Cost and convenience are at the top of many car buyers’ priorities, which explains why the Vauxhall Corsa remains Britain’s second-best selling car even in its last year before it is replaced by an updated model. With a list price in excess of £15,000 the 1.4-litre SE five-door we tried looks pricey, but it doesn’t take much searching to find brand new cars on offer at a fraction over £10,000. You can get discounts on most of the Corsa’s rivals, but rarely anything like that much – and that’s what pulls in the buyers.
Owning it should be painless, too. Vauxhall has more dealers than almost any other make, so you never have far to go for service, repair or parts. And it’s a practical car to use – easy to drive and park, and with plenty of room inside despite the compact exterior dimensions.
But the Corsa’s interior looks like it’s been built to a budget, with cheap-feeling materials and uneven gloss-black trim in our test car. On the move, the highlight is the 1.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, which is punchy but loud. Otherwise the Corsa is dynamically inferior to rivals. The spongey feel to the steering inspires little confidence, the Corsa rolls from side to side in corners, and it lacks stability in heavy braking. You might think the trade-off for this soggy handling would be cossetting ride comfort, and the Corsa’s suspension does do a good job of isolating occupants from smaller bumps – but it quickly gives up the struggle against bigger ones.
So the old-model Corsa really only makes sense thanks to those big discounts: if you’ve got a little more to spend, you’re better off with rivals like Ford’s Fiesta, which are much more accomplished.