsa lies under the hood. Powered by a sprightly 1.4-litre engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, we fired off a 0-100 kph run in 11.3 seconds during our March test. With 100 hp on tap at 6000 rpm and 130 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm, the engine surprisingly seemed to have good pull on the entire the power band, so much so that we thought it could be a 1.6-litre unit at one point. We even managed slight tyre-screeches on the 1-2 gearshift during our acceleration runs. Its no OPC, but it ain’t no slouch either.
The gear ratios are cleverly balanced between performance and fuel economy, as it juices the most out of the engine at any point in the power band, and yet only revs a tad below 3000 rpm at 120 kph in the highest gear. Overtaking at highway speeds could be decently done without having to downshift more than a gear and revving the crap out of it. To aid both fuel economy and spirited driving, there is a shift indicator showing optimum shift-points, depending on throttle inputs. We calculated the fuel economy to be 7.8 litres/100 km, but attribute the slightly higher figures to heavy city traffic and possibly a heavy right foot.
The 1160-kg Corsa is a very entertaining car to drive, with commendable cornering limits, controlled body motions and a decently compliant ride with only a slight tinge of firmness. Body roll is mild, and the electric power steering feels light and vague, although it offers a bit of feedback and, with a good turning radius, makes the Corsa easily manoeuvrable. Add to it a lightweight clutch and a smooth shifter, and driving this car in heavy city traffic all day never seemed a problem for us, although we suspect most will choose the 4-speed automatic. Even the brake-pedal feel is good.
On highway drives, the Opel Corsa exhibited excellent stability, being seemingly impervious to crosswinds, unlike most of its segment counterparts. Cabin noise is noticeable, but is kept at respectable levels for a budget car, with more prominent wind noise being heard only after 110 kph. The engine has been hushed up surprisingly well, with only a drone heard even under hard acceleration.
The new Opel Corsa is a solid entry by the German automaker. Besides a small boot, we cannot think of any practical flaws with it. And there are barely any budget subcompacts which are as fun to drive, leaving us wondering what the sportier Corsa OPC variant would be like. If Opel tries hard with a good pricing strategy, aggressive marketing and excellent dealer support, they should finally be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel in the GCC market.
Current Model Introduced in:
Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
Observed Test Fuel Economy: