FIRST DRIVE | New Opel Corsa finally in SA – the late editions

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2021 Opel Corsa
2021 Opel Corsa
Opel Media

• One of South Africa's most popular hatchbacks has finally arrived in its latest version.
• The new Opel Corsa was launched locally earlier in March 2021.
• First arrivals will land locally from the second half of the year.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.



It was conceived during tumultuous times at Opel, and its development was beset by substantial changes, holdups, and delays. So massive was it that its platform – the core of any vehicle – was changed from a General Motors (GM) to a PSA Group platform midway through its gestation.

The Cosa F was supposed to be introduced in 2017, but the original project (called G2J0 on a GM G2XX platform) was cancelled and restarted after switching to the PSA CMP (EMP2) platform, making it the first Opel model developed under PSA ownership.

This led to more interruptions, and its introduction was ultimately pushed back to 2019, with its local reveal scheduled for 2020. Then came Covid, causing a production backlog and stock shortages, and further delays – leading to the model only being introduced here in January this year. 

Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise because, during this two-year period, there were two recalls of the new Corsa; the one for the steering column not manufactured according to specifications and the other (in November last year) due to the high-pressure pump not being tightened to the engine with correct torque, causing a potential fuel leak.

However, during this time, the new Corsa also received worldwide acclaim and awards, including the Autobest "Best Buy Car of Europe in 2020" award, the Connected Car Award from the German publications Auto Bild and Computer Bild. The Corsa-e recently claimed the "Golden Steering Wheel 2020" award, one of the most important German auto industry awards.

In South Africa, the Corsa is still Opel's most popular model, with 168 262 units retailed over nearly 30 years. While the Corsa A model was never available locally, the Corsa B and C models were assembled here, as well as the Corsa Utility bakkie based on the Corsa C – although it later received a Chevrolet nameplate.

Corsa and Elegance

The first Corsa F made available here is the Edition model, which has been available to order since January. Now, the rest of the sixth-generation line-up (at least for the moment) has been introduced – in the form of the Corsa and Elegance derivatives.

Looks-wise, the new Corsa retains some of the design traits of its predecessor, but its front grille is now less pronounced and positioned higher, The Corsa's lines are also softer and more curved than the current norm in the segment, and this is now further heightened by alloy wheels with an elegant but less sporty appearance on all the derivatives (apparently, the wheel designs were changed for the 2021 model year).

A simple character line that runs from the front to the rear forms part of the Corsa's understated and unintrusive visage, and there are some traces of Peugeot 208 in the lines over the rear haunches and wheel arches. Flat underbody panelling and a rear roof spoiler help improve aerodynamics further, and thanks to this clean, uncluttered design, the Corsa has a drag coefficient of just 0.29 Cd.

Lightweight

Another attribute of the new Corsa is its PureTech aluminium three-cylinder 1,2-litre petrol engine (as also used in the Peugeot 208 and new Opel Mokka) that saves around 15 kg over its predecessor's four-cylinder units. The non-turbo units used in the Edition and Corsa derivatives coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox delivers 55 kW and 118 Nm of torque, with the turbo mill in the Elegance model providing a healthy 96 kW and 230 Nm of twisting force.The lightweight body, constructed from a range of high-strength steels, saves a total of 40kg over the previous model, the aluminium bonnet another 2.4kg and the seats 10kg – totalling around 108kg in weight reduction. The latest Corsa is slightly larger than its predecessor, with a longer wheelbase, but its improved efficiencies are reflected in its driving performance. 

According to Opel, the new Corsa (in Elegance trim with 96kW of power) reaches a top speed of 208 km/h, while its predecessor needed 15 per cent more power (110kW) to reach 207km/h. With a time of 8.7 seconds, the new model is also 0.2s quicker than its precursor in the 0-100km/h acceleration test.

Superb chassis

For the launch of new models on a route around the Gauteng Platinum Belt, only Elegance derivatives with six-speed auto transmissions (no paddle shift) were available. Having already sampled the same platform/drivetrain/suspension combination in the Stellantis Group's new Peugeot 2008 SUV, the similarities were instantly noticeable.

The superb chassis and suspension system provided a pliant ride over the broken tar and potholed roads, and the steering, while light at low speeds, loaded up nicely in tighter corners. With its lesser bulk, the Corsa felt lithe and agile in corners, and the powertrain offered great drivability – although being a petrol engine, one had to account for the lack of low-down torque when overtaking.

Fuel consumption on our test route hovered around 7 litres/100km, and cabin ergonomics – with a 7-inch digital instrument cluster and some soft-touch trim – contributed to the good driving experience. The top-line Elegance also has some best-in-class safety systems and driver assistance systems, including:

- Lane Keep Assist
- Traffic Sign Recognition
- Forward Collision Alert
- Front Pedestrian Detection and 
- Collision Mitigation Braking.

The IntelliLink infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity (although it battled to sync with an Android phone), and besides a 180° view reverse camera, the Elegance is also endowed with heatable front seats but, interestingly, no keyless ignition and stop/start system.

The entry-level Corsa 55kW manual model is now available for R274 900 (compared to R287 500 for the Volkswagen Polo Trendline, R291 995 for a Kia Rio 1.4 LS Manual and R305 900 for the Hyundai i20 Fluid MT), coming in under the Corsa Edition priced at R294 900. 

The Corsa Elegance, competing against the Volkswagen Polo Highline (R369,300), the Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium 6AT (R375 700) and the Kia Rio 1.4 TEC Auto (R361 995) now retails for R386 900. With a higher-powered manual model still missing from the line-up, one can only wonder whether this is possibly reserved for a GSi derivative – a model that will surely be popular here.

Pricing: New Opel Corsa F range

Corsa 1.2 55kW 5-speed Manual              - R274 900
Corsa Edition 1.2 55kW 5-speed Manual- R294 900
Corsa Elegance 1.2 96kW 6-speed Auto    - R386 900

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