The safe bet
Not many manufacturers can compete with the illustrious history of Opel, yet plenty of competitors enjoy a slightly rosier outlook for the future. The American General, a Canadian conglomerate, Opel workers and Germany’s chancellor were all tugging at each of Opel’s four corners recently.
The motoring world looked on in disbelief, politics aside, hoping that one of Deutschland’s oldest brands would not be torn to shreds or disappear down the sizable black hole created by a financially unstable and slightly wounded world market.
Once the dust had settled and the four (or more) adversaries stopped staring at each other, Opel slash General Motors proceeded to do exactly what Opel needed right now: build fantastic motor cars. The new Astra already bowled me over, and its little cousin Corsa attempted the same.
The new Corsa is a relatively good-looking machine, not overly pretty or complicated but with enough zest to make it look interesting. Its new metal dress is neither cute nor butch and this safe style of design means that the unisex shape should appeal to everybody.
Its interior is equally modest and although it lacks the quality and materials of the upmarket Astra it will be yours at downmarket prices. The seats are comfortable and supportive, visibility is good and the cabin features many comfort and entertainment features.
Poke around the place and you shall discover front power windows and side mirrors, cruise control, cup holders, air conditioning, RDS radio with mp3 compatible CD and AUX socket, seven speakers, satellite buttons on the adjustable steering wheel and a trip computer.
The rear bench folds in the obligatory arrangement and Corsa features a double boot floor. The 1.4 Enjoy model also features two airbags, electro-hydraulic power steering, remote central locking, an alarm and immobiliser.
Our test vehicle was the 1.4 Enjoy 5-door model with standard 15-inch alloy wheels minus fog lights. Other Corsas include a 1.4 Essentia 5-door, 1.4 Sport 3-door and 1.6 Sport 5-door. Prices range from a competitive N$163 200 right up to N$229 200.
The front part of a 1.4 Corsa is occupied by a 1364cc in-line four cylinder petrol engine with 74kW (101hp) of power and 125Nm of torque. This translates into a 0-100km/h sprint of 12.4 seconds (we managed a fantastic 11.3) and a top speed of 173km/h. Average CO2 output is claimed at 127g per kilometre.
Claimed fuel consumption from its 45L tank is 5.5L/100km, although our test mule was adamant that it needed around 8L per 100km on average. Highway cruising at 120km/h requires about 6.5L while (very) careful driving around town should yield similar results.
Hence the little Opel is extremely frugal with the contents of its small fuel tank and due to its negligible weight and size the Corsa 1.4 offers agreeable performance. Yes, agreeable. The fourteen-hundred engine is eager and smooth but definitely lacks a bit of punch.
Torque and overtaking performance through the five-speed manual gearbox is acceptable as long as you don’t load up the Corsa or follow its gear change suggestions; the 1.4 is a decent little town commuter. However, its suspension and handling characteristics will quickly confirm why Opel has bigger engine variations on offer.
The Corsa glides over bumpy tarmac with grace and comfort, zips around corners with verve and desperately clings on to tarmac with its 185 tyres howling a faint melody of under-steer. Keep within its limits and the Corsa is an absolute pleasure to drive!
Its chassis can handle much more power and should see the meaner derivatives (with fatter tekkies) crinkle tarmac before they let go. That’s not to say the little one-point-four is useless, far from it, it offers a lovely ride with great features and rewards your miserly choice with good fuel economy.
Much like the Astra I did find a few odd items in the new Corsa, like its weird radio and ventilation dials, misguided key markings and BMW stalk behaviour. However, these won’t detract from a great little car with funky dials, direct steering, light pedals and a decent sound system.
The cherry on top is a five year 120 000km warranty and a three year 60 000km service plan. Opel, whatever you’re doing, keep at it. Your products appear to be exactly what everyone (not just Opel fans) was hoping for – competitive, competent, involving cars. Should you also keep your pricing stable I’m convinced your future will be secure.
0-100m: 7.1s @ 76.8km/h
0-200m: 11.1s @ 98.6km/h
0-300m: 14.4s @ 114.9km/h
0-400m: 17.3s @ 125.5km/h
0-500m: 20.1s @ 133.7km/h
1/4mile: 17.4s @ 78.1mph
Climate: Partly cloudy, slight wind
Road: Dry tarmac, level
Occupants: Driver, no passengers
Fuel level: 1/2
Mileage: 8 800km