Vauxhall Corsa VXR: Quick Compact Packs Punch And Poise

Comfortable, committed and somewhat mature in character, as compact hot hatches go, the quick and confident Vauxhall Corsa VXR is the punchy and agile, with an urgent aesthetic.

Introduced in 2015, the Corsa VXR version arrived shortly after the latest incarnation of Britain’s best-selling car model arrived in 2014. A hot super-mini hatchback rival to the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTI, Renault Clio RS and Volkswagen Polo GTI, the compact Corsa VXR delivers agile handling, muscular output, eager performance and reassuringly stable, ‘big car’ highway ride quality, characteristic of Vauxhall.

Driven on UK roads, the Vauxhall Corsa VXR is sold globally as the Opel Corsa OPC. Founded in 1857, a car maker by 1903 and General Motors subsidiary by 1925, Vauxhall began merging with GM’s German Opel brand by the mid-1970s. Offering an almost identical model line-up as Opel nowadays, Vauxhall is however consistently Britain’s second best-selling car brand with comparatively better market share and brand equity in its sole native market than Opel does in world markets.

Identical to the left-hand-drive global Opel Corsa OPC save for its right-hand-drive position and Griffin badge – as pictured – rather than lightning bolt emblem, the Vauxhall Corsa VXR is based on its predecessor’s basic platform with similarly compact dimensions yet practical cabin space and packaging. It is however a more sculpted, dynamic and athletic design with sharp headlights framing its hungry low trapezoidal grille, more powerful road-hugging stance, and considerably improved cabin and infotainment and assistance technology.

More aggressive than the ‘garden variety’ Corsa, the VXR’s features a honey-comb grille, more assertive bumper design with big side intakes. Meanwhile, a decorative hood scoop, 10mm lower ride height, prominent side sills, large tailgate spoiler, dual exhausts and rear air diffuser lend it a more grounded yet urgent demeanor. With optional Performance and Carbon packages – as driven – the VXR features carbon side mirrors and grille bar, in addition to 18- rather than 17-inch alloy wheels.

Powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine developing 202BHP at 5800rpm, the Corsa VXR packs quite the punch, with 0-100km/h dispatched in just 6.5-seconds and a top speed of 230km/h. Quick and eager to build power, the VXR’s mid-range is underwritten by a meaty and broad wave of torque, peaking at 207lb/ft throughout 1900-5800rpm during temporary overboost and 181lb/ft otherwise. Meanwhile, fuel efficiency is restrained at 7.5l/100km combined, but flexing the VXRs muscles is often tempting and increases consumption.

With quick-spooling turbo, the VXR is responsive off-the-line, eager towards its redline. Its mid-range delivery is meanwhile versatile and muscularly over a flexibly broad band and, with swift 6.4-second 80-120km/h acceleration.Transmitting power to the driven front wheels, the VXR’s 6-speed manual gearbox features a precise short throw lever and light yet intuitive clutch pedal pick-up. Gearing is well-judged for performance and efficiency, with an aggressively short first gear, tall sixth gear and close ratios in between.

Compact, agile and eager through narrow switchbacks yet comfortable enough on imperfect roads, and refined and stable at speed the latest Corsa VXR benefits from revised suspension design and settings, including new bushes and rear axle, and improved damper anti-roll bar rates. Its precise and quick steering has also been revised to deliver more natural road feel, while new mechanical – rather than electronic – Koni adaptive dampers reconcile the VXR’s taut cornering body control with a more forgiving ride.

Rapid, rewarding and reassuring, the Corsa VXR also receives tauter suspension rates and a Drexler limited-slip-differential to reduce torque steer and under-steer as part of the optional performance pack. Turning crisp into corner the VXR’s limited-slip differential allocates power to the front wheel better able to put it down to tarmac, so allowing it to dig in and pounce out with poise, purpose and power. Through successive corners, the VXR compact length and relatively wide footprint provides nimble agility, stability and grip.

Refined from noise, harshness and vibrations, the VXR is smooth, settled and buttoned down over rebound, with a firm and controlled ride that remains forgiving and fluent for daily driving. Eager and adjustable when chucked through corners, the VXR’s capable chassis is complimented by robust and effective brakes, including larger 380mm performance pack front discs and lower profile 215/40R18 tyres. For more seasoned drivers and additional track driving fun, the VXR’s effective electronic stability and traction can be completely disengaged, or kept on standby in Competition Mode.

Well packaged, the small 3-door Corsa VXR comfortably accommodated four adult passengers during test drive. Shell-backed front seats with high side bolsters and integrated headrests were notably spacious, comfortable and supportive. Driving position is high-set but alert with controls ergonomically laid out, while front visibility is good. Well built and user-friendly, if slightly busy, the VXR features a chunky flat-bottom steering wheel and standard heated windscreen, A/C and voice control infotainment system. Optional features include numerous driver assistance systems including rear-view camera and lane departure warning.

Specifications: Vauxhall Corsa VXR (Performance Pack)

  • Engine: 1.6-litre, transverse, turbocharged 4-cylinders
  • Bore x stroke: 79 x 81.5mm
  • Compression ratio: 8.8:1
  • Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC, variable valve timing
  • Gearbox: 6-speed manual, front-wheel-drive, limited-slip differential
  • Gear ratios: 1st 3.82:1; 2nd 2.16:1; 3rd 1.48:1; 4th 1.07:1; 5th 0.88:1; 6th 0.74:1
  • Final drive ratio: 4.18:1
  • Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 202 (205) [151] @5,800rpm
  • Specific power: 126.4BHP/litre
  • Power-to-weight: 156.2BHP/tonne
  • Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 207 (280) @1,900-5,800rpm
  • Specific torque: 175.2Nm/tonne
  • Torque-to-weight: 216.5Nm/tonne
  • 0-97km/h: 6.5-seconds
  • 80-120km/h: 6.4-seconds
  • Top speed: 230km/h
  • Fuel capacity: 45-litres
  • Fuel economy, urban / extra-urban / combined: 9.9-/6.2-/7.5-litres/100km
  • CO2 emissions, combined: 174g/km
  • Length: 4,021mm
  • Width (inc. mirrors): 1,944mm
  • Height: 1,479mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,510mm
  • Track, F/R: 1,472/1,464mm
  • Luggage volume, min / max: 285-/1,090-litres
  • Kerb weight: 1,293kg
  • Payload: 377kg
  • Steering: Power-assisted rack & pinion
  • Turning radius: 10.6-meters
  • Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / torsion beam
  • Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs, 330mm / 264mm
  • Tyres: 215/40R18
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