Review – Opel Corsa Sport 1.4T:

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Opel’s on a roll; but whilst we wait for the flagship Corsa, the OPC, to arrive, the rest of the range needs to form the foundation for a great sporting model.  Until such time as the OPC does arrive, the range topper comes in the form of the only turbocharged 4-cylinder in the line-up, that of the 1.4-litre turbo Corsa Sport.

 

Figures are nothing to scoff at.  Claimed outputs are 110kW @ 5000rpm and 220Nm from 3000-4500rpm on 98 octane fuel – which means on local 95 grade petrol it should be putting out a little less (103kW 210Nm, or thereabouts).  As such it’s good for a claimed 0-100km/h run of a paltry 9.6 seconds before topping out at a touch over 200km/h – 204km/h to be exact.  Power is directed to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox.

 

After our initial launch drive a few months ago, we were left with the impression that the engine was flat and uneventful.  However, with a few thousand kilometres racked up and the engine run in, I was pleased to discover a bit more verve had been unlocked from within its innards.  Power delivery is still linear, almost flat, but there’s a distinct weight behind the punch.  Despite not feeling like the torquiest motor, a brief look at the speedometer yields to the fact that the Corsa is more than capable of running beyond the national speed limit in a very brief space of time.  Sadly, the acoustic qualities of the engine fail to match its efficacy in delivering pace – it’s a flat, quiet drone rather than a pleasurable growl.

 

Beneath the surface, it’s more than just a more powerful engine giving the Sport its name.  A revised sport suspension and up-rated brakes are the key improvements – and true to Opel form the suspension impresses.  Despite riding lower than the standard Corsa, Opel hasn’t compromised the softness of the suspension.  These soft springs yield to body roll, which can at times be a touch excessive.  But by equipping highly efficient dampers, body control is exceptional across changing surfaces.  Coupled with the new suspension setup is Opel’s electronically assisted steering – it’s devoid of feel and extremely light, but counters this with outstanding accuracy and responses.  Turn in is sharp and aids agility, but requires specific technique to get the most out of it.

 

Picture an English gentleman drinking a cup of tea – little finger out, with a thumb and index finger lightly holding the handle of the teacup.  That’s how the Corsa Sport needs to be driven, with precise, tender inputs to make the most of the quick steering and soft suspension.  With measured inputs, the Corsa can be tipped into corners carrying ridiculous speeds – and without scrubbing off any of that it’ll clip through the apex of a corner and come out the other side with vicious determination.

 

Front end grip is unrelenting on the 215/45 R17 tyres, and coupled with a lovely chassis balance there is an element of adjustability to the handling through the throttle alone.  Ease off the throttle mid-corner and the rear rotates to tighten the line – but push too hard or turn in with too much vigour and not enough finesse, and you’ll invoke the ESP®PLUS system.  It’s a system that can’t be turned off at all, but needn’t be either.  Opel call it a ‘progressive ESP’, and it allows much hooliganism, with the most subtle of corrections when you do overcook it through a corner.  Eventually, understeer creeps into play; but throttle adjustments keep this in check with surprising calmness and resolve.

 

Those upgraded brakes I mentioned earlier do an excellent job of bringing the Corsa Sport to a halt, or shedding speed when you drop the anchors hard ahead of a corner – with pedal spacing metered appropriately for a bit of heel ‘n toe down-shifting.  The gear shift, however, needs careful consideration rather than rushing the shift – or else old Opel gearbox tendencies still haunt the new 6-speed setup.  It’s otherwise slick and swaps cogs with a simple slip from one gear to the next, with a well weighted shift action and relatively short throw.

 

These traits all come together quite sweetly to create a warm-hatch that, when treated with grace, rewards keen drivers with cornering thrills only to be found on more expensive, more powerful rivals such as the Fiesta ST.  It seems to have been developed with a single-mindedness to create a cohesive unit where all parts contribute to the whole, making the Corsa Sport’s ability more than just the sum of its parts.

 

On the more conventional side of things – the aspects that drivers of all sporting, or non-, inclination will have to endure – Opel has done a fine job of the interior, with one or two glaring omissions from the package.  A soft-touch dash, complete with Opel’s IntelliLink infotainment system, awaits occupants, with flawless Smartphone connectivity and support for a host of mobile based internet radio, streaming, and navigation options. Aluminium sport pedals, and OPC-derived steering wheel and gear-shift knob add touches of sportiness to the interior, along with sport seats, upholstered in Moonray cloth.  The seats are supportive for daily use, but lack firm enough bolstering to support sufficiently through spirited driving.  Also, leather isn’t an option, which on a R257 800 hatch is one of the glaring omissions.  Only two other major faults presented themselves – namely the lack of a passenger vanity mirror (something so cheap and simple yet noticeable in its absence), and the fact that on this range-topping 5 door the rear windows are still manually operated.

 

Other features onboard include a reverse camera and rear Park Distance Control (PDC) as standard, but for an additional R5000, our test unit came equipped with front and rear PDC, with Advanced Park Assist 2 (self-parking) and blind spot assist.  Cruise Control with speed limiter, rain sensing wipers, and auto headlights are also standard kit, the latter of which are Bi-Xenon units.  Visually, OPC-line bumpers, carbon-fibre patterned mirrors and logo bar, and 17-inch Dark Titanium alloys set the Corsa Sport apart from its stable mates.

 

For the safety conscious, the Corsa Sport boasts a 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and standard ABS, with EBD, as well as the aforementioned ESP®PLUS system.  6 airbags are a standard across the range, and parents will be keen to know ISOFIX child seat mountings are also a standard on the rear bench.  The Corsa Sport, for all its warmth in the performance department, is also efficient – sipping 6.5l/100km.

 

All in, the Corsa Sport crowns an already impressive sub-OPC Corsa range with some sporting aspects for those that want a little more out of their daily driver.  The suppleness of the Sport’s suspension, combined with the balanced chassis and impressive dynamics bode incredibly well for the OPC model – due to arrive early 2016 – the unflappable comfort across rapidly changing surfaces even more so.  But whilst the Corsa Sport is highly accomplished, it lacks the option of a bit more luxury, and the interior faux pas are unforgivable at this price point.

 

So, the big question then – Opel Corsa Sport (R257 800),Suzuki Swift Sport (R241 900), or Ford Fiesta ST (R276 900)?  They’re all different; the Opel bests the other two in practicality and day to day comfort, whilst the Swift Sport offers keener driving dynamics and the Ford gives you the outright pace and theatre the former pair lack.  The Corsa Sport offers the bet compromise for those wanting a turn of pace, without compromising daily comfort – making it a real winner in this price range.

 

The Specs:

 

Engine Capacity:

1364cc

No. of Cylinders:

4

Max. Power:

110kW @ 5000RPM

Max. Torque:

220Nm @ 3000-4500RPM

Gearbox:

6-speed manual

0-100 time:

9.6 seconds

Top Speed:

204km/h

Dry Weight:

1260Kg

Fuel Tank Capacity:

45 litres

Fuel Consumption (Regular driving, combined cycle):

6.5l/100km

Drivetrain

Front-wheel Drive

Price (as tested):

R257 800,00

 

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