Vauxhall Corsa VXR

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Vauxhall Corsa VXR Nürburgring

Road Test

Vauxhall Corsa VXR Nürburgring driven

Driven November 2011

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Cynical, it is. pure profiteering. With its Corsa VXR slipping to mid-table obscurity, what does Vauxhall do to reignite some interest? Slap a few Nürburgring stickers on it, treat it to a 13bhp power hike, and then charge £22,000 to any polyester-clothing enthusiast gullible enough to buy it, that's what. Shameful. Makes me sick.

At least, that's what I was going to write about the none-more-Burberry Corsa VXR Nürburgring Edition. And then I drove it. Irritatingly, it turned out to be brilliant.

A quick look at the shopping list reveals why. Far from a exercise in ambitious marketing, this is a comprehensive nose-to-tail upgrade of the Corsa VXR: new Bilstein dampers, progressive rate springs, Brembo discs, lightweight forged wheels and - most significantly - a proper limited-slip differential. Yes, the 'Ring edition gets a mechanical LSD between its front wheels: the first Vauxhall to sport one since the Omega.

What a difference a diff makes. Sure, the 'Ring Corsa is fast on the straight bits - 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds is daftly quick for a dinky front-drive hatchback, but it's what happens when you meet a corner that propels this car into the upper echelons of hot hatchery. Throw the Corsa into a sharp bend, and - at that point the front end should give up, start pushing wide - the little Vaux' keeps digging in, tightening its line, refusing to understeer. Strictly in the name of scientific research, I took to a deserted roundabout at 3am, looping quicker and quicker, trying to find out what it took to make it unstick. My stomach lost traction before the car did.

With the 'Ring Edition riding lower than the stock Corsa VXR, I expected to get jiggled about like a nun on a washing machine. But, thanks to those posh new dampers and springs, it's actually a smoother drive. It doesn't quite have the switchblade reactions of the Renault Clio 200, but it'd be a far more comfortable thing to live with day-to-day.

The 'Ring Edition isn't perfect. The steering is decent but not as crisp as the Clio Cup's. Hey, not much is. Though the new half-leather Recaros are magnificent and some glossy bits of dash help freshen the cabin up, it still feels dated. And then there's (cough, mumble, shuffle feet) the price. Twenty-two grand is a silly amount of cash for a Corsa, any Corsa: the Clio 200, though less lavishly specced, is more than £4,000 cheaper. But the very fact we're not beseeching you to run rapidly away, wallet clutched tightly to your chest, tells you just how good the Corsa 'Ring Edition is. It might be pricey, but it's also the hot hatch of the year so far.

Sam Philip

We like: Brain-dislodging cornering ability
We don't like: Paying 22 grand for a Vauxhall Corsa
The verdict: An unexpected, if costly, delight. One of the very best hot hatches in recent years.
Performance: 0-62mph in 6.2secs, max 143mph, 37.2mpg
Tech: 1598cc, 4cyl, FWD, 202bhp, 207lb ft, 1307kg, 178g/km CO2
Tick this on the options list: Chilli Orange metallic paint, £495
And avoid this: Irmscher tax-disc holder, £28

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