Corsa still at top of its game

IT may sound like something of an insult, but actually it is a praiseworthy statement to say that Opel’s Corsa has virtually become a piece of street furniture. Learners learn to drive in them, newly-qualified drivers then go out and buy them, small families, pensioners, youngsters - it is a car with universal appeal, which is why you see so many of the little blighters.

IT may sound like something of an insult, but actually it is a praiseworthy statement to say that Opel’s Corsa has virtually become a piece of street furniture. Learners learn to drive in them, newly-qualified drivers then go out and buy them, small families, pensioners, youngsters - it is a car with universal appeal, which is why you see so many of the little blighters.

But it would be naïve to live off its reputation, and so understandably Opel has taken the Corsa in for a little spruce up to keep it at the top of its game. 2010 saw the suspension set up benefit from detail changes, whereas this 2011 model now has a series of design and specification enhancements for further grin inducement.

Although the Corsa is one of the most familiar shapes on the road, it is easy to spot the latest version thanks to the broad grin of the new grille. Just like those on larger models in the Opel range it has a wide band of chrome, flanked on either side by the new headlights which included daytime running lights. There’s a new bumper at the front too, while the rest of the car can be enhanced with a wide choice of colours and increase wheel options, including some particularly attractive 17-inchers finished in black. If you’re already a fan of its looks the changes will help, while the undecided won’t deny it looks modern and fresh.

Climb inside and you are greeted by one of the best cabins in the supermini class. It feels sturdy and looks surprisingly expensive given the modest price tag. New for 2011 are the seat trim options, both of which add colour and avoid the default shades of grey approach. You can add colour elsewhere too: the door trims, centre console, air vents and door handles can all be colour-coded. You’ll need to exercise restraint and apply some taste, but sitting in the colour-splashes cabin makes a refreshing change.

Another important change is the new Touch and Connect multimedia system, which brings sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity and multi-input audio playback in one simple system. There’s a clear colour screen up the top and it’s good value too. Another big-car option is the heated steering wheel, which sounds like an irrelevance, but first thing on a frosty morning it’s the next best thing to still being in bed.

With no changes under the skin this time around, you can take it as read that the Corsa drives well and makes life easy for the driver. This top-specification 1.7-litre diesel offers up strong torque from 2,000rpm which helps make life easy in town traffic as well as more than brisk acceleration if you’re in a hurry. It’s also pretty refined and avoids become too noisy at the higher end of the rev range. Perhaps of greater importance is the efficiency figures: 62.8mpg combined is excellent, while the C02 emissions of 118g/km are very good indeed for a car that can also sprint to 60mph from rest in 8.9 seconds. Put in those terms, the Corsa has all the bases covered.

Drive along any mix of typical Irish roads and the Corsa comfortably deals with them all. Although there are newer rivals to contend with it filters out road imperfections without coming over all jelly-like through a tricky bend. Modern small cars get used for much more than just the high street run, so the Corsa’s ability to be a jack of all traders will satisfy the great majority of buyers. One or two rivals may be a little more fun to drive, but if it’s fun you’re after the hot VXR will take care of that.

There may have only been modest changes made over last year’s model, but that’s mostly due to the fact it was doing a fine job in the first place.