Vauxhall Corsa - £254 per month

The Corsa is Vauxhall's ever-popular supermini, having consistently placed among the top five best selling cars in the UK for over a decade and a half. And it's with good reason too: while the latest model isn't particularly groundbreaking in any area, as an overall package it's very good indeed and has enough quality to take on the class leaders.

The current generation arrived in 2014, and while Vauxhall's fourth iteration of the Corsa feels fairly evolutionary, it remains a great all-rounder and a worthy rival to other class-leading superminis like the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta.

Our Choice 1.0T 115 SRi 5dr For the best part of 20 years, the Vauxhall Corsa has been not just one of the top-selling superminis in the UK, but one of the best-selling cars, full stop. This is the fourth generation of the Corsa and, as it has done for its whole life, it competes with the Ford Fiesta at the top of the sales charts.

   

However, times have changed since it first appeared, and there's an ever-growing list of cars looking to tempt potential buyers away from the Corsa. There are other long-established names like the Renault Clio, Nissan Micra and Volkswagen Polo, but the SEAT Ibiza and Skoda Fabia are now very credible challengers, too, as are relative newcomers like the Kia Rio and Hyundai i20.

- Best superminis

What the Corsa does offer is choice -although, if were honest, there's so much choice that it can be a little bewildering.

First off, there's a simple choice between two body styles: the three-door hatchback is the sportier-looking one, whereas the five-door is the more practical of the pair.

   

Then, there's a big range of engines, but among the best is the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with 89bhp or 113bhp, and which takes on the 1.0-litre EcoBoost in Ford's Fiesta line-up. Also worth a look is the super-frugal 1.3-litre diesel with automated manual gears that, with careful driving, will take you close to the 80mpg mark and CO2 of 90g/km..

Beyond that, there is a massive selection of trims, but look closely at the details if you fancy buying a Corsa. First, not every trim is available with both body styles -Sting is three-door only, for instance -but not all the trims are eligible for the same customer offers. At the time of writing, for example, you can get 0% finance and an GBP 1800 Vauxhall deposit contribution on an Elite model, but not on an SE.

   

The reason is that some of the trims are aimed at the fleet market, and others are aimed at private buyers, with not just the equipment, but also the offers, tailored to the intended market.

Sting is the most basic trim (although it does have twin white stripes on the bonnet and roof, as well as white alloy wheels), while Energy brings air-con and a DAB radio. If you fancy something sporty, there are the SRi and SRi VX Line models, while SE and Elite are the luxury options. Finally, at the top of the range is the VXR hot hatch.

What also complicates matters is that the Corsa isn't Vauxhall's only small car. At the lower end of the range, you could also consider the Viva city car; and, if you want something a bit more aspirational and upmarket, there's the Adam, a rival for premium small cars like the Mini.

   

Engines, performance and drive 3.7 The Corsa is better to drive than ever, and among the confusing array of similarly powered engines, the new three-cylinder unit really stands out The looks may be familiar, but Vauxhall has re-engineered a substantial proportion of the Corsa's running gear to ensure it can compete with the Fiesta when it comes to driver engagement. Sadly, the truth is that it still can't quite match the Ford -but it's closer than ever.

Underneath, the basic platform from the previous-generation Corsa has been carried over, but Vauxhall has bolted on a new suspension setup, which improves the ride considerably and gives better body control.

The importance of the UK market to the Corsa's success has prompted Vauxhall to set up the suspension and steering specifically for our roads, rather than simply take the settings from the equivalent Opel. So, while it still feels a little nervous on the motorway and slightly juddery at times, it makes up for that with fast responses on twisty roads.

   

Just as importantly, the suspension soaks up low-speed bumps well -a little better than the Ford Festa, even. Turn-in is quick, there's plenty of grip, and while a little body roll is present, the Corsa generally feels stable and sure-footed.

Around town, the City steering mode (standard on every model) makes the wheel extremely light for parking, and it disengages at speeds above 30mph to deliver a more natural feel -although there still isn't a great deal of feedback to tell you what the front wheels are doing.

There's more of a feeling of quality and solidity in this Corsa than ever before -the gearbox has more heft despite still being very light through the gate, for example. We'd avoid the Easytronic automatic gearbox, though -it's an automated manual, rather than a full automatic, so while it doesn't have a negative affect on fuel economy, it does make the car less enjoyable to drive, with slow and jerky changes.

Engines The Corsa comes with a confusingly large engine range, and many have very similar outputs, but the difference between the three- and four-cylinder units is significant.

   

Power ranges from 74bhp with the most basic 1.4-litre petrol engine, to 202bhp in the fire-breathing 1.6-litre turbo of the VXR.

The two naturally aspirated 1.4-litre engines share a similar character, with either 74bhp or 89bhp. Vauxhall labels some of the engines ‘ecoTEC', which is the company's family of low-CO2, high-mpg engines. But in fact, the petrol engines are relatively low in torque (both versions of the 1.4-litre unit have just 130Nm, developed at 4,000rpm, compared to the 1.3-litre diesel's 190Nm at 1,800rpm), that you'll be hammering the accelerator to get them moving, which will dent your fuel economy.

There's a turbocharged version of the 1.4-litre with 98bhp that's a little better, but it's still quite noisy and nowhere near as characterful as the new 113bhp three-cylinder turbo petrol -which completely changes the character of the car. Happy to rev and sweet-sounding, it takes 10.3 seconds to get the Corsa to 62mph, which is a little slower than the rival Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost, but it's a supremely refined engine. Around town or at higher speeds, it produces very little noise in the cabin and even from low revs it pulls surprisingly strongly.

   

Black Edition Corsas come with a 148bhp version of the 1.4-litre turbo, which is notably stronger than the 98bhp version, naturally, and negates the need to stamp on the accelerator when going up hills or overtaking. Its 220Nm of torque helps the Corsa to a 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds.

The 1.3-litre diesel is the most frugal engine in the Corsa, but it feels heavier in the nose. It's available in two power outputs, 74bhp and 94bhp, they both have 190Nm of torque, so the main difference is in the mid-range. Having said that, with 14.8- and 11.9-second 0-62mph sprints respectively, they're not built for high performance, and they tend to rattle and chug in a manner typical of four-cylinder diesel units.

   

- Vauxhall Corsa VXR review

Finally, we come to the 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine in the VXR, which propels the car to 62mph in 6.8 seconds. In a hot hatch world where milliseconds matter, it's worth noting that the Fiesta ST has only 180bhp and takes 0.1 seconds longer to hit that benchmark. It's also true, however, that the Ford is by far the more engaging car to drive.

MPG, CO2 and running costs 3.8 It's cheap to buy and insure, but the Vauxhall Corsa is scuppered by a range of engines that you might expect better efficiency from One vital characteristic of a supermini is that is has to be cheap to run. Fortunately, purchase prices for the Corsa have been slashed to give it even greater showroom appeal, with the new car costing around GBP 1,000 less than the equivalent Fiesta. But don't think you miss out on standard kit, as USB connectivity, LED daytime running lights, cruise control and a multi-function steering wheel are fitted across the range.

   

Plus, the sheer volume of Corsas sold means that dealers are more able to give discounts on a Corsa than you'd perhaps get from a rival such as the Volkswagen Polo, SEAT Ibiza or Toyota Yaris. And Vauxhall's habit of making special editions of the Corsa means there's always likely to be a tempting offer if you go into the showroom.

What you'll find, however, is that the Corsa's engines aren't as uniformly fuel-efficient as you might expect. Yes, the headline-grabbing 1.3-litre CDTi diesel with 94bhp is excellent on paper, returning around 80mpg whether with a manual or Easytronic gearbox, but elsewhere the reality is quite average fuel economy. The vast majority of Corsa models offer fuel economy ratings in the 50s or low 60s, meaning you'll probably see late 40s in everyday use, if you're careful.

You can also opt for a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, but none of the versions (one of which is turbocharged) is as efficient or as clean as the smaller-capacity three-cylinder unit. The lower-powered three-cylinder turbo unit, with 89bhp, has claimed fuel economy of more than 60mpg, and you don't need to work as hard to get the best from it.

   

The 113bhp version of that engine -our favourite of the range -isn't quite as economical on paper, but you'll find that in the real world it's better on fuel than a lower-powered 1.4-litre unit. As ever, when you're choosing the right engine, it's a case of balancing the fuel savings with the higher list price and your potential enjoyment of the car.

The 1.6-litre turbo engine in the VXR is not one purchased with efficiency as a priority, but in this class it's always important. That's why the 38.7mpg and 172g/km figures are disappointing, when the Fiesta ST returns 47.9mpg and 138g/km.

Insurance groups As you'd expect, the Corsa isn't especially expensive to insure -and that's without considering the sort of free insurance offers that lower-end versions are often sold with.

Comparable to the Ford Fiesta, it's popular with first-time drivers and there are abundant parts available, so it's not too expensive to repair. Starting in Group 2, most Corsa models sit in single figure insurance groupings, with the more powerful turbo versions in the teens. Unsurprisingly, the VXR will cost a similar amount to insure as the group 30 Fiesta ST.

Depreciation There are so many Corsas on the road that there's no shortage of supply on the used market, which hits used values hard. Nonetheless, you can expect an average-mileage Corsa to be worth just under 40 per cent of its purchase value after three years.

Because the Corsa is better equipped as standard than it once was, spec choice isn't as imperative as it used to be in keeping values high. However, the higher the trim the geater the desirability, and therefore the retained value.

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