Taking it to the limit
The Opel Corsa ecoFlex, says Declan O'Byrne, marries the virtues of an economical small car to the excesses of a boy racer's dream with only limited success
THIS Limited Edition of the popular Opel Corsa is, we are told, "more sporty" than its predecessor. There is, of course, nothing new, or groundbreaking, in this assertion.
Almost any new car you care to name these days has likely been described at, or since its launch, as 'more sporty' than the older model, turning its purchase, like a multitude of other products these days, more into a matter of image and lifestyle than an ordinary everyday, albeit important and ever more financially challenging, transaction.
The Corsa, which has proved a major success for Opel, has undergone a major interior and exterior makeover in the past two years.
And, like its siblings in the shapely, so-called 'new Opel family', it now boasts a less 'boxy' appearance.
A major player in the European market since 1982, the new version of the car offers one of the widest product ranges in the small car segment. It comes in two body styles: the coupé-like three-door, the family friendly five-door, and a commercial variant called Corsavan.
The engine line-up ranges from 65 PS to 192 PS, all updated two years ago to meet Euro 5 emission standards. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions have been cut by up to 13pc while engine power, generally, has been boosted.
The diesel engine range features a choice of two 1.3 CDTi variants (75 PS and 95 PS) designed to provide an acceptable combination of performance, refinement and efficiency together with achieving impressive environmental credentials, with a respective combined fuel consumption of 4.2-4.4l/100km, and low CO2 emissions of 110-115g/km allowing both models to fit snugly the lowest road tax category.
The reworked 1.6-litre turbo 192 PS OPC version of the car continues to top the new range. The face of the Corsa OPC was also redesigned to match the rest of the new line-up, especially with new headlamps and a new grille.
The car, generally, has also undergone significant chassis improvements designed to provide better ride comfort, steering feel and directional stability without compromising the key elements of agility and driving fun.
Dampers, springs, anti-roll bars, rear axle, the steering gear and the the Electric Power Steering (EPS) software have all been revised to give the Corsa a new level of running refinement and improved steering and ride quality.
The ABS and ESPPlus systems support the internally ventilated front disk brakes so that, in an emergency, brake control is activated in addition to brake assist and electronic brake force distribution. So safety hasn't been overlooked in the revamp either.
The Corsa was designed and developed in Rüsselsheim, Germany and is built in Zaragoza, Spain and Eisenach, Germany. It has enjoyed considerable success throughout Europe in the 'small car' or super-mini segment. It accounts for about 30pc of all Opel/Vauxhall sales and is among the leaders in the category. On average, more than 400,000 units were sold annually in the last three years.
Apart from the new, easy-on-the-eye styling and improved driving and handling performance, it has also been accorded a prestigious stamp of overall quality. Germany’s DEKRA Quality Report 2010 named the Corsa the overall winner, with the lowest defect rate of all the vehicles tested. DEKRA (Deutscher Kraftfahrzeug-Überwachungs-Verein) is an independent, full-service provider for safe and efficient mobility and Europe’s leading technical expert organisation.
Apart from exterior appeal, the Corsa cabin is one of the roomiest in its class. Among the novel enhancements, amid a plethora of available options, you can have a heated steering wheel and/or a much more useful integrated bicycle carrier FlexFix along with halogen Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL), Hill Start Assist and a panorama sunroof.
Four trim levels S, SC, SE and SXi, will allow you to personalise the car while there is a range of contemporary colours and decors for exterior and interior use, from which to choose.
For the fashion-conscious, in the Charcoal range, the SC interior can also be dressed with a fiery Tabasco Orange or more understated Steel Blue decor while the new exterior colour palette includes a delicate off-white Guacamole, eye-catching Lime Green and daring, warm Chili Orange. Choose one of these and you won't want for notice, though your taste may be left open to question.
In addition to the four revamped trims, the Limited Edition version of Corsa (95 PS ecoFLEX, 115 g/km CO2, the test car) is now available in Ireland.
It features a black sapphire roof, black 17 inch twin-spoke alloy wheels along with 'sporty' - that word again - ditties, including lowered sports suspension, front fog lights, red or yellow interior seat stitching, leather steering wheel, dark-tinted windows and aluminium pedals. The Limited Edition Corsa is available in four exterior colours – Glacier White, Flame Red, Black Sapphire (the test car) and Sunny Melon each with a Black Sapphire roof.
There is also the option of a separate, even more sporty Linea pack which includes 17-inch wheels in white or glossy black with matching stripes along the body. The Linea Pack is available on SC and SXi trim levels. There is also an optional 'Touch & Connect' multimedia infotainment system, with a five-inch colour touch screen, with full navigation coverage for 28 European countries, Bluetooth, iPod and USB connections.
While it looks like, one, the ecoFlex, as the name would suggest is no pocket rocket. Although top speed is a respectable 163km/hour, it will take you 14.9 seconds to get from 0-100 km/h.
In general, though, it's an accomplished and sturdy if not overly exciting little performer. And, of course, as always, there's the thorny old issue of price.
Without available options, the car will cost you €17,955, otherwise considerably more at €19,422. Metallic paint costs €535 while air conditioning will add €932 to the bill. The base model carries a less onerous price tag starting at €14,700 but it begs the question what's the point of plumping for a Limited Edition version if you don't equip it with the gadgets and goodies that'll make you the envy of your friends?
The Corsa, in this guise, is probably worth more than a passing glance but, in the current economic climate, it faces an awful lot of competition for your hard-earned money. However, as always, the decision is yours...