The new Opel Corsa has arrived in South Africa, continuing Opel’s revival in the country with a spate of new models and the brand attempting to bring in new versions of existing models with as little delay as possible from their European launches.

Hot on the heels of the recently launched ADAM, the new Corsa is the second Opel model to bear the new family face – although differentiated from the ADAM enough to avoid confusion between the two. South Africa only gets the 5-door Corsa, sadly, but there are hopes for the beauteous 3-door at a later date if sales trends change.  Beneath the surface, not all is new with the Corsa – the same chassis as the previous model lives on in the new one, although heavily revised to keep with the times.  As such, it retains the same dimensions, similar overall shape, and unfortunately, the same seating position for the driver.  But the upgrades have all been made where they matter most.

The front and rear sub-frames have been overhauled and the suspension has been largely reworked.  The resultant ride quality is rather impressive; slightly on the firmer side of things, but absorbing imperfections on the road in a composed nature.  Obstacles such as road-buried railway tracks and changes in surface are felt, but don’t impose themselves negatively on the ride quality.  The revised mechanicals also lend themselves to fantastic grip levels, with the front tyres particularly clingy through an assortment of twists and turns through the Cape winelands where we sampled the Corsa.

The ride is largely reminiscent of a bigger ADAM; by no means a bad thing; only with less wind and road noise, a little more composure, and a higher seating position – blame that on the carry-over bits that retain a seating setup that doesn’t drop low enough, and that finds itself sitting behind the front door shut line when a tall driver climbs in to the pilot’s seat.  But it’s pretty chuckable around the bends, and seems to have relentless grip and a good dose of communicative feel through the suspension.

It’s a good thing the suspension offers sufficient feel and communication, as the electronic power-assisted steering system is decidedly numb; although it’s still sharp and accurate, it lacks feel and the rack could be a bit quicker.  It features a city mode, as in the ADAM, which lightens the steering for easy parking lot navigation and what not, but overall it does slightly remove one from the driving experience – something I never thought I’d say about a Corsa.

The upgrades aren’t limited to the suspension and steering – the biggest news for the Corsa is the new engine and gearbox it receives across the range.  The new 1.0-litre EcoFLEX engine available in the higher-specced ADAMs finds its way into even the most basic Corsa (the Essentia), with the only other engine available being a 1.4-litre engine combined with an automatic gearbox in a single variant for those who couldn’t care for anything more than getting from A to B.

The turbo-triple 1-litre is a real gem.  Peak torque of 170Nm is available from a low 1800rpm, with power peaking at a punchy 85kW, and it pulls strongly through to the rev-limiter.  Mid-range punch is particularly notable, as is the refinement of the engine, which feels more balanced and less vibration-prone than efforts from other brands such as Ford (Fiesta EcoBoost).  Mated to a new 6-speed gearbox, the torque is readily available even in 6th gear for overtaking.  More importantly, the new gearbox is smooth, slick, and allows quick shifts without grinding or cutting off a chunk of the power and momentum you had prior to shifting.  The new combination is a spectacular one for Opel, doing duty in the ADAM as well as Corsa.

The claimed 0-100km/h time for the Corsa is set at 10.4 seconds, but the overtaking acceleration and in-gear punch are the real main attractions – whilst fuel consumption is also particularly tidy at a claimed 5l/100km on a combined cycle.

On the interior side of things, the Corsa has also largely been upgraded – driving position aside.  The new interior features loads of soft touch materials and spongy dash materials, whilst the steering wheel is a plush leather-clad one with a matching gear lever.  The doors also feature softer materials than the outgoing model, and despite the driving position being a tad high, the seats – both front and rear – are supportive and comfortable as well as affording relatively good leg room for all inhabitants.  The boot is commodious too, and standard kit includes a full-size spare wheel – a must on South Africa’s potholed pathways we call a road network.

The Corsa is available with an impressive array of features, both inside and out.  The entry model Essentia kicks off proceedings, with standard kit including start/stop engine technology, halogen DRLs, front electric windows, electronic mirrors, 15-inch wheels, and black cloth upholstery.  Two additional option packs are available: 1- air-con, 6-speaker audio system with Bluetooth, and steering wheel controls, and 2- with 15-inch alloys, air-con, and the IntelliLink touch screen infotainment system, with smartphone connectivity that includes navigation and an assortment of other application-based capabilities.  The Essentia model is priced from R185 500, making it the cheapest available turbo-triple on the market (Option Pack 1: R12 200, Option Pack 2: R15 600).

The mid-spec Enjoy model gets an onboard trip monitor, 60/40 split folding rear seats, LED daytime running lamps, front fogs, aircon, 16-inch alloys and colour-coded door handles as standard.  Option pack 1 on the Enjoy equips IntelliLink, and option pack 2 equips IntelliLink, auto-park assist, blind spot alert and front and rear parking sensors.  The Enjoy is priced from R216 200 (Option Pack 1: R4000, Option Pack 2: R8000)

The range-topping Cosmo model – until the OPC model arrives later in the year – features cruise control, bi-xenon headlamps, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, cloth/vinyl upholstery, and ambient lighting for the cabin.  Option pack 1 includes auto-park assist, blind spot alert, and front and rear parking sensors.  The Cosmo is priced from R236 300, with the option pack adding R5000 to the total.

The new Corsa is still as fun as the old one; only now its more capable, more efficient, and more upmarket than ever.  It may not be as plush as the VW Polo or Kia Rio, nor as driver focused as the Ford Fiesta, but it’s more fun to drive than the formers, and far more comfortable than the latter.

All models come standard with a 5-year/120 000km warranty and a 3-year/60 000km service plan.  Safety too is standard, as the Corsa E comes with a 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

You may also like