By: Farah AlKhalisi
Found by user: CATS
Approaching the Corsa VXR from behind doesn't lead to the best of first impressions: with its squat wheel-to-each-corner stance, broad wheel arches and hind quarters, and gaping hole of a centrally positioned big-bore exhaust pipe, it resembles nothing so much as a bull terrier's bottom. It looks as if it should proceed with a wide-legged waddle, not a smooth forward motion.
Thankfully, the VXR's a bit better looking from the front. The mesh grille and deep bumper with large integrated foglights set an appropriate tone, and it looks as if Vauxhall has done a good job in pre-empting the bodykitters: why pay out on an aftermarket styling pack when the car already looks like this?
Butched-up Corsas are so often a case of all show and no go; base 1.2s fitted with half the contents of the Demon Tweeks catalogue in an attempt to make an impression on the streets without being totally uninsurable for a young (male) driver. The VXR, however, is the real deal, with a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine developing 192bhp and 170lb-ft of torque, and an extra 27lb-ft available momentarily on overboost.
Top speed's claimed to be 140mph, and 0-62mph acceleration takes just 6.8 seconds. Yippee! Oh, and just to get back to the harsh realities of life: fuel consumption's 35.8mpg and carbon dioxide output 190g/km. That means a relatively high tax banding for such a small car. Quite reasonable for something this quick, though.
Hint of danger
The pricing's pretty reasonable: the basic package, which includes air conditioning, a CD/MP3 player, electric front windows, remote central locking and 17" alloy wheels, comes in at £15,995. It could tot up sharply with a few options added, however: leather upholstery weighs in at another £1,000, 18" wheels a further £400, adaptive-beam halogen headlights £250, Bluetooth phone compatibility £300, or rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights and an anti-dazzle rear-view mirror at £150. Adding metallic or pearlescent paint is a £350 option.
So they're not exactly giving it away. Still, its pricing is head-to-head with the Renaultsport Clio and the 175bhp Peugeot 207 GTi, and it comes in cheaper than the new Mini Cooper S.
The Corsa VXR is a very good laugh in an attainable package. As with the common-or-garden Corsas, it feels absolutely solid and stable under hard cornering, confidence-inspiring to drive hard and fast, and predictable and progressive in its steering: it doesn't feel like the most sophisticated of sports cars, but as a damn quick little hatch, it fits the bill nicely.
It gives just enough of a hint of danger to be rewarding - the subtle suggestion that its tail end could swing out, a wobble towards torque-steer under full throttle. Its stability control and rev limiter are configured to step in and stop things from getting too out of hand, making this the hot hatch with a helping hand.
It was never going to feel quite like one of the rollerskate hot hatches of the 80s, given the need to meet modern safety legislation, but even with the full load of side airbags and structural reinforcements the VXR still comes in at just 1,203kg, light enough for that gutsy engine - with help from the turbocharger - to have no problems propelling it at speed.
The VXR should be relatively easy to own and use on a daily basis. Its suspension is lowered by 12mm at the front and 19mm at the rear, but even with the 18" wheels the ride remains comfortable. It's firm, but copes well with rough surfaces, and noise levels are low and general intrusion from the outside world is well contained... except the sound of the exhaust, of course, no bad thing at all.