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Road Test: Vauxhall Corsa 1.7DTi 16V Elegance 3dr (2000-2003)

£10,160 when new

Car specifications

Brake horsepower
Fuel consumption
0–62 mph
Max speed
Insurance Group


Having tried out a 1.4-litre petrol Corsa earlier in the year, and being a diesel fan, I was expecting great things of this car - but while it’s certainly not a duffer it’s not the shining star I’d hoped it would be.

Just like the petrol car, the oil-burning Corsa has reassuring handling thanks to its nicely composed chassis although the ride can get a bit bouncy on uneven surfaces. To be fair, there’s only so much you can do with such a short wheelbase, but at least the excellent ABS-equipped brakes make sure hair-raising experiences are kept to a minimum.

The cabin is also a decent place to be, even if it is a bit plasticky. Light and airy, the interior is well put together and the heating works really well - so it’s a shame that the ventilation isn’t as good even if air-con is standard.

Also not standard is the sat-nav, but it doesn’t seem very long ago that such a thing was available on only the most expensive luxury cars. So to have it even available on a supermini shows how rapidly progress is being made in the harsh world of bolting cars together.

But not everything is optional - power-assisted steering and electric windows and mirrors are included in the car’s standard spec sheet as are steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo. Our steed for the week was also fitted with the optional in-dash 4CD autochanger which works superbly.

As Vauxhall liked to tell us when it was launched, the Corsa is the biggest small car they’ve ever produced, so unless you’re carrying five members of a rugby team there should be plenty of room for everyone. Rear seat passengers get a decent amount of space and there’s even a trio of three-point seatbelts.

Whether the car is laden or not, the engine is torquey enough through the gears with the exception of fifth gear, where there’s little response if you put your foot down. At least you’re rewarded with excellent economy - you can expect to get over 60mpg if you’re prepared to exercise some restraint.

But then you shouldn’t find it too difficult to keep the revs down with a diesel Corsa because the car’s weakest point is the racket it generates once the engine is started. Definitely the most disappointing aspect of the Corsa DTi is its lack of refinement compared with the best cars in the class - the name Corsa is just a bit too apt…

When the engine is cold it’s especially disappointing but even when warm it never really gets quiet. Even at 60mph there’s a drone coming from the engine bay - perhaps it’s because the car isn’t as highly geared as some of its rivals.

And there are a few bits of equipment which you’d expect to see fitted but which aren’t there. On a car costing £12,500 (even if it is a supermini) I’d expect to see a reach-adjustable steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

Verdict? The Corsa is great in petrol form but not as good with the 1.7-litre turbodiesel engine. And with the new Fiesta and Polo due imminently it’ll struggle - if you want a Corsa go for a petrol-fired one.

Richard Dredge

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