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Our Little Reliable Banger!!!

19.06.2004 Diamond review

very reliable, nippy, hard wearing .  Low running costs

No power steering, Basic equipment

Recommendable Yes:

Detailed rating:

Value for Money

Road Handling



Fuel consumption


22 Ciao members have rated this review on average: very helpful See ratings
exceptional by (24%):
  1. patriciat
  2. nictastic
  3. Mattroberts
and 7 other members
very helpful by (76%):
  1. Belle
  2. rickyshah
  3. TheChocolateLady
and 29 other members

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In a special tribute review, I have decided to write about our “Old Family Friend”. This car has served us over the last seven years, given us miles and miles of trouble free motoring. It was bought as a basic town car, and it has done its job very well over it’s time. Even when Mum went and bought a new car, it was passed to me, and is still in my tender care to this day. This car is none other then the humble Vauxhall Corsa.

Background to Car

We acquired our Corsa in 1998, when my Mother’s Mini was starting to fall to pieces (It was an F-reg) This car was in Dad’s company as a pool car, so it had come to the end of it’s four year lease. We bought it for the superb price of £3,200, with about 40,000 miles on the clock. It was in very tidy and clean condition, and being a fleet car, had been serviced regularly at a Vauxhall dealer.

The Corsa we bought was the basic LS trim, and had the 1.2 injection engine fitted. The engine is a basic 8 valve, and was deemed a very reliable engine, a fact we can vouch for! It was finished in the cherry red paint, with grey seat cloth trim. However, there is nothing special about this, as most of you will know. Every other Corsa on the road seems to be a red LS model, of an L registered year!

Over the seven years we have had it, it has given us leagues of good service. Very few things have gone wrong with it, and now it has a total mileage of 110,000 on it. However, it is starting to rust and become more expensive to maintain. We have had to have welding on the chassis done, and the brake pipe needed to be replaced.

With this in mind, I am starting to look for another car. However, I have been very happy with this Corsa and I am writing this opinion on it to say goodbye for when the time comes!


The Corsa, in my opinion, is one of those cars in which the looks have stayed very fresh ever since the launch. It has been out for eleven years, and yet the new shape does not look too much different to the old shape. As my friend put it, “It has a friendly, cheeky face to it.”

The exterior is a dramatic improvement from the old Nova, with a new curvy shape that gives the car a look of friendliness. The headlights are shaped into a bulbous frog shape, and are combined with a small curved radiator grille. The rear is very stylish, with nice clean back lights and bumper. Overall the car manages to combine a fresh, unfussy look with friendly style. It looks much better then Fiestas of the same age.

The car has big chunky bumpers on the front and rear, with the grey plastic extending
Pictures of Vauxhall Corsa SXi 1.2i
Vauxhall Corsa SXi 1.2i Picture 34414 tb
Our Corsa
to the wheel arches. This makes it quite accident resistant for small knocks. However, I have found with age the grey plastic has faded round the wheel arches, making it look totally different. They are also grey plastic rubbing strips down the side, with a plain “LS” badge on the doors. The door handles and mirror are also in grey.

It is finished in cherry red solid paint, which unfortunately is fading on it with age. The bonnet and roof are now a salmon pink colour! Finally to complete the look, there is a lovely patch of rust developing on the bottom, showing the age of the car well. Oh well, it is to be expected.

The wheels are just standard wheel trims, which have long gone. As you can see from the photos, the car now has a £5 set on from Makro, showing my stingy ways! They are 13” in size and very skinny, and are in my opinion, laughable.


“Basic” sums up the interior very well in this car. Does it have air conditioning, and full electrics? Does it heck! The windows are the Stone Age sort, which you have to wind up and down. To adjust the mirrors, you have to lean over to the window and pull the lever. However, for a basic model it has some nice little touches. The gear stick is leather trimmed, and nicer to hold then some cars. It also has an information display on the top of the dashboard, which shows the date, time and outside temperature.

It was originally supplied with a cassette deck, with a basic radio. However, this cassette player did not do the good speaker system justice, making it sound feeble. I had it taken out, and a CD player added. Once with the CD player, the sound quality is pretty good, as it has 4 large and 2 small speakers in the cabin.

The instrument panel is basic, as it only contains a Speedometer, fuel gauge and temperature gauge. No rev counter, and no digital trip computer or odometer either! The fuel gauge does not have a warning light either, so you have to watch it carefully, or else something nasty could happen! However, the dials are easy to read and are clear, with a big central speedometer that’s well laid out.

The centre console is of a good standard, with solid plastics and a clear layout. The ventilation controls are of a nice chunky design, and make solid clicks as you turn the dials. They are big and simple to use as well. The vents feel solid, and the ventilation system is quite powerful, with a good heater in it.

On the downside, the trim on the doors is tacky, and is starting to look cheap. The handles are now getting scratched to bits very easily, and have lost their shine. This is also the case with the crank handle for the windows, as they are getting tired now.

The seat trim is hard wearing, and is a grey patterned cloth. The rear bench folds completely flat for large loads, and can accommodate two adults quite well, with three being a push. The boot is quite small, but is deep, and has also taken a battering over the years. What this car should get awards for is how long the seat and floor trim have lasted over the years. They have been folded up and down countless of times, had heavy feet dragged across them. Plants, food and ice creams dropped over it. Most recently, it was vomited on by a drunken friend, and came out of it looking very well. I have to give it credit for this.

Overall, the Corsa’s interior is a good one. It may be basic, but the console is well built, and the seat trim is hard wearing. It has a few luxurious touches and a good speaker system, but shame about the standard Radio. The controls are simple to use, and the dials are clear and easy to read. A credit to Vauxhall over this!


Well, this one is an interesting subject. The Corsa does some things very well, and others not so well. So I will start from the beginning, as there is no better place to start.

When the engine fires up and you leave it idling, it has quite a rough note to it. However, one you engage first gear, the engine becomes smooth and quiet for its age. The clutch is very light, and is very easy to use. However, there is nowhere to rest your foot when not being used, so it looses a brownie point there!

When you start moving it out its parking space, the first thing that becomes obvious is the blatant lack of any power assist to the steering. Although it does not really need it, it’s quite heavy to steer at slow speeds. Once you have heaved it out of its space, and start going forwards, things start to get better.

The 1.2i engine is good for about town. Although the BHP level is laughable, being 45 bhp, it’s quite adequate for around town. It feels nippy and lively, with the engine giving you a satisfying tone. It cruises very well on the out of town roads, at 50 mph. The 1.2i engine’s weak point is the motorways, especially overtaking. At 70 mph, the engine feels very strained, and it’s a struggle to overtake Lorries and other vehicles. The wind noise at this level cuts in rather loudly, so I would not advise taking this car down the motorway for an extended period.

The gearbox in this car is lovely, and has a smooth action to it. The shift is very light, and it has never missed a gear yet. The 5th gear is standard on the LS, and it does cruise well in it. The economy of this car is about 43 mpg combined, and I have had 50 mpg out of it on a long run, so it is pretty respectable.

It has good handling on the roads, giving you good road feedback. The steering is very precise, only needing the slightest turn to move between lanes on roads. The brakes are not the best though. They are quite slow reacting, and you have to constantly think ahead and brake very early to get the best out of the braking system. However, this does teach you the importance of braking too late very well!

In my opinion, this is a nice little car to drive round and out the town. Once you have heaved it out of the drive, it has nippy acceleration, and a good gearbox. Just watch that road, or the brakes might catch you out!

Safety and security.

The safety level is very basic, with crumple zones and side impact bars. No airbags are included as standard, and the third rear seatbelt is only a lap one. The body shell does feel strong though, so I think it would do reasonably well in a crash.

The only extra security feature of this car is a locking glove box. It does not have central locking, or an engine immobiliser. I think the locks would be quite easy to pick, being a dated design. They are also not deadlocked, so the window can be smashed and opened from inside. The windows are etched though with the cars VIN number.


This is where the car scores top marks for in my opinion. Over the seven years we have had it, it has never let us down for the first six. It has been properly maintained, serviced twice a year, and checked every week. It still has the original clutch in it, and has been very light on brake pads and discs and tyres over the years we have had it. We have had 60,000 miles of trouble free motoring out of it, so we would recommend a Corsa to anyone purely on this basis.

However, over the last year our Corsa has had a couple of minor niggles. I was left stranded in Newcastle on a freezing winter morning when the battery died on me, which was also the original battery. That was easily fixed, and the car ran fine again. Now, it needed a bit of work to get it through its MOT. It needed a new brake pipe at £120, as the old one had rotted. It also needed welding work doing, as there is a certain batch of L and M reg Corsas in which the chassis has a defect on which makes them corrode.

Now it is starting to rust. Not severely, but enough to make me start worrying. Should I get it fixed, or should I buy another car? I think I might choose the latter option, as this one has 110,000 on it. However, I will have no hesitation in buying another of these wonderful little machines as my next set of wheels.

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Comments about this review »

Belle 14.11.2004 01:05

Congrats on the diamond - very well deserved. K xxx

rickyshah 03.11.2004 23:30

Never really liked corsa's... did like this review though. well done.

lesleyanne18 19.08.2004 15:08

great review - im buying a corsa very shortly, always loved them, well done on your diamond also lesleyanne x

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Product Information »

Manufacturer's product description

Vauxhall present the Corsa Design 1.2i 16v dualfuel 3dr Hatchback with 5 Speed Manual Gearbox, Front (FWD) running ...

Product details

Range Vauxhall Corsa
Range + Engine Type Corsa 1.2i, Corsa 1.2i 16v dualfuel, Corsa 1.2i 16v, Corsa 1.2 16v, Corsa 1.2, 1.2
Manufacturer Vauxhall


Listed on Ciao since 28/05/2001

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Review Ratings »

This review of Vauxhall Corsa SXi 1.2i has been rated:

"exceptional" by (24%):

  1. patriciat
  2. nictastic
  3. Mattroberts

and 7 other members

"very helpful" by (76%):

  1. Belle
  2. rickyshah
  3. TheChocolateLady

and 29 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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