More than ever the small car market is an important one for the manufacturers, which is why it's so fiercely competitive. In a bid to ensure it remains in buyers' minds, Opel has given the Corsa a facelift. It's a modest one, but the new look, customisation options and gadgets should attract a few more customers in the Opel showrooms.
In the Metal
Obviously the 2011 Opel Corsa is a mildly facelifted version of its predecessor, but put side-by-side with the old car the new one looks distinctly sportier and more up to date. That's thanks mainly to a redesigned front end. Along with distinctive 'eagle eye' headlights the upper and lower grilles have been substantially revised and the fog lights feature chrome trim. The result is a sharper face, but one that still remains 'friendly', which apparently better suits buyers of superminis.
Perhaps of more interest is the increased customisation. Six new alloy wheel designs have been added, along with three new paint colours. Limited Edition models feature black 17-inch alloys and a black roof in a choice of three of the brightest colours. Opel is also offering a Linea Stripes Pack (pictured) that adds two large white stripes, white 17-inch alloys and white door mirror caps - but only to six of the brighter paint colours on offer.
Inside, the tweaks are even more subtle - or they will be for most buyers. More daring trim colours are offered further up the range, but for the most part the cabin remains the same - with new materials designed to raise the ambience a little.
What you get for your Money
Prices for the revised Opel Corsa range start at €14,350 for the 1.0i 12v ecoFLEX model in a three-door body style. This sits in Band A, as do eight other variants - regardless of whether they have three five doors. All other Corsas offered in Ireland (hot hatch OPC aside) are in Band B.
Opel Ireland expects the 1.2i 16v SC model to be its best seller. It starts at €15,850. For just €355 buyers can upgrade to the Limited Edition Corsa. It seems a bit of a no brainer, as that includes 17-inch black alloys, sports suspension, front fog lights, darkened rear lights, tinted rear window glass, heated door mirrors, sports front seats, a leather steering wheel, cruise control, body coloured interior details and that black roof. For some reason, Opel quietly omits some of the SC's safety equipment (in the form of the Protection Pack) in return, so keep a close eye on that when ordering, as that costs nigh on €700. The price of the Linea Stripes Pack varies from €583 to €795 depending on the model you apply them to.
The most impressive new addition to the Corsa is its Touch & Connect infotainment system. A five-inch touch-screen and intuitive set of regular buttons allow access to 28-country satnav, iPod and USB connectivity and Bluetooth. It's significantly cheaper than the pair of options you would have needed before in the Corsa, with prices starting at €680.
There are no major surprises in the new Opel Corsa. The driving position has plenty of adjustment so it's easy to get comfortable. Visibility isn't bad, though the shape of the three-door Corsa's C-pillar really restricts your over-the-shoulder view.
The steering is light enough, yet has some feel at the rim. The gearchange itself is moderately swift, if not as slick as the best in class - and hampered by the ludicrously large gear knob. Ride comfort in general is quite good, though beware that the sports suspension featured in the Limited Edition model adds a sharper edge to proceedings. That may suit some drivers, but it'll feel uncomfortable on Ireland's badly potholed secondary roads.
While the Corsa's chassis is competent enough in general, it doesn't excel in any one area. It deals best with the motorway, though body control could be a lot better, especially under braking. Even the OPC version we drove didn't feel as well tied down as we remember it. That could be to do with raised standards in the small car class, though it should be noted that our test cars all featured winter tyres, so this is far from a conclusive test drive.
In terms of engines, the cheapest diesel, the 1.3-litre CDTi unit with 75hp, is best suited to the Corsa's demeanour. It has bags of low down torque and is effortless to drive. It's a pity then that this is such a raucous engine. Unless you cover long distance, the 1.2-litre petrol model may be a better bet. It's a pity though that this - and the 1.4-litre petrol engine - only comes with a five-speed gearbox. The result is a strained sounding engine at motorway speeds.
Although the 2011 Opel Corsa represents a seemingly small step forward, the company has big plans for the Corsa brand in general. Every six months for the next three years Opel will unveil something new related to the Corsa. A teaser shot indicated that the first will be OPC-flavoured and possibly even a proper Corsa-based coup?. Could the Opel Tigra be reinvented? Watch this space.
Although the updates that make up the 2011 Opel Corsa are modest by any standards, they should keep the car in buyers' minds at a time when the class is full of talented, interesting cars. The addition of new colours and interior, along with a better infotainment system, indicates how small car buyers think these days. As ever the Corsa is well-priced and spacious. On top of that the line-up has a lot of choice for customers keen on Band A or Band B taxation.