Bold new Corsa verges on the sublime

I have to put my hands up and admit I was bold. I crossed a solid white line to pass out a dawdling old guy in a Mk II Escort.

Trouble was, the guy in the Honda CR-V immediately behind the old guy wasn’t at all impressed and blew his horn angrily as I sailed by the two of them in my nippy lime green Opel Corsa SRi. In fact, the Honda man was so incensed, that once he himself had passed the Escort, he did a Grace Jones on it and pulled up to the bumper — baby — of the Corsa and started taking pictures of the car on his mobile phone, which actually struck me as being every bit as dangerous as anything I had just done. A couple of days later I was contacted by the gardaí to say they had received a complaint from a man who had reported my driving. The man, the garda said, did not wish to pursue his complaint by way of a prosecution — he merely wanted me warned as to my future behaviour.

Duly warned, I asked the garda if he would mention to the complainant that taking pictures of other road users on his smartphone was not exactly in compliance with the rules of the road either. The garda said he would. I’m not exactly sure what the moral of the tale is, but the one certain truth which emerged was that if you’re driving a very nippy lime green Opel Corsa SRi, you’re going to get noticed.

It is not exactly the sort of car that fails to leave an impression, even if you are fully compliant with the laws. This was a shockingly visible machine and some acquaintances unkindly described it not so much as lime green, but gang green (gangrene, geddit?).

Having gotten over the initial colourful assault on the senses though, this Corsa proved itself to be a very able and willing (a bit too willing, according to the gardaí) companion and one which once again underlined a resurgence of competence in the house of Opel. As we have often outlined in these columns, the Russelsheim outfit has been through the mill in the past decade but is now — thankfully — going through a period of revitalisation and recovery. Regular Corsas might not quite be up to the class of rivals like Fiesta, Yaris and Polo, but it is not as far off them, as was quite recently the case.

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The latest iteration has been dickied up visually and is reasonably easy on the eye, although not a vast difference on from the last one. What has changed though is on the engineering side, where a new one litre three cylinder turbocharged engine is the star of the show and is very ably seen here in the SRi version which — colour aside — is a much smartened up version of the standard beast. Room for the driver and passenger in the three- door version we tried were excellent, but the format does not really make it suitable for families, as access and egress from the rear seats is a tad on the awkward side.

Decorative stuff like the 17” blacks alloys, the sports suspension, the front spoiler, side sills, rear spoiler and rear skirt, beef up the exterior look of the SRi and the interior too has been given some much needed revamping. Gone are the teeth-grinding hard plastics of yore, replaced, Opel says, by materials more often seen in the upper reaches of their model range. Good and all as these thing are, however, the engine is the star of the show here.

Bold new Corsa verges on the sublime

Corsa SRI pics IntelliLink's sat nav is available through the BringGo App

This diminutive powerplant certainly punches above its weight, what with 115 bhp on tap and a very impressive 170 Nm of torque between 1,800 and 4,500 rpm. Now it may be that you have to keep this unit spinning at the higher rev range to extract the max from it (peak power arrives between 5,000 and 6,000 rpm), but it still delivers a 10.3 second 0-100 kph time and a top speed of 195 kph.

One noticeable aspect of the engine, thanks to the addition of a balancer shaft, is that it is now one of the smoothest of its kind around, and actually feels like a much bigger engine. It also makes a very nice throaty noise which does add to the appeal. Allied to a six-speed gearbox, the SRi has bags of get up and go, yet will still consume just 4.3 l/100 km (67 mpg in old coinage) and emit 115g/km which puts it into tax band A4 for an annual tax bill of €200, all of which is pretty decent. With very much a wheel-at-each-corner stance, the SRi is very karty to drive and you really do feel like you can place it anywhere on the road without unsettling either the car or yourself.

Certainly the stiff suspensions might tax you and you passengers on uneven surfaces, but the pay-off is the vice-like handling and grip levels which add a decent performance — and enjoyment — level to a machine which is only supposed to be warm rather than hot.

Decoratively, Opel has added to the appeal with such as a chunky leather steering wheel, sports pedals and sports seats, while tecchies will be well satisfied with, such as the Intellink infotainment system with DAB radio, USB with iPod control, Bluetooth and such like. And, I have to say, the addition of such as lane departure warning and vehicle proximity warning system, as well as the rear camera, make this a very well appointed machine indeed.

Recent indications point to a marque on the rise again and on the evidence I’ve seen in both the Corsa and the Adam, Opel is certainly going in the right direction after a very fallow period indeed.

The announcement recently of the new Astra, which we flagged in these columns, bodes well.

Indeed, as the Astra was a single glowing light in the Opel line-up in recent years, the prospect of an even better one can only be good for the future of the company. With regard to the lime green Corsa SRi though, the one thing you have to remember is that you can run, but you can’t hide. Especially if you’re being bold.

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Colley's Verdict

The Cost:

€19,395 - €22,900 as tested.

The Engine:

a brilliant three pot which is notable not alone for its poke, but also its economy and smoothness.

The Specification:

basic kit is impressive and add-ons are not terribly unreasonable.

The Overall Verdict:

further positive signs of revitalisation from Opel.

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