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  • #16
    Corsa D, 1.6iT (Z16LET),, 08/03/07
    Date: 08 March 2007
    By: Jamie Corstorphine
    Found by user: DavidVXR

    Vauxhall Corsa
    Test date 08 March 2007 Price when new TBA

    What is it?
    The hot turbocharged version of Vauxhall’s new Corsa supermini. VXRs are known for being well, lairy is the most polite way we can think of putting it. Visually, at least, the latest product from the Luton-town tuners isn’t about to change anyone’s preconceptions.

    With its brash grille, 17-inch alloys, big spoiler, rear diffuser and central exhaust, the Corsa VXR makes the Clio 197 look understated.

    No upsets from the figures, either. With 189bhp the Corsa might lag the Clio on power, but with 192lb ft from the turbocharged 1.6 engine (on 15-second overboost; 169lb ft is normal from 1980rpm), the Corsa is the hardest-hitting of the sub-16-grand hot hatches, 0-60mph taking just 6.8sec.

    What’s it like?
    It might have the usual styling cues, but to drive though, the Corsa is quite different to what we’ve come to expect from VXR.

    Power delivery is progressive, the throttle mapping sensible, with none of the sudden, attention-seeking turbo surge that can make the Astra VXR such a frustratingly blunt tool. Drop the windows an inch and it even does a decent impression of the Astra’s ripping turbo snarl.

    More surprises are in store at the first corner. First, how with very little steering effort the Corsa darts towards the apex – the electrically assisted variable-ratio rack making the steering quick-acting around the straight ahead, more progressive mid-corner and then faster again at full lock. It takes a little learning and, like the flat-bottomed steering wheel, feels a bit gimmicky until you get used to it.

    And while there is occasional stickiness through the wheel on full beans, there’s none of the dreaded torque steer of the Astra VXR. The second mid-corner discovery is grip, and masses of it. Our test car rode on 18-inch wheels, wrapped in 225mm-section tyres, which give the Corsa pretty much unbreachable adhesion in anything less than full hooligan mode.

    Vauxhall says the standard 17-inch wheels give the best blend of handling and ride, and although we’ve yet to try that set-up, we don’t doubt it. That said, on the choppy roads of our test route the big-wheeled Corsa flowed impressively. Over the same roads, a Mini Cooper S would have heads bashing the headlining.

    Be provocative with the throttle mid-corner and the Corsa will react, the rear axle eager to affect the cornering angle. Yet the effect is more comedy playfulness than precision cornering balance. Switchable ESP is standard, quickly curtailing any over-exuberance. Unlike its VXR stablemates – which are rapid, but rather crude – the Corsa VXR is quite the polished article.

    It’s a similar story inside. Yes the VXR steering wheel and Recaro sport seats are both suitably sporty, but they are also perfectly liveable, demanding little compromise. Add to that the intrinsic Corsa qualities of space, refinement and big-car feel and for all the VXR’s go, it’s a pretty civil car.

    Should I buy one?
    The Corsa VXR is infinitely more practical day-to-day than the furious Clio 197 or compromised Mini. With decent kit, including air-con, and a price that’s £400 cheaper than its two chief rivals, the Corsa VXR deserves every success.

    But at the risk of being labelled impossible to please, we have a nagging feeling Vauxhall may have overdone the polishing. For all its outright pace and high grip levels, the Corsa VXR is missing a little rawness and connectivity. For example, peak power arrives at 5800rpm, meaning there’s never the need or desire to chase the redline, or the same sense of urgency you get with the Clio.

    For many this won’t matter, or is counterbalanced by the VXR’s better long-distance comfort. For us, however, it does, and that’s why, by the thinnest of margins, the 197 remains our choice.

    First drive data
    How much?
    • Price when new TBA
    • Price as tested £15,595

    How fast?
    • 0-62 mph 6.8 sec
    • Max speed 140 mph

    How big?
    • Weight no data

    How thirsty?
    • Combined 35.8 mpg
    • CO2 emissions no data

    • Layout no data
    • Max power 189 bhp
    • Max torque 192 lb ft
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    • #17
      Corsa D, 1.6iT (Z16LET),, 15/03/07
      By: Chris Thorp
      Date: 15th March 2007

      With excellent style and performance, the new flagship Corsa is the best VXR yet

      Raw, raucous and racy. Vauxhall’s VXR models are all of these. But how will the formula that made the hottest ever Astra a firm favourite among keen drivers work when it’s applied to the new Corsa supermini?

      There’s no doubt the latest Corsa will turn heads, as the VXR model is striking from every angle. With more scoops and vents than any rival, it is unashamedly bold. However, it’s not all for show, as the bodywork was developed in a wind tunnel and the neat rear diffuser really does improve high-speed stability. Large alloys, plus a high-level roof spoiler and distinctive VXR branding leave you in no doubt as to the origin of the car. In fact, Vauxhall is fast creating an immediately recognisable look for its hottest models, something no other manufacturer can match.

      Inside, the most significant changes are the Recaro seats. They are the very latest design, and offer great comfort and support, while still allowing for side airbags to be fitted.

      Start the engine and there is a rasp from the exhaust, while blipping the throttle sends the rev counter spinning freely. Developing 189bhp, the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine was first used in the Meriva VXR, and here it gives the Corsa an impressive turn of speed. Vauxhall claims a 0-60mph time of 6.8 seconds, and with the turbo kicking in from low revs and an overboost giving extra pulling power under full throttle, it never feels slow.

      The newcomer also proves refined. In-gear acceleration is smooth and, at cruising speed, the Corsa is a capable long-distance companion. It’s less frenetic than its naturally aspirated Renaultsport Clio 197 rival which saves its acceleration for a manic, high-revving peak, rather than spreading it throughout the range.

      The Corsa’s gearbox is a bit disappointing, though, and the large gearlever does little to help the already laborious shifts. The variable assistance electric power-steering will also leave keen motorists wanting more feedback, particularly in the straight-ahead position.

      However, on the road the car still impresses. A hot hatch proves its mettle when cornering, and this VXR benefits from having been part of the new Corsa design and development plan from the very start.

      Riding 12mm lower at the front and 19mm at the rear than the standard model, it also has different suspension settings and a 25 per cent stiffer torsion-beam rear axle.

      As a result, the VXR can tackle tight corners confidently. It doesn’t turn into bends with quite the same verve as the Ford Fiesta ST, but few will be disappointed by the involving chassis. The trouble is, the highly capable standard-fit stability control works overtime trying to get all that performance on to the tarmac.

      It can be turned off, but do this and you’ll soon be on first-name terms with your local tyre fitter. Exiting corners at any more than half throttle sees the power spinning uselessly away through smoking rubber.

      Even though it’s not quite as polished as its Renault rival in pure handling terms, the VXR is easier on the wallet. At £15,595, it undercuts its rival by £400 – and has more standard kit.

      Vauxhall expects there to be a high take-up of extras, including the £400 upgrade to 18-inch wheels. Yet despite its performance, looks and credentials, the VXR is a sound financial proposition – with 35.8mpg fuel economy helping to keep running costs down. Only 2,500 will be sold here annually, which will boost residuals, too. While it’s unlikely to be the top choice for those wanting pure hot hatch handling, the Corsa VXR is enjoyably raw and offers surprisingly good value.

      The new flagship Corsa is the best VXR yet. With a highly capable chassis even in standard form, Vauxhall says its handling is better than that of the Astra, and we agree. Performance from the 1.6-litre engine is strong, if a bit manic when cornering, and the fuel economy figure is impressive. While the Corsa can’t match the Clio 197’s finesse, it’s cheaper and offers greater scope for owners keen on customising and modifying their hot hatch.

      With Recaro seats, classy black interior trim and a distinctive tailpipe, the Corsa VXR is a boy racer’s dream. The 1.6-litre turbo engine is used in the Meriva VXR.
      Engine: 1.6-litre, 4cyl turbo
      Transmission: 6-spd man, fwd
      Power: 189bhp
      Torque: 230Nm (266Nm with overboost)
      0-60mph: 6.8 seconds
      Top speed: 140mph
      Econ/C02: 35.8mpg/ 190g/km
      Price: £15,595
      Standard equipment: 17-inch alloys, stability control, part-leather seats, air-con, CD player with MP3 capability, piano black interior trim
      On sale: April
      Rating: 4/5
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      • #18
        Corsa D, 1.6iT (Z16LET),, 15/03/07
        By: Richard Aucock
        Date: March 15th 2007
        Found by user: NotNormal

        First Drive: Vauxhall Corsa VXR

        What: Vauxhall Corsa VXR
        • Where: Goodwood, UK
        • Date: March 2007
        • Price: £15,595
        • Available: April
        • Key rivals: Clio RenaultSport 197, MINI Cooper S

        Latest model in the burgeoning VXR range aims to be the best one yet. With thoroughly tuned suspension, uber-styled body and a 189bhp 1.6-litre turbo-charged engine that majors on torque, it is hungry for the scalps of supermini hot hatch front-runners.
        • Likes: beefy styling, keen price, effortless ride and handling, punchy engine
        • Dislikes: steering could have more heft – and a bit more feel would be nice

        Golf GTI
        Thirty years ago a few blokes in Volkswagen worked in their spare time to make a sporty version of the Golf. Enthusiasts to the core, they were not led by company chiefs or focus groups. They just did what revved them up. What did they end up with? A Golf GTI – the world’s most seminal hot hatch. Three decades on, Vauxhall has followed this same process in creating the VXR brand. A few blokes, doing what turns them on. “Throughout, we ask stylists and engineers, ‘can we do this?’” says Mr VXR, Stuart Harris. Petrolheads leading petrolheads? There is usually a way.

        The Corsa is potentially the best VXR of them all. An element of the model’s design brief from day one, rather than being shoehorned in like the Astra, it is the VXR guys’ best chance yet of getting the hot hatch they dream about. After flicking through 1980s car magazines, they set demanding targets, forced miracles from suppliers, called upon mates at Lotus to tune the dampers - all to get it spot-on. And throughout the process, they kept on speaking to VXR customers, making sure what they were doing was right. No questioning their efforts. But have they been worth it?

        Beware of the terrier
        Like the Clio 197, the Corsa VXR looks like a friendly puppy that has been to the gym and developed a temper. The squat aggression is evident from the chunky bumpers to the lowered ride height, chunky wheels to the huge rear spoiler. Details abound too, like the central-exit rear exhaust set within a Clio-like air diffuser, BMW M3-inspired door mirrors and ‘triangle’ theme in the grille mesh and umpteen places else. You would swear the rear wings were bulged-up over standard (they are not), and for even more button-pressing expertise, look inside. There, as standard, is a pair of terrific clamshell-back Recaros. Frankly, they are brilliant.

        Set into their sides are the same airbag units as the Lamborghini Gallardo – how is that for kudos. The hot hatch tick-sheet gets attention elsewhere too: chunky leather wheel, metal pedals, piano-black dash trim, oddly-shaped gearknob, racy dials that sweep a full arc at startup (very superbike). All check. Perhaps the seats are a bit high, maybe the wheel is a bit too angled. But it is the best hot supermini interior out there. And the good news does not end there. Start it up, and hear that exhaust burble. Surely that is not factory-standard? Yes it is, via the same rule-break Ferrari exploited for the F430.

        Turbo haste
        The Corsa VXR produces 189bhp – exceeding a set limit that restricts exhaust noise. So it can be louder. And how good it sounds, even pulling away. Here, the steering is light and something of a worry. But the 1.6-litre turbo quickly comes on song and, you find you are pulling with force from 2,000rpm. The VXR flies, right away. Then, whapwhapwhap: the rev limiter stops the action. You will become familiar with this, so freely does it rev, so quickly does it spin its six gear ratios, and so silky-smooth is this super engine. The dash from 0-62mph takes 6.8secs, quick in anyone’s book (and faster than a Golf GTI).

        And it is pace that is so easy to summon, unlike the rev-crazy Clio 197. Indeed, you soon come to exploit the mid-range torque rather than seek crazy rpm, so muscular is it here; 169lb/ft is flat from 1,980-5,800rpm. But for five seconds this is boosted to 196lb/ft when the throttle is floored, turning overtakes into seamless affairs. Fear not about torque steer, either. Yes, the wheel can writhe, and it will squirm under a planted throttle out of junctions, but it is nothing like the Astra VXR’s sideways-spearing excess of hysteria. Maybe this isn’t as exciting, but it is a damn sight more useable.

        Mr Angry, gone supple
        Indeed, those who thought VXR was all about aggression will be amazed by the Corsa’s dynamics. For starters, the ride is superb. Genuinely supple, it tackles undulating, scarred roads with aplomb, absorbing with class and proving the perfect match for Brit B-roads. And, praise be, you can feel the rear end! The VXR men love the 205 GTI, and insisted its mobile rear was replicated here. Turn in and you feel it tuck in; lift, stamp on the anchors, and be ready to catch its rotation. ‘Lift-off oversteer’… we haven’t heard of that from a hot hatch in a while.

        Scary? Well, do not worry too much – that is why ESP is standard. They wouldn’t have been able to do such things without it (think of the liability issues); here is technology working to our advantage, giving us the hot hatches we love but modern-car safety with it (and it’s switchable). This produces an agile, responsive car through the twisties; there is too much ‘grey’ steering straight ahead (and we still craved more weight), but it quickly sharpens in corners, justifying Vauxhall’s first-in-class use of a variable rack. We would like more weight and a touch extra feel, but Vauxhall has done a thorough job on its latest hot hatch.

        The MSN Cars verdict: ****
        The Corsa VXR is a real surprise. We were expecting angry Astra aggression, but instead got a hot hatch perhaps ideally suited to a British B-road. Very fast, agile, easy to drive and reminiscent of the 205 GTI in a way Peugeot can only dream, it is the after-hours project we would all like to work on – but honed smooth by some of the best brains in the business. It is also better-equipped than rivals yet cheaper than them and frankly looks superb. With a touch more on-the-limit feel it would be perfect. Even so, we rate it.

        Ratings out of five: Vauxhall Astra VXR
        Performance ****
        Ride & handling ****
        Interior ****
        Safety *****
        Price *****
        Practicality ****
        Fuel economy ***
        MSN Cars verdict ****

        Need to know
        Petrol engines: 1.6-litre turbo
        Power (bhp): 189
        Torque (lb/ft): 169 (196 overboost)
        0-62 (secs): 6.8
        Top speed (mph): 140
        Combined mpg: 35.8
        C02 emissions (g/km)/tax (%): 190/25
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        • #19

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          • #20
            Corsa D, 1.6iT (Z16LET),, 16/03/07

            By: KEN GIBSON
            Date: March 16, 2007
            Found by user: vxrnewboy

            THE target customer for the Vauxhall Corsa VXR is aged 24 to 30, which leaves me out of the running . . . much to the delight of my son.

            At 24, he was happy to offer his services as the perfect test driver, which meant we spent the weekend fighting over the keys.

            I may be the wrong age but, on behalf of all mature boy racers out there, I still have a pulse and I am capable of burning a little rubber.

            And we golden oldies have the advantage of experience, especially the experience to know a good car when we see one . . . and the Corsa VXR is a cracking car.

            Unlike my son, I remember the original hot hatch supermini icons such as the Fiesta XR2 and Peugeot 205GTi, so I have much higher expectations of the latest generation.

            The Corsa is an instant winner for visual impact. This is one explosive-looking pocket rocket, starting at the action-packed front end with its deep spoiler and air vents cut into the bodywork behind the spot lights.

            The suspension is lowered along with a full body kit that leaves the VXR hugging the road. The rear, with its roof spoiler, is even racier but it’s the F1-style aerodynamic underbody and eye-catching triangular exhaust, that leave you in no doubt about the Corsa’s serious sporting intentions.

            Companies have made hot hatches look horny for years — the real trick is getting them to deliver performance to match.

            This Corsa takes it to a new level for small cars. Vauxhall’s VXR specialists have squeezed every second of performance out of the 1.6-litre turbo-charged engine — a very tasty 0-60 time of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 140mph.

            Complement that, with a slick and fast six-speed gearbox and steering as sensitive to the touch as Arsene Wenger is to criticism and you have the key ingredients for hot hatch heaven.

            But what I really appreciate about the VXR is how sophisticated it is inside.

            You still get all the go-faster bits like the chunky squared-off steering wheel and mock drilled aluminium pedals but, it’s wrapped in a classier package.

            Which only leaves the price, which at £15,595 is more than double the entry level Corsa. I think plenty of 24-year-olds will want one, but they’ll probably need a helping hand from Dad.
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            • #21
              Corsa D, 1.6iT (Z16LET),, 16/03/07

              By: Farah AlKhalisi
              Date: 16/03/2007
              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.

              Surprisingly civilised
              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.
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              • #22
                Corsa D, 1.6iT (Z16LET), Pictures

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                • #23
                  Corsa D, 1.6iT (Z16LET),, 03/05/07

                  Compared to the brutish Astra VXR, Vauxhall's sporting Corsa VXR supermini is far more honed and rounded
                  Rating: 3/5

                  For: Handles and rides better than a MINI Cooper S, entertaining engine, superb cockpit.

                  Against: Wild looks divide opinion, steering vague around the straight-ahead.

                  The most powerful Corsa ever packs a 1.6-litre turbo engine shared with the Meriva VXR. Here's it's uprated from 177bhp to 189bhp, thanks to a revised induction system and re-routed exhaust. The engine's characteristics are similar to the Astra VXR's - it roars purposefully, has a broad powerband and a snappy throttle. Small openings cause it to surge forward, which is entertaining, but makes the VXR tricky to drive in town. The pedals aren't that positive, either. But with an overboost function that, on full throttle, increases the torque from 230Nm to 266Nm, the Corsa is fast. Its 30-70mph time is quicker than a VW Golf R32's. Strong brakes and a snappy gearchange further enhance the package. The chassis follows the same lines; it's lower and roll has been cut by 25 per cent. It was tested on UK roads during development, and the benefits are clear. Vauxhall has struck a sweet pot with the set-up; it's great fun to drive, yet never loses its composure or becomes uncomfortable. Cross-country blasts are a riot, too. Where the Astra VXR is rather harsh, its little brother is more fluent in the bents. It has great turn-in and is well balanced, yet never feels edgy or intimidating. So even though it spins an inside wheel on roundabouts and has vague steering around the straight-ahead, the VXR is engaging and fun.

                  Are you VXR enough? Vauxhall's advertising slogan has helped make the VXR brand one of the most high profile in the industry. This has been helped by Vauxhall pinning it on everything from a two-seat sports car to a seven-seat MPV. But if its hardcore appeal has been diluted recently, the Corsa should give some bite back to the brand. Certainly, with its triangular-themed central exhaust, mirrors and front foglights, it's about as subtle as a bull in a china shop. In short, it polarises opinion; just what the creators of the brand want - not least because they hope younger buyers who can't quite stretch to it will go for an SXi or SRi Corsa, and fit some of the VXR's features as accessories. Rivals include the ubiquitous MINI Cooper S and RenaultSport Clio 197, plus the VW Polo GTI and Peugeot 207 GTI.

                  Compared to the bodywork, the cabin is upmarket. It boasts a superb driving position and fantastic chairs. With a wide range of steering reach adjustment and hard-backed Recaro seats (which share side airbag units with the Lamborghini Gallardo), it is all but unbeatable for driver comfort and support. It also has glossy piano black trim and a neat centre console. However, the angled A-pillars restrict visibility, the long doors make access tricky in tight spaces and mean the front seatbelt is set back a long way, so it's hard to reach. The VXR-branded gearknob is also awkwardly shaped and looks out of place in such a small interior. Maintaining a Corsa VXR is a cheap business though, which may compensate for fuel consumption - in our hands, it averaged 31.2mpg. Retained values are unlikely to match the class-leading MINI Cooper S, either.
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                  • #24
                    Corsa D, 1.6iT (Z16LET),, '07

                    By: Andrew English

                    Vuxhall's new Corsa VXR is meant to be annoying, but is it any good?

                    'This music was acceptable in the 80s," sings Calvin Harris in his knowing and horribly catchy electro-pop release. Cars like this new Vauxhall Corsa VXR were acceptable in the 1980s, too. I remember them well: standard Euro-hatchbacks with horribly peaky turbo boost, lairy graphics and always-on foglamps - Southend seafront specials.

                    I was told off for calling the Corsa VXR thus by Vauxhall's brand manager. This was at the car's launch when, for one night only, Vauxhall transformed Goodwood's elegant sculpture park into a hell's kitchen nightclub filled with snake dancers, satanic nymphs, fire-eaters and hostesses in thigh-high boots and PVC catsuits. While middle Britain was vacillating about its green credentials, food miles and offsetting holiday carbon, Vauxhall was launching its new fire-breathing shopping trolley in the most un-PC way.

                    Well hello pot, meet kettle.

                    Actually we're both right. These cars are meant to be Biro-in-the-eye annoying. They are meant to blow a big, fat, chromium-plated raspberry at arrogant chief coppers, doom-saying environmentalists and the sanctimonious mummery of Gordon and David playing Texas Hold'em with our "green" taxes.

                    Yet the Corsa's predecessor, the Nova, has become a sort of counter-culture idol, breathed on (cosmetically rather than mechanically) by young folk as an expression of freedom, artistic intent, rebellion or whatever. For a brilliant send-up of this hot Nova culture, have a look at Gaz's new car at…y-new-car.html - in fact, the whole website is a perfect scream. No it's not exactly Britain's alternative to the American hot-rod, found in Sainsbury's car parks rather than LA's Melrose Avenue, but at least it's a bit of fun before you get moved on by the police.

                    Vauxhall has always tried to hold on to the lion's tail of this counter culture by making its own hepped-up Novas and Corsas, with varied degrees of success. The VXR badge, though, is an altogether more confident stab at creating a performance brand through the whole model range, although we're still a bit puzzled as to what exactly the VXR version of the Meriva compact MPV is for.

                    The nice thing about the VXR Corsa is that its lairy style is more than skin deep, although you can buy the devilish wing mirrors to perk up your bog-standard 1.0-litre Corsa Expression. Step inside the three-door cabin and the standard Recaro seats hug you tighter than a dancer's python. Those Lilliputian rear perches are not exactly accommodating, but then they're only for taking Kevin's sister to the fish shop. There's a VXR logo on the gearknob - very acceptable in the 1980s - and the dashboard gleams with polished aluminium-alloy bezels and piano-black lacquer. Red-lined instrument needles fizz up and down the gradations when you turn the key, just like a racing car's Stack telemetry. Fortunately all this standard bling doesn't hide the Corsa's innate good style and comfort. Pity there's only one ancillary gauge, though; perhaps VXR owners aren't familiar with the idea of oil pressure and water temperature - we live in a throwaway society, after all.

                    The engine is a belt-driven twin-cam four-pot with a whacking great Borg Warner turbocharger producing 189bhp and overboosted torque spike of 196lb ft for five seconds, or just about the time it takes to put yourself in harm's way. The six-speed manual gearbox takes power to the front wheels with a specially tuned electronic stability control, which is claimed to allow you to have fun without too much danger - or you can switch it off... Standard 17-inch wheels can be swapped for the £400 18in option. The steering is a variable-ratio, power-assisted rack and pinion, which gets more direct the harder you turn.

                    “The VXR feels like a Tasmanian devil on a short lead... its Recaro seats grip you tighter than a dancer’s python”

                    At idle the engine burbles softly but noticeably. The gearlever slots positively and quickly and the clutch is light and progressive. Just yards down the road it's clear the turbo is noticeable in the way a modern turbodiesel's is not. There's that shunt as the boost comes off and on between gear changes, the slightly empty space halfway up the rev counter, the surging lift at 3,500rpm and the terrorising force at 6,500rpm. If the hoarse soundtrack is that of someone who spent too much time chatting up the cage dancer in the nightclub last night, it's better than it sounds. This is a seriously fast little car, more than capable of embarrassing a lot of metal costing twice, perhaps even three times, the money. Nor is it an unpleasant, snappy little beast; in many aspects it's very refined, but it never lets you forget what it likes to do best: attack, attack, attack!

                    Vauxhall pushed us out onto the 2.4 miles of the Goodwood motor circuit to explore the outer limits of the handling. I've been racing cars at Goodwood for more than 25 years and am too fearful of the toll that Britain's fastest track can extract to do too much exploring. What I can say is that on 18in wheels the little Corsa is fast, well balanced and fairly idiot-proof on the circuit, which usually means a car is going to be rubbish on the road. Out on the public black stuff, the handling starts with the steering. While this is no Focus RS, which could swap sides of the road at a twitch of the throttle, the Corsa's sense of direction goes a bit awry at different stages of acceleration. Like the best bowlers, the tyres will edge a tiny crease in the road and wham - you're turning even harder. When the boost hits the front wheels the steering goes all light and vacant, as if it's forgotten what it went upstairs for. In other words, the car lets you know what you are doing with the accelerator, occasionally at the expense of telling you how much grip the tyres have got.

                    The ride is effervescent and busy from the word go. Smooth at high speeds, the slower you go, the more the front end attacks the road rather than riding over it. It's not exactly uncomfortable, but lumpy and bunny-hoppy at times. It does make you feel blatantly confident, though, as if you've been parachuted to the road.

                    Compared to its closest competitors, the Renault Clio 197 and the MINI, it's somewhere in the middle, but with a plan to sell just 2,500 it's going to be a great deal more exclusive. In its latest guise the MINI Cooper S has gone soft but more refined. You can still spec it up to ride like a trolley jack, but the Corsa is wilder, more wicked and a great deal more fun - yes, you can just about hang the tail out by lifting off in corners. The Renault is a lot more hardcore; its two-litre engine needs more winding up and it demands a great deal more respect and concentration to drive fast than both rivals.

                    The Corsa VXR is above all an honest car, feeling as though it has been tamed to the right side of sensible, but only just, like a Tasmanian devil on a short lead. The seating position is good, the pedal spacing is brilliant, you get through the gears like a racing arpeggio and, above all, it really urges you to get it on. The joke is that very few young people will be able to afford it, or the insurance premiums, so if you see a VXR doing doughnuts outside Homebase on a Sunday night, you'll know it's some delinquent pensioner being a devil - so give some respect.
                    Vauxhall Corsa VXR [tech/spec]
                    Price/availability: £15,595 OTR. On sale now.

                    Engine/transmission: 1,598cc, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol with belt-driven DOHC and four valves per cyl; 189bhp at 5,850rpm, 169lb ft at 1,980rpm with overboost to 196lb ft. Six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive.

                    Performance: top speed 140mph, 0-60mph in 6.8sec, EU Urban fuel consumption 26.9mpg, CO2 emissions 190g/km.

                    We like: Good old-fashioned hot hatchback, well appointed with riotous performance and good, predictable handling.

                    We don't like: Lairy image, busy ride and uncommunicative steering that's affected by torque steer.

                    Alternatives: MINI Cooper S, from £15,995. Honda Civic Type R, from £17,600. Peugeot 207 GTi 197 THP 175, from £14,995. Renault Clio RS 197, from £15,995. Seat Leon Cupra, from £19,595. Volkswagen Golf 2.0 FSI GTI, from £20,860.
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                    • #25
                      Corsa D, 1.6iT (Z16LET),, 20/5/07

                      From: The Sunday Times
                      Date: May 20, 2007
                      By: Jeremy Clarkson

                      When you first spend a bit of face time with the new Corsa VXR you can’t help thinking, “God Almighty. Can Vauxhall never get anything right?”

                      It appears to have crashed into an out-of-town motorist accessory superstore and emerged on the other side with every single part attached to every single bit of its bodywork. There are spoilers, extra lamps, fat wheels, Philishave, Just For Men bits of aluminium-look plastic here and there, and sills like an American footballer’s work garb.

                      This might have worked 10 years ago when every supermarket car park echoed on a Saturday night to the pulsating bass beat of the customising culture and Max Power was one of Britain’s bestselling magazines. But today Max Power’s circulation is in freefall – down from 240,000 in 2003 to just 71,000 last year.

                      The trend for young people to fit exhausts like Kazakhstan pipelines and illuminate the underside of their cars with neon is over. Just as Vauxhall gets round to milking it.

                      This is not the first time the British arm of General Motors has missed the boat. You remember the first Vectra. Designed in a rush by a man who was plainly going through a messy divorce, it had a bonnet, a place where people sat, a boot and an engine.

                      It would have been fine for the Terry and June company car rep who had no choice in the matter. But it came along just as the rep scene was dying, and Terry and June was affording us nothing more than a glimpse into the nation’s “ooh look, there’s a black man” past. In fact we were in a coffee bar, experimenting with zinc-topped work surfaces and skinny lattes. And Vauxhall was still trying to sell us British Rail tea with wheels.

                      And now, just as everyone is going green, they’re trying to sell us a Saturday night supermarket car park special. G force? Who cares. All the youth want today is a G-Wiz.

                      The thing is, though, and you can call me old-fashioned if you like but – ahem – I rather like the look of the new Corsa. Think of it as a council house at Christmas time. Utterly vulgarised by a million plastic Santas and two zillion fairy lights. But it puts a smile on your face and what more could you ask than that?

                      I also like the interior. The seats are of a type I thought had gone west with the old Escort RS2000. They’re big Recaros with lots of side bolster. Not easy to get in and out of, for sure, but once you’re in place you aren’t going anywhere. Even if you attempt a hairpin at 600mph.

                      The rest of the interior is as insane as the exterior. Take the steering wheel. They’ve fitted a flat bit at the bottom and coated that in plastic, which is supposed to look like aluminium. At the top you get a marker to show you where straight ahead is. Then, at 10 to 2, you have knobbly bits, which is fine – it reminds you of the correct place to have your hands while driving. But you get similar knobbly bits at 20 to 4.

                      The upshot is something that’s no more circular than the trunk of a baobab tree. Let it slide through your hands after making a turn and you’ll end up with a fistful of broken knuckles.

                      The idea is that you feel like Colin McRae before you’ve even turned the key. But what you’re actually doing is trying to suppress a giggle. Because while all these race’n’rally add-on parts give the car a purposeful – if dated – appearance, you just know that the badge on the back says Vauxhall, which is bad, and Corsa, which is to motoring what Nicholas Witchell is to wrestling.

                      Every single Corsa I’ve ever driven has been terrible, with wooden controls, asthmatic engines and nothing in either the price list or in the styling that made me want to sign on the dotted line. In a spoof advert for the Corsa, shown on the Sniff Petrol website, there was a picture of the little Vauxhall and underneath a line that said: “Show the world you know nothing about cars.” Bang on.

                      It did, just, as a device for driving schools, but if I’d learnt to drive in a Corsa I’d have done one lesson and given up on the whole business of cars. The bus would have seemed a better option. Also, it was a cheap-to-insure starting point for the Max Power boys. But even they’ve moved on these days.

                      And let’s be honest, Vauxhall hasn’t. So the chances of the new Corsa’s undersides being able to cash the cheques its body and steering wheel are writing are, frankly, zero.

                      Wrong. With a turbocharged 1.6 litre engine it will hit 60 from rest, without too much torque steer, in less than seven seconds. Keep churning away at the manly six-speed box and in fairly short order the needle will be nudging 140. That’s fast for any hot hatch. For a small Vauxhall it’s amazing.

                      Better still is the way it corners. The lifelessness of old is gone and in its place is a chassis that lets the tail drift when the limit is reached. It puts me in mind of an old Peugeot 205 GTi, and that’s about the highest praise you can lavish on any car.

                      Oh, and then there’s the hill-hold device. When you arrive at a T junction on an incline and you take your foot off the clutch in a normal car you roll backwards. Not in the VXR you don’t. It’s held in place until you prod the throttle and then it sets off. In a town like Chipping Norton or Malvern or Harrogate this alone makes the Corsa worth a look.

                      Add reasonable rear seat space, a usable boot, and a ride that works well as long as you avoid the optional 18in wheels, and things are looking good. In fact there’s only one issue. While it may appear to be well priced – it’s £15,625 – almost everything you might need is an option. Realistically, it’s an £18,000 car, and that sounds like a lot until you remember that the Mini Cooper S, which is less practical, costs even more when it’s fully loaded.

                      My conclusion then is simple. The Corsa is great. A bit vulgar perhaps – the steering wheel itself is right up there with Del Boy in his pina colada phase. But this aside, it’s an enjoyable, charismatic car that’s fun to drive, reasonably priced . . . and why am I bothering?

                      You don’t want one, do you? I could have told you it cost 8p, ran on water and was made from solid gold. I could have said each car came with 16 free Angelina Jolies and that the floor mats had been made from the pubic hair of Thai virgins. And you would still be yawning and wondering what restaurant AA Gill has savaged this week.

                      The fact of the matter is that Vauxhall has had it, really. And it’s the same story with Ford. For the past seven years they’ve been trying to sell you a V6 Mondeo but you wouldn’t pay any attention. You wanted an Audi, or a Lexus, or a BMW. Not a Mondeo, even though, pound for pound, the Ford was demonstrably and obviously better than whatever you ended up buying.

                      We’re going to see the same sort of thing with this Corsa. It’s really good and although it’s too early to say whether it will be reliable, I bet you’ll not even consider it and buy the Mini instead.

                      Vauxhall and Ford were part of the fabric of British life in the 1960s and 1970s. They were as entrenched in our psyche as British Rail, the National Union of Mineworkers and Terry Scott, each an institution that seemed to be immortal. It turned out not to be.

                      And unless someone can come up with a way of making the Ford and Vauxhall badges acceptable once more, they’ll end up on the scrapheap as well.

                      Model Vauxhall Corsa VXR
                      Engine 1598cc, four cylinders
                      Power 189bhp @ 5850rpm
                      Torque 170 lb ft @ 1980rpm
                      Transmission Six-speed manual
                      Fuel 35.8mpg (combined)
                      CO2 190g/km
                      Acceleration 0-60mph: 6.8sec
                      Top speed 140mph
                      Price £15,625
                      Rating 4/5
                      Verdict Nice car. Shame no one cares
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