What are you driving?
It's an Opel Corsa, and hitherto, Corsa would have been a byword for a kind of dull, predictable, dependability. A solid, but often uninspiring, family hack that's going to get no-one excited and certainly isn't going to break any new motoring ground. Well, not anymore. While the new Corsa may well be a touch conservative in its styling, it is now, suddenly, at the forefront of the electric motoring revolution, as this Corsa-e model comes with a 50kWh battery, a 136hp electric motor and a more-than-decent one-charge range of 337km on the WLTP test cycle.
Underneath, the Corsa-e shares a chassis, battery, and electric motor with the Peugeot e-208, and is priced pretty closely to the Peugeot, too. You could make a convincing argument that the Peugeot - with its sharp-edged exterior styling and avant-garde cabin - is there to nab the more extrovert buyers, while the Corsa is aimed at those who like the idea of an electric car, but don't necessarily want to shout about it. As we shall see, there are some distinct benefits to that latter path.
Our test car is a well-specced Elite model, more expensive than the basic €27,338 Corsa-e at €30,800, but still pretty decent value when you take its long standard equipment list and its 337km one-charge range into account. Standard kit on this one includes a digital instrument pack, ten-inch touchscreen, heated seats and steering wheel, 'IntelliLux' LED headlights and a full suite of safety aids.
Name its best bits
You know what? I'm going to say styling at this point. Yes, I get it that the Corsa is at the more staid end of the design spectrum, and I definitely think that its Peugeot cousin is the better, and more interesting looking, of the two cars, but the Corsa-e is a pretty handsome thing. In Elite trim it comes with some rather attractive 17-inch aero-style alloy wheels and a contrast-finish black roof, which lend it an air of sophistication. Quietly handsome, maybe? Yeah, I'd go with that.
It's absolute best aspect, though, is its one-charge range. While not as on-paper impressive as that of some rival models, the Corsa-e is unexpectedly good at hanging onto range even when undertaking long motorway hauls. My standard test for electric cars is my regular cross-border run up the M1 and A1 from Dublin to my home in Belfast. It's around 180km door-to-door and, while that's theoretically well within the range of almost all current electric cars, there are some that do struggle with long motorway drives and which need a stop-off for a top-up of electrons along the way.
Not the Corsa-e. With 337km of official range, it is in theory behind the curve of rivals such as the Renault Zoe, but in fact, on that long motorway run, the Corsa-e steadfastly refused to surrender too much battery charge. In fact, having driven at the usual 115-120km/h speed, I rolled up home with a third of a battery charge remaining. Not bad. Fairly good, actually. The Corsa-e also charges up pretty quickly from a public rapid charger, although it can't match the Zoe's ability to charge quickly from slower AC charging points.
Inside, while the Corsa is quite plain, it actually has a generally impressive cabin. Overall quality is exceptionally good, as is front seat comfort. There's also the fact that, unlike some, the Corsa retains simple, easy-to-use physical controls for such things as the air conditioning and heating system. Old-fashioned they may be, but they're still much better to use, especially when you're actually driving, than the fiddlier touchscreen setups offered by some manufacturers.
Finally, the Corsa-e is nice to drive. Not brilliant, perhaps - the extra mass of the batteries means that it leans more and needs more braking room than its conventional 1.2-litre petrol brother - but it's refined and has nicely weighted steering.
Anything that bugs you?
The seven-inch digital instrument display, standard on this Corsa-e Elite, looks dreadfully cheap and unappealing, especially when you've seen the whizz-bang 3D digital instruments in the equivalent Peugeot e-208. Rear seat and boot space, although on par for the segment, are nothing special, and the Corsa-e has a noticeably firmer ride quality than its Peugeot cousin, making it slightly less comfortable around town.
And why have you given it this rating?
As electric power rapidly becomes the 'new normal' for cars, the Corsa-e is a welcome addition to the burgeoning ranks of electric cars. It, perhaps, doesn't do anything especially ground-breaking, but its combination of handsome styling, high-quality cabin and impressive one-charge range make it a compelling choice for those looking to switch to battery power.
What do the rest of the team think?
While the Corsa-e disappoints in terms of interior and boot space, and with how it copes with poorly surfaced roads, you can't argue with its great range, restrained appearance and, relative to other small electric cars, value for money.
Shane O'Donoghue - Editor
I'd agree with Neil on the styling of the Opel Corsa-e; while it's on the conservative side, there's an understated nature to it that will resonate with some buyers. Equally, when seen in the more vibrant colours, it can still stand out. For a small car, the Corsa-e is quite refined, and that driving range is not to be sniffed at.
Dave Humphreys - Road Test Editor