The all-new Opel Corsa has been out for around a year now and it's been doing great in all markets. I had my test week with the Corsa Cosmo ECOFlex back in May of 2015 and I liked it a lot. The Corsa is one of the few cars that I've driven every incarnation of over the years, in fact my kid still has a 2003 Corsa sedan. There have been a few models in between that, but having one at the house meant I could compare the huge strides that have been made to this Opel range in the last 13 years. It's actually mind blowing what kind of tech is packed into cars that compete in this segment. Of course, while the tech has increased, so has the price, but I think it sort of works out to the same costs as owning a new Corsa did back in 2003.
One thing that's changed a lot is the build quality. The Corsa is the entry range into the Opel family, well it was until SA got the ADAM, and so you'd expect a lesser quality than with the Astra range. That's no longer the case, the Germans have upped their game so much that today's Corsas have a great build quality with a solid and purposeful feel and excellent materials. Then there's the motors, the ECOFlex stuff really is good. The Cosra Cosmo was a hoot to drive with it's 1000cc turbo motor that makes a very usable 85kW and 170Nm. There's more to the range though, which is great because fans of a brand always want more. Enter the Opel Corsa Sport. When a manufacturer adds the word Sport to a car, you expect just that, a sportier look and feel that's backed up with more power.
The Opel Corsa Sport arrived in SA in August last year and a few months back I had the opportunity to drive one, both on the street and on track. The only question I had when I picked the car up was whether it was worthy of the Sport badge and before I even left GM's parking lot I had my answer. It's well worthy of it. All the right changes have been made in all the right places making what I already thought was a good car into a great little car. I'm not alone in my thinking as is evident by the fact that the Corsa was one of the 2016 COTY finalists.
You hopefully clicked on the link above that will take you to the Corsa Cosmo review I did and gave it a good read before carrying on with this review. If you did, you'll be wanting to know what's different, if you didn't I'll be telling you anyway. We'll start with the exterior... To differentiate this model from the others, the Sport features an OPC Line kit (which an optional extra on the Cosmo). The kit is made up of front and rear bumper extensions, side rocker mouldings, and carbon fibre mirror covers. There's also a bit of a beefier exhaust tip, but the best bit is the 17-inch dark titanium wheels. The changes aren't in your face, but they're enough to tell you that the car is a step above the others. There's also no reason to see lots of the same Corsa Sports on the road either, these cars are available in a whopping 15 exterior colours, 5 flat and 10 metallic.
Inside the cabin we find the same solid build quality but there have been changes made too. There's a different steering wheel, a chunky leather-bound one with a flat bottom. I'm not exactly sure why sports models feature flat bottomed steering wheels, but they do, and so does the Corsa Sport. To match the steering wheel there's a black leather gear gaitor and some alloy pedals, but the bits I like are the handbrake lever and gear knob sourced from the Corsa OPC. The seats are good too, Opel call them Moonray Sports seats, and they have high bolsters as you'd expect in a sports model but they don't come in leather (although I do know some dealerships offer leather seats as an option, privately), instead they have a crosshatch pattern on them that looks pretty cool. As for the rest of the bells and whistles, they're the same as you'll find in the Cosmo - the good and user friendly Intellilink infotainment system that's headed up with 7-inch touchscreen, PDC, ESC, TC, SLS, ABS, BAS, auto lighting and wipers, cruise control and Advanced Parking Assist 2 that I never remember to try out, but I've seen it work and it's rather clever.
So how much sportier is the Corsa Sport over the others in the range? A fair bit really. Instead of that 1000cc turbo motor, the Sport has a 1400cc ecoTEC turbo motor, and that extra 400cc makes for better numbers on paper and in the real world - 110kW and 220Nm. This gets the Corsa Sport from 0-100km/h in 9.6-seconds according to the clock, but it feels quicker. That's probably down to that high torque figure and the small size of the car. It's quite reminiscent of the Uno Turbos from back in the day, minus the feeling that you're going to die if you go past 160km/h. It's claimed that the Corsa Sport uses 7.4 litres/100km on the urban cycle but I had it consistently in the 9s. I reckon if I had the car more than a week it would get to those figures or better, but I had fun keeping the car at 3000rpm for a bit in 2nd or 3rd and then punching the throttle. This is loads of fun but not if you want to save fuel. It's also thanks to that 6-speed gearbox that has great ratios to use the power optimally.
My review week with Corsa Sport was spent on the roads in and around Jo'burg and it was good fun, but I was actually lucky enough to spend some time on track with one. While I was at the ADAM Rocks launch I was told that I could try out as a presenter for a show on Ignition Live but that I'd need to do a screen test and a driving test. I mentioned it to the GM execs there and they immediately organised me a Corsa Sport to use for my test, so on my way home from the launch I stopped by the GM head office and collected one. While I didn't get the gig on the show, I did have some great fun on track at Zwartkops Raceway.
Over the other models, the Corsa Sport's front suspension geometry has been optimised to improve roll behaviour, steering response and that dreaded front-wheel drive curse - understeer. The Corsa Sport is also a little lower and the spring rates are stiffer than what's found on the rest of the range. There are a few more changes that will be gibberish to you, but they all contribute to a better handling, better feeling car. I can attest to this, the Corsa Cosmo was easy to chuck around and it behaved well, the Corsa Sport can handle much more chucking. At Zwartkops I was surprised at how hard you could push the car in the corners before grips starts letting go. I could have pushed harder and explore the possibility of some lift-off oversteer, but I didn't want to be that guy who who binned a press car by driving like a knob - that and the fact that if I did have a monumental cock up that it would be caught on camera in full on TV resolution that would undoubtedly make it to YouTube and one of those Fail Of The Month channels. The gear ratios are great for Zwartkops, when you've braked as much as you need for a corner and selected the right gear, the power that's on tap is in just the right spot to pull the car through and out of the corner at a decent pace. It's not going to pull in astounding lap times of course, but the Corsa Sport with have you grinning from ear to ear, the fun factor is high. I'd love to be able to see the test footage of me on track, I'm pretty sure it looked as good as it felt.
So what's the verdict? Is this Corsa worthy of a Sport badge? You bet it is. It's a great little car in every aspect, including the price tag. You can have an Opel Corsa Sport for R270 700-00 and that includes a 5-year/120 000km warranty . Take a look at other cars in the class and you'll see the Corsa Sport can definitely hold it's own on all points and does better in a many instances. Of course, there are die-hard Opel fans out there who want a little more, and that's where the Corsa OPC that's due for release in SA soon will come in to play. That lil bad boy is equipped with a turbocharged 1600cc ecoTEC engine that will produce 152kW and 280Nm. That power in a body of this size... Hmmmm!
For more info head on over to www.opel.co.za
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.