So the Corsa GSi is slower than the old VXR but, on the basis of the new model’s uncompromising chassis set-up, Vauxhall doesn’t seem to think it should be any less focused.
This thing must have the hardest ride of any small hatchback on sale today. Earlier VXR models were always jiggly and bouncy but, while this GSi is no less busy over the shape of the road, it is actually tougher and more uncomfortable than any hot Corsa before it.
Its ride quality can be quite bruising over an uneven surface, particularly at low speed. Even if the car was badged VXR, it would be excessive; that GSi designation and the less aggressive powertrain would surely be better suited to a more fluid chassis, one that was less demanding in day-to-day driving.
On a typical back road - one that isn’t too broken, at least - the firm ride isn’t too much of an issue. The car always feels hyperactive and it boings about on its springs like Tigger, but you do get an acute sense of the suspension working hard to allow each wheel and tyre to stay in contact with the Tarmac and find grip in the road surface. Its job, in other words.
That unyielding set-up also gives the Corsa GSi real agility and responsiveness and that, combined with the strong grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber, means there is plenty of fun to be had. The steering is a little light, but it is pin-sharp. Perhaps too sharp, actually, because until you’re tuned into its manic rate of response, the car can feel flighty and nervous.
You could argue that what matters most about this little hot hatch is that you can take it by the scruff and fling it along the road as hard as you dare, and have a lot of fun doing it. There is a little body roll, but it’s well-matched to rate at which the front axle darts into a corner and the rear follows it around, so you get a very satisfying impression of the car working up to its limits at your behest. And yet, there are other small hot hatches out there that are faster, even more fun to drive and far less demanding in normal use.
With 148bhp, the Corsa GSi is a little off the pace set by certain rivals, though it isn’t the sheer performance on offer that’s the problem but the way it is delivered. The engine is woolly and flat and it doesn’t rip around to the rev limiter the way a hot-hatch motor should. It also needs to be working at the better part of 4000rpm before it starts pulling with any conviction. The gearshift is usefully springy and quite precise, but the lever itself is unnecessarily chunky and not especially pleasant to hold.
Four years ago, Vauxhall sold a Clubsport version of the previous-shape Corsa VXR. It was tricked-up with a Drexler LSD, Brembo brakes, Bilstein dampers and Recaro seats. All that’s offered on this new GSi are the Recaro seats, and at £1055 they’re a pricey option. They are supportive and they look the part, but they’re set a couple of inches too high. Otherwise, the cabin is not at all bad with a soft-touch dashboard topper and a clear and easy-to-navigate infotainment system (the Navi 4.0 IntelliLink system fitted here is a £650 extra).