The Opel Corsa GSi returns to the range after a five-year absence, promising fun driving and a sporty image that shouldn't be out of reach of younger drivers. But how does it fare in the current world of hot hatches?
In the Metal:
At first glance, the Corsa GSi certainly looks the part as a fast hatchback. The standard car rides on tasty looking 17-inch alloy wheels behind which sit bright red brake callipers. It sits 10mm lower than a regular Corsa too, thanks to a suspension setup that is same as the base level Corsa OPC.
A lot of that car's image also migrates although much of it is just for show. That black bonnet vent and the intakes positioned on the extremities of the lower front bumper are all blanked off. It's only when stationary that it's as easy to spot. The front grille gets a unique honeycomb mesh look while Opel also treats the side sills to some beefing up. The side door mirror covers come in a carbon effect that stands out more. A neat roof spoiler and single exhaust round off the styling on the rear.
The interior also sees some performance embellishments. A leather-wrapped steering wheel (with optional heated function), sports seats and a chunky manual gear shifter that features a shorter throw between gears. Buyers can choose to upgrade to Recaro hard-backed sports seats that do look the part and provide adequate levels of support without feeling too hard.
In creating the Corsa GSi, Opel's engineers chose to delve back into the more potent OPC version to cherry-pick some of the hardware and chassis settings. Most notably is the Frequency Selective Damping (FSD), developed with Koni, which performs like mechanical adaptive damping. It adjusts according to how you're driving the car, providing a firmer ride during higher speed cornering for better body control. We only got to sample the Corsa on the optional 18-inch alloy wheels but didn't find the ride overly firm. However, on poorer roads in Ireland, sticking with the standard 17-inch wheels may be a wiser choice.
Although this car doesn't get the Drexler limited slip differential that was available with the OPC version, it doesn't quite need it due to the lower power output. The engine, a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, produces 150hp and 220Nm of torque. It's just powerful enough to make it feel reasonably brisk without every overwhelming the limits of front-wheel drive traction. Tweaks to the ESP software does allow for more enthusiasm. It still gets out of slower corners easily and without any interruption to power delivery or traction. The engine also likes to rev and continues to pull the car forwards as it approaches its 6,500rpm redline.
It's on smaller, flowing secondary roads when driving at seven tenths that the Opel shows its best hand. The mix of performance and chassis tune along with accurate steering make it an easy car to place. At these speeds, the engine doesn't get much opportunity to start running out of breath either, though at times you will need to work both engine and gearbox a little to keep enjoying it. The Opel isn't trying to rival the Fiesta ST or Polo GTI. It's dialled down a notch, closer to the Suzuki Swift Sport in warm hatch territory.
Of course, it isn't all about going flat out either, and in urban environs the Corsa feels no different to drive than the regular non-GSi model. Yes, the ride is a little firmer; however, you won't be grimacing as you go over every bump. Other good news is that the GSi isn't as thirsty for fuel as the OPC was. We did see an average of 8 litres/100km during our time, but the majority of that was faster roads with spirited driving. Officially, Opel claims it returns a combined 6.1 litres/100km. CO2 emissions, something that severely restricted the Corsa OPC, is rated at 139g/km.
What you get for your Money:
For the most part, the Corsa GSI comes with many of the features one would expect from a hatchback at that price point. Among the standard items are 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, LED halogen headlights, hill start assist, rear privacy glass and a heated windscreen as well as the styling details mentioned above. Optionally buyers can choose to add heated seats and a heated steering wheel.
If you want to enhance the sporty look, Opel also offers a GSi Plus Pack. With this, the car gains 18-inch wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, Recaro leather seats, Bi-Xenon headlights with a cornering function, fog lamps, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
The Corsa GSi does enough to make it look and feel like a sporty hatchback, but it stays out of the bigger fight between those in the 200hp division. That makes it no less of a car as long as you get what it is trying to be. The upside to this is that younger driver may find it a touch more insurance-friendly in addition to being that bit cheaper to buy. Only when you begin adding up the options does that the gap to those more powerful rivals start to close. If you're looking for something sporty but aren't a devout driving enthusiast, then this Opel is worth a look.