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The Corsa is one of the small car offerings from Vauxhall/Opel. I say Vauxhall/Opel as it is only in the UK that it is marketed as Vauxhall and as Opel throughout the rest of Europe. They are one of Germany's oldest car manufacturers (1863) and manufactured their first motor vehicle in 1899. Since 1929 they have been part of the world wide General Motors Group.
I was never a huge fan of Vauxhall cars, having been put off them at an early age when I was unfortunate enough to purchase an old 1960's Vauxhall Victor early in my motoring career. It was a total rust bucket, and wasn't much better mechanically, spending more time off the road than it did on it.
But a couple of years back I rented a small diesel Corsa (1.3 CDTi) for a week while visiting Sicily, and have to say that I was highly impressed with the car. So when we decided around the middle of last year (2008) to get rid of my wife's Nissan Almera (we never liked it) the Corsa was high on our list of potential replacements, not least because my teenage daughter had just turned seventeen and obtained her first provisional license. (Corsa's are cheap to insure)
Corsa's come in various different engine sizes. The smallest is the 1.0 litre petrol model. (Not enough poke) The largest engine is the 1.7 litre diesel and the 1.8 litre petrol. I decided that I would look around for a good condition used 1.2 litre petrol model as this would give adequate performance and good economy, as well as being cheap to insure.
I eventually found what I considered to be a good car on eBay motors; a 2001 Corsa Comfort 1.2i with only a couple of owners and small mileage. (60,000) After quite a few probing questions to the seller I was on my way to Prestwick Airport in Scotland to pick up the car with £1500 Sterling in my pocket to drive back to my home in Dublin, Ireland. I often purchase my cars in the UK, as even after paying the invidious (and in my opinion illegal) Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) to register any car in the Republic, they are usually still a lot cheaper than buying the equivalent model here in Ireland.
I paid just short of Euro600 in VRT to import the car, so my total purchase price was around Euro2500, including my air fare, ferry,
and petrol costs to collect it from the UK.
So what's the car like and are we pleased with it since we purchased it at the beginning of August? (2008) The answer to both these questions is both yes and no!
Our car is the Corsa "C", which was the third incarnation of the Corsa, the first being the "Nova" which was sold from 1982 to 1993, and the Corsa "B" which sold from 1993 to 2000. The current model is the Corsa "D", which went on sale in 2006.
The Corsa "C" is a pleasant looking small car, much beloved by "boy racers" as it is sporty looking and can easily be modified. It's also has a fairly spacious interior, and can carry four adults in relative comfort without having to squeeze them in with a shoe horn like you have to do in some small cars. We haven't tried it with five adults in the rear, but in common with most small cars it would be a bit of a squeeze. The seats are both firm and comfortable, and you don't get out at the end of a long journey feeling like you need the immediate attention of a chiropractor or an instant bum massage! Our car is a three door model, which to be honest isn't ideal as the front seat passenger or driver has to physically get out of the car in order to let anyone into the rear. But it's not too much of a hassle.
Air bags are provided for the driver and front seat passenger, and our car has the added benefit of air conditioning which is great both when it is hot in the summer months (is it ever?) and for quickly demisting the car's windows. It has a decent sized boot which will easily take a couple of large (largish) suitcases or three or four smaller ones, and has plenty of room for all my wife's assorted shopping and knick knacks. (Her boot looks as cluttered as the inside of her handbag!) There's the added benefit of being able to fold down the 60/40 split rear seat, so if you have a lot to carry you more or less have all the benefits of a small van. (Handy)
It has a good radio/CD player (single disc) to keep you amused and happy if radio or music is your thing. Lots of storage, with a good sized glove compartment, and storage bins in both doors and under the driver's seat. One criticism would be the front cup holders, which are located in the lid of the glove compartment, and quite frankly are worse than useless. (We bought a couple of those clip on ones that fit over the air vents)
Our car came without a set of alloy wheels, and for me this is another minus. Alloy wheels are *MUCH* better looking on a car than steel wheels with covers, even if they are a nice set of covers like I've put on our little bus.
It's a lovely wee car to drive. The handling is precise and responsive, and because it has one of the longest wheel bases in its class, it also hugs the road like a limpet both while going in a straight line and when going round a corner. It's performs well on a motorway or dual carriageway or on the multitude of "B" roads we still have here in the Irish countryside.
The performance isn't exactly what you'd call scintillating, with a 0 to 60mph time of around 13 seconds, but it's plenty quick enough for your average driver, and it actually feels a lot quicker because of the size of the car. Top end speed is good at 106mph, and it will cruise all day quite happily at around 90mph on a long run. (I know 'cos I've tried it!)
An added bonus is the outstanding fuel economy, especially these days with rising oil prices. (Although petrol and diesel prices are dropping like a stone at present!) Around town you can expect to get over 40mpg plus, with 50 to 55mpg easily achievable on a long run.
A mere couple of twists of the steering wheel takes you from full right hand lock to full left hand lock, and the power steering makes the steering really easy to manage. This combined with its size makes it incredibly easy to park, even in the tightest of spaces.
So what is it about the car that I don't like?
Well, I have to hold my hands up and say I made a completely idiotic mistake. I noticed when I first viewed the car in Scotland that the engine sounded slightly "rough" on tick over, rather like it was a diesel rather than a petrol engine. I put this down to the fact that the car hadn't been use for quite a while, and the roughness disappeared as soon as you put it in gear and started to drive it, so I wasn't too concerned. It was only when I took it
Pictures of Vauxhall Corsa SXi 1.2i
Vauxhall Corsa Comfort 1.2i
into my own mechanic here in Dublin for a pre-NCT (MOT) test inspection that he pointed out to me that the "rough idle" was in fact a slapping timing chain.
I had always believed that a timing chain was built to last for the life of the car, as distinct from a timing belt which needs replacing every 50,000 to 60,000 miles. Not so unfortunately, at least not with the Corsa "C" model, which seemingly is prone to timing chain failure. The end result was that I had to purchase a new timing chain kit for around £100 (on eBay) and spend another whopping Euro900 to have it fitted. (The whole engine has to be removed!)
The car also had another fault that cost me more money. It was somewhat difficult to find second gear, and this turned out to be caused by a busted gearshift linkage. Seemingly this is yet another common fault on the Corsa "C" model. So another £50 for the part and another Euro100 for fitting.
When it went in for its NCT (MOT) test another fault emerged. It failed on the rear wheel "slip" test, which was caused by both rear shock absorbers being shot. Yet another £70 for the parts, and another Euro50 to get them fitted. Add another Euro150 for a couple of new tyres.
So the car ended up costing me a whopping Euro1650 or so extra to get onto the road, which brought the total purchase price up to around Euro4,150! This was about Euro1,150 more than I could have bought the same model (in pristine condition) for here in Ireland!
I love our wee Corsa to bits and we now have an excellent car that should last us for donkey's years. (My wife does very small annual mileage) The car is cheap to tax and insure, used and new parts are plentiful and fairly cheap, and servicing runs at around the Euro150 for a basic service. On top of that the car is absolutely ideal for a learner driver such as my teenage daughter. We’ve now had the car for around 8 months or so (March 2009) and have experienced no further problems with the car in that time.
But *PLEASE* be very aware of the common faults with the Corsa "C" model that I have outlined here in my review. If I had done my homework properly (on the Internet) then I wouldn't have been so badly caught out, and could have saved myself a huge wedge of money!