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Opel Corsa review

Opel Corsa. To the average person in the street it’s just another new brand and model adding to the vast choice of cars available to Aussie car buyers.

But, as car enthusiasts will already know, Opel is not only one of the world’s oldest carmakers, but has effectively been sold in Australia for more than 30 years disguised behind our best know brand, Holden. Corsa was sold between 1994 and 2005 as the Holden Barina, arguably our best-known small car nameplate.

Holden’s decision to source most of its small to medium vehicles from GM Korea (formerly Daewoo) has opened up the opportunity for Opel to sell cars here in its own right. As well as the Corsa it released the small-medium Astra and the medium Insignia sedan.

Though Opel’s corporate headquarters is located within Holden’s Melbourne head office, Opel is keen to sell itself as a semi-prestige Euro brand. To this end it has adopted a similar approach to Audi and Volkswagen by using a German slogan, “Wir Leben Autos” (We Love Cars).

VALUE

The current Opel Corsa is the next generation on from the Corsa / Barina that was removed from the Australian market in 2005. It’s been around since 2006 albeit with regular facelifts to keep it up to date, with the next generation model not due until 2014.

Price and looks are the two biggest factors in the youth-dominated small hatch market and Corsa’s styling is neat and contemporary with wide headlamps and grille, dipping roofline and a wide, square stance.

While it doesn’t stand out from its crowd of competitors in appearance it does stand out in terms of price, but for the wrong reasons - it’s between $2000 and $3000 dearer than its main rivals.

Opel has targeted Volkswagen as its main competitor and the 1.4-litre Polo sells for $2000 less than the Corsa.

Although Opel Corsa is available as a three-door hatch ($16,990 with manual transmission) most buyers are now looking for the convenience of rear doors. The manual Opel Enjoy 1.4-litre five-door is priced at $18,990, three grand more than the South Korean sourced 1.6-litre Barina CD manual.

There are three variants, the entry-level three-door model just called Corsa, three-door Corsa Colour Edition and the five-door Corsa Enjoy.

Corsa comes well-equipped with all models getting six airbags, electronic stability control, daytime running lights, rear foglamp, Bluetooth connectivity (phone only, but with voice control), USB and auxiliary sockets and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

There’s a $750 Sport Pack that increases the alloy wheels to 17 inches and in gloss black and lowered suspension.

The dressed-up Colour Edition variant adds front foglamps, body-coloured door handles, gloss black painted roof and exterior mirror housing, sports alloy pedals, an extended colour range together with 16-inch alloy wheels (the standard Corsa has 15-inch steels). As well as the extra two doors the Corsa Enjoy gets leather-bound steering wheel, front foglamps, FlexFloor removable boot floor that provides secure storage below the floor.

The latter test car was an automatic five-door Corsa Enjoy, likely to be the biggest seller although with the optional $1250 Technology Package included it’s going to cost around $25,000 to drive it away from the showroom.

TECHNOLOGY

All are powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.4-litre 74 kW / 130 Nm petrol engine mated to a five-speed manual, with four-speed automatic transmission in the Colour Edition and Enjoy only.

DESIGN

There’s good interior space with no headroom problems and a pair of adults can fit with reasonable comfort in the rear seats. The seats are firm and supportive with side bolsters that were a bit too tight for the wider buttocked road tester, but will be ideal for its typical (20-something) buyer.

The boot takes up to 285 litres with the rear seatbacks (split 60/40) upright, extending to 700 litres when they’re folded.

DRIVING

We’ve been able to test drive Corsa on a variety of conditions, initially on the rural-based press launch program and more recently in more relevant urban conditions during our week-long extended test.

Corsa is nicely balanced with safe and predictable handling. There’s a semi-sporting feel to the steering and the ride is surprisingly comfortable for such a small car. We were impressed by how well the suspension reacted to several unexpected potholes reflecting the car’s European background.

The 1.4-litre engine is capable enough in the suburban environment and on the freeway but struggled in hilly conditions where we often had to use the manual override to drop down to lower gears. We’d certainly recommend a manual gearbox if you live in hilly terrain as this will overcome the inherent power losses of an automatic.

VERDICT

It’s too early to tell if GM’s Australian Opel experiment, especially its pricing structure, will be successful but sales in the first three months have been modest to say the least. This could be from the normal hesitancy of buyers in accepting a ‘new’ brand or it could be because of that ‘Euro surcharge’.

Opel Corsa

Price: from $18,990 (manual) and $20,990 (auto)
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Resale: N/A
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)

Pricing Guides

$9,735
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$5,610
Highest Price
$13,860

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 1.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $5,610 – 7,920 2013 Opel Corsa 2013 (base) Pricing and Specs
Colour 1.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $6,380 – 8,910 2013 Opel Corsa 2013 Colour Pricing and Specs
Enjoy 1.4L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $7,150 – 10,120 2013 Opel Corsa 2013 Enjoy Pricing and Specs
OPC 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $10,120 – 13,860 2013 Opel Corsa 2013 OPC Pricing and Specs