The recent emergence of Opel in the Australian car market makes for interesting times for small car buyers. The car once sold here as the Holden Barina is back, this time carrying its original name of Opel Corsa.
Opel, a division of General Motors since the 1930s, hopes to gain an image that’s European, thereby pushing itself further upmarket than the Asian produced small cars.
Made in Germany and Spain, the Opel Corsa offers buyers the chance to own a sporty looking hatch - albeit with less-than-sporty performance. However, it’s a chance to own a European compact hatch at a competitive price.
There are three variants – Opel Corsa, Corsa Colour Edition and Corsa Enjoy; bright and breezy names to give it a different place in the overall scheme of small cars.
Prices start at $16,490 for the Corsa three-door manual and top out at $20,990, plus on-roads, for the Enjoy five-door automatic. Our test car was the latter with manual transmission, which sells for $18,990.
The Colour Edition comes standard with a black painted roof, 16-inch alloy wheels and is available in range of bright exterior colours, which are carried through to the interior where the colours and instrument panel patterns create a two-tone effect. A seven-speaker audio can be controlled via steering wheel-mounted controls, while USB connectivity has just been added to Bluetooth with voice recognition plus auxiliary input.
Added appeal comes from Opel Service Plus, with the Corsa costing a reasonable $249 for standard scheduled services in the first three years of ownership. Also available is Opel Assist Plus, an Australia-wide 24-hour roadside assistance program for the first three years from registration.
There is a choice of either five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. No choice with the engine, though, just a 1.4-litre producing 74 kW of power at 6000 rpm and 130 Nm of torque at 4000 revs.
The Australian Corsa has been the subject of serious design upgrades recently in a move to give the hatchback more road presence. The lower of the double radiator grilles is expanded, giving width to the front of the car. The Opel Blitz (lightning) badge is incorporated in a sculpted chromed bar, adding to the assured appearance.
The Corsa joins the rest of the Opel range by incorporating wing-shaped daylight running lights in the headlamps. Fog lamp units with integrated chrome blade complete the assertive character of the car.
Black plastic surroundings and dark material seat coverings give the interior a utilitarian look, the only contrast being a matt silver centre stack panel. Analogue instruments are clear and simple to read, while audio, fuel, air-con and other information is displayed on a screen centrally located on the dashboard.
With room for up to five occupants, shoulder space with three in the back is not the best and not up to the legroom, which is ample for the average-sized person. With power front windows only, the folk out back are left to twiddle the window winders by hand.
At 285 litres with the rear seats up, cargo space is at a premium. However, fold the backs down and there’s 700 litres and up to a maximum of 1100 litres to take bulky items.
Thanks to a rigid passenger cell with computer-modelled deformation zones and high strength steel sections in the doors, Euro NCAP awarded the Corsa the top rating of five stars for passenger safety.
Restraints include two-stage front airbags, dual side airbags and dual curtain airbags. Opel’s patented Pedal Release System and front active headrests are standard throughout the Corsa range.
While Corsa sets out to put on a sporty face, the performance falls short. Best kept in the upper rev range, the five-speed manual transmission calls out for the extra cog. A six-speed manual would make the car a much livelier, more appealing driving proposition.
With a zero-to-100 km/h saunter taking 11.9 seconds, the five-speed manual test vehicle made its way through heavy traffic consuming more than eight litres of fuel per hundred kilometres, while stretching its legs on the highway the Corsa cut an economic dash at six litres per 100km.
Neat styling gives the Euro Opel Corsa a head up in the affordable car stakes. Anyone wanting more performance from an Opel Corsa – a lot more performance – can opt for the recently introduced Corsa OPC, the acronym standing for Opel Performance Center, which is to Opel models what HSV is to Holden.
Price: from $18,990 (manual) and $20,990 (auto)
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Engine: 1.4-litre four cylinder, 74kW/130Nm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, four-speed auto; FWD
Safety: Six airbags, ABS, ESC, TC
Crash rating: Five stars
Body: 3999mm (L), 1944mm (W), 1488mm (H)
Weight: 1092kg (manual) 1077kg (auto)
Thirst: 5.8L/100km, 136g/km CO2 (manual; 6.3L/100m 145g/km CO2 (auto)