*Well, not here, but only in South Africa. And only 30 are being built. Boo
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£15,440 when new
Ahhh, this takes me back to my L-plate days Yup, the driving-school favourite, the Vauxhall Corsa, has come among us, renewed. Should anyone else be interested? They already are. Last year one in every six superminis sold in Britain was a Corsa. The engineers wanted to take what was good about the old one and sort out the defects. Remind me what was wrong with the old one? Quite a few offences to be taken into consideration. Poor engines, a lumpy ride, dull handling, and a dated dash with few tech options. Amazingly, in the face of those glaring flaws, Vauxhall says the owners’ most common grumble was the poor demisting. Good grief, so what on earth can have been worth salvaging? Decent space, compact size, cute silhouettes - different for the three-door and five-door. And it was tough and easy to drive, hence its driving-school mission. So how have they fixed it? Most of the significant engines are renewed. As is the downsizing fashion, a brand-new clean-sheet 1.0-litre triple with turbo and direct injection leads the charge, making 90bhp or 115bhp. The 1.4 in NA and turbo is modified and cleansed, but even the turbo version makes only 100bhp. Also a 1.2 NA (probably to be avoided) and a 1.3 diesel, which will probably cost you more than it saves. The six-speed manual box is all-new too. Meanwhile, they tried to change a couple of things to sharpen the handling, and ended up renewing pretty well everything in the suspension. And the front subframe. And most of the steering. The glass and basic bones of the body are kept, but all the panels are new, with more sculptural surfaces. The front and rear lights point outwards. The Corsa always looked a bit pinched and upright, but the new one looks wider, squatting to the road better. Indoors, the dash has a wide central decor panel, and there’s a nice new leather wheel instead of the old base-model clammy plastic. Nearly all versions have Vauxhall’s colour IntelliLink screen. That brings Bluetooth and music player connections, and, for a mere £50 for an app including maps on your iOS or Android phone, it allows the BringGo navigation app to work through the car’s big screen, without sucking a data connection. It’s not as fluid as satnav that’s resident in the car, but heck, for that price you can’t complain. That’s not the only new tech. Most versions have LED running lights and many xenons. Self-parking is on the menu, and a forward camera for speed limit recognition, lane departure warning and frontal collision warning. But come on. What about the demisting? Its feebleness was a peculiarity of the right-hand-drive heater plumbing. So the new car has an electrically heated screen as standard. Phew. Is this trendy triple any good? Very. It’s the only one in the class to get a balance shaft, and sure enough it hardly vibrates and is uncannily quiet. It pulls from way below 2000rpm, yet revs, in the 115bhp version, right to the red-line. And the real-world economy was better than expected even when I was lead-footing it. In comparison the 1.4 turbo isn’t as quiet or revvy, and drinks more, for less performance. So the new engine better than new chassis then? Well, yes. But not by too much. Its a small car and sometimes feels it, rocking and pitching about on lumpen roads. Not enough to slow you down, though. There are two suspensions. The standard setup occasionally lacks damping control, and its steering is definitely on the light and wispy side. Still, it carves a nice line through corners. And in return the ride is agreeably pliant and urban ride. So it’s the one to pick for typical supermini suburban scooting about. But the VX Line chassis option is usefully tauter and inspires more confidence, so is the one to have if you venture down B-roads much. Question is, would you buy a Corsa at all if B-roads were your absolute priority? The Fiesta still engages you more. Does the cabin work? Mostly. The quality is well up there among mainstream superminis, if not a Polo. It is roomier in the back and boot than most rivals. But the driving position defeated both me and my fellow traveller. The seat digs into the small of your back, and the pedal are a bit close, so you end up with the seat surprisingly far back on its runners and the cushion cranked up off the floor. Oh and the IntelliLink takes several jabs at the screen just to switch between the map screen and the view of music tracks, and the whole thing goes blank for a few seconds every time you touch the volume adjustment. Duh. Does any of this matter? Don’t people buy Corsas just because they can get a discount? This time the discounts will be smaller. But then, the sticker prices have been hacked right down - by about £1500-£3000. Smaller discounts mean lower depreciation too, so the monthly payments should be far easier. Vauxhall is good at sorting out the lifetime costs. Any more need-to-knows? Yup, a full-house VXR is on the way in spring, with 200bhp. Yum.
The fast Fiesta is more grown up in all the ways you’d want, marginally less chuckable than before, but still hilarious
£15,685 – £31,655
The Mini is an excellent hatch, but does it have to be so grown up?
£13,280 – £21,595
It's not the car it was, the Renaultsport Clio. Still fast, with a nice chassis, but not a patch on before