Small hatchbacks like the Opel Corsa have traditionally been affordable and somewhat basic cars, with better ones occasionally providing a more entertaining driving experience. Now the sixth-generation Corsa taps into those elements, drawing from the larger cars in Opel's range. And even though there are many similarities with the Peugeot 208 that it shares much of its architecture with, the Opel Corsa retains its own personality and design. Driven here in its range-topping GS Line guise, the Opel Corsa may have you questioning why you need a larger car.
In the Metal:
With the introduction of the 2020 Opel Corsa, we see the most dramatic evolution of the car's style to date. This is most noticeable in the GS Line version tested here, which currently tops the line-up. Proportionally it is a very different design to the previous Corsa's, moving to a two-box shape that gives the car more of a grown-up appearance. An increase in width and reduction in roof height further improve this and, wearing the 17-inch alloy wheels of this specification, it sits quite nicely on the road. Bespoke front and rear bumpers in the GS Line variant play up the more sporting characteristic of the Corsa. At the rear, a twin-tip exhaust underlines this, as does the rear spoiler, while the contrasting roof colour rounds off the premium look.
The 309 litres of luggage space is enough to swallow up a couple of hand-luggage-sized cases and the boot's aperture is wide enough. If you need more space, the 60/40 split rear seats tumble forward to increase capacity to 1,081 litres, which should be enough to get you out of hole following some overenthusiastic Ikea shopping. Rear passenger space is best described as 'adequate.' It'll fit three at a push, but even two adults probably won't want to spend hours sitting in the rear, but that's not unusual in this class. You can equip the Corsa with some luxuries like heating and massage functions for the front seats, while the heated steering wheel option is a nice one to have in winter. Wireless charging, touchscreen displays of up to 10 inches with smartphone mirroring and a digital instrument screen are items usually found one segment up, so it's positive to see these making their way into the Corsa.
It's not just from the outside that you notice how much this Corsa has changed; from the driver's seat you feel more as if you're sitting in the car, unlike its predecessor, which left you feeling as you were sitting on the car. You're aware of the lower driving position and finding a comfortable driving position isn't difficult thanks to plenty of front seat adjustability and a steering wheel with generous scope of settings for the height and reach. The most powerful engine in the Corsa's launch range tested here is exclusively paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and the selector is easily in reach. It's identical to the one in use in several PSA Group models such as the Citroen C5 Aircross and Peugeot 3008. It's typical for three-cylinder engines to have an off-beat sound, and so it is in the Corsa. However, the coarseness that often accompanies the unusual noise, particularly when accelerating, isn't as pronounced in this version. Part of that can be attributed to the quite comprehensive job that Opel has done in reducing the amount of noise being transmitted into the cabin.
In its normal driving mode, the Corsa clips along at a decent pace, with that eight-speed transmission doing a very decent job of keeping gear changes smooth and often entirely unnoticed. Switching up to the Sport setting does introduce typical changes such as an upshift in engine note and tone and the need for more steering effort as its weighting increases. The shift pattern of the automatic transmission also changes, although, if you're switching to this mode, you may be more likely to use the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual gear changes. As you press on, the engine sounds more synthesised. The GS Line model, which this engine is exclusive to, gets Michelin-shod 17-inch alloy wheels, while the suspension also benefits from some upgrades including additional bracing on the front suspension struts. It doesn't quite feel like a hot hatch, though it does a very good job of hanging on through a sequence of tight corners, which bodes well for any future GSi model.
One of the overriding aspects of driving the Corsa, especially at higher speeds on a motorway, is the degree of refinement that Opel has managed to instil into a car of this size. It remains quiet enough inside to not be tiring over a long journey and the eight-speed transmission keeps engine speeds to a minimum when cruising, benefitting refinement and fuel economy.
What you get for your Money:
With Irish pricing still in the process of being set, you'll have to check back for when we update this section of the review with the details. Opel makes its IntelliLux LED Matrix headlights available in the Corsa - a first for this technology in the segment - and these are worth considering if you live in more rural or less well-lit areas. A one-touch parking system will also be available for cars fitted with the automatic transmission and, following the car's launch, a lane centring aid will be available to order.
The Opel Corsa is a very likeable car, not only for its more sophisticated design and jump forward in refinement, but equally for how it drives. It makes light work of city traffic and is still capable of a a decent grin-factor when you get away from the trappings of urban life. For those who like to have all the equipment and toys in their car, it's no longer necessary to go large.