Vauxhall Corsa

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Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi 5-dr

Driven August 2006

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Vauxhall is claiming motorway miles like this could return 74.3mpg, while even the industry standard combined cycle produces a very respectable 61.4mpg.

An 89bhp version will also be available that, thanks to a standard six-speed gearbox, will match this combined figure while giving you some useful extra grunt. An even more powerful 1.7-litre diesel will come at the end of the year to sit alongside three petrol options.

Pricing is going to be key to Vauxhall's strategy with the Corsa. The three-door one-litre petrol in entry-level trim will set you back just £7,495, while the car I drove, in a fairly representative mid-range 'Club' trim, is £10,095.

This strategy marginally undercuts the oh-so cheap Punto, a car with which the Corsa actually shares some 30 per cent of its parts.

What this does for Vauxhall in the UK and Opel in Europe is to make the Corsa your first logical port of call. For most of us the supermini is a purchase fundamentally dictated by budget, so when you start shopping around you necessarily begin at the bottom.

If the equivalent Clio is going to take around £1,500 more out of your bank account, why even give it a second glance?

But people still will, you can be very sure of that. The Corsa is a solid all round package. It's a considerable styling improvement over the old car, and is a good, if not exceptional, drive. But it is for us, as we suspect it may well be for most buyers, really rather ordinary.

The biggest hurdle the Corsa will face is its lack of identity. People will be prepared to spend a little more on the lifestyle that comes with a Clio or Punto.

The Corsa is just not a car you'd want to tell people that you drove. And that's a shame, because in many ways it deserves to be. Embrace the anonymity, plump for a diesel five-door with greater economy and practicality and you've got yourself a very decent all round small hatch.

When the VXR performance version turns up in March the three-door will have a niche, but until then this car is best off playing that ordinary card. Whether that floats enough boats remains to be seen.

Matt Master

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