With the addition of its Performance Pack the Opel Corsa OPC is perhaps the closest rival to the mighty Ford Fiesta ST, although a lofty asking price and inefficient engine will curb appeal for buyers conscious of price and running costs.
In the Metal:
From any angle, there is little chance of mistaking the Opel Corsa OPC for one of its lesser siblings. Sitting 10 mm lower than the standard car; it exudes an air of performance without being brash. The styling of the front has been largely dictated by the need to supply additional cooling to the engine. At each lower corner of the front bumper, a contrasting silver finish tastefully surrounds large intakes, while the headlights feature bi-Xenon technology as standard. A cursory glance at the front might also lead you to think that the black strip, where the bonnet meets the front bumper is an additional air scoop to help feed the engine, but closer inspection reveals it is simply a solid piece of trim. Opel's Director of Performance Cars and Motorsport, Volker Strycek, admitted to CompleteCar.ie that there wasn't any requirement for the additional vent but Opel designers felt that it added to the overall look of the car.
In standard form the car rolls on 17-inch alloy wheels clad in Michelin 215/45 R17 tyres. They fill the wheel arches well and help to give the car a purposeful stance. Around the rear, a choice of two spoilers reduces lift at higher speeds to aid grip levels on the rear axle. Opel has teamed up with exhaust specialists, Remus, to create the Corsa OPC's system. The twin pipe exhaust helps give the turbocharged engine a sonorous tone whilst keeping the car's emission of pollutants compliant with the latest EU6 regulations.
Inside, the car remains a relatively restrained affair, with just subtle references to its OPC positioning dotted around the cabin. Stepping in over the OPC-branded sills and easing yourself into the cosseting sports seats you're greeted by a leather covered flat-bottomed steering wheel while the drilled aluminium pedals catch your eye in the footwell. The six-speed manual gear lever falls easily to hand and now features a 13 per cent reduction in throw between gears in comparison to the standard car's. Should you be feeling a little more flush you can specify leather upholstered and heated Recaro sports seats. The centre console's IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system is still set a little low down for our liking and doesn't differ from how it appears in other models in the Opel range.
Considering that, in its new guise, the Corsa is essentially just an evolution of the previous model's platform; Opel's engineers' hard work at improving its on-road performance is to be applauded. The suspension has been developed in conjunction with Opel's damper supplier, Koni, and features, what it calls, Frequency Selective Damping (FSD). This acts as a form of mechanical adaptive damping allowing for a progressive change in relation to the car's speed. As you might expect the ride is firm, but even on the larger optional 18-inch wheels, it is acceptably compliant and over poorer surfaces is relatively sympathetic to its passengers in urban situations. When pressed harder during more enthusiastic driving it firms up nicely giving the sensation of sharper body control. Complementing this is new geometry for the rear axle, designed to improve the roll rate, while a new torsion profile rod and anti-roll bars help sharpen things up further.
The Corsa OPC shares much of its base engine with the Opel Adam R2 racer. It gains a new turbocharger intake and intercooler system while new fuel injectors and engine management unit help to deliver a generous spread of power. Its 245Nm of torque arrives at 1,900rpm and remains right through to 5,800rpm. On overboost, it can deliver an extra 35Nm for up to 11 seconds. At lower engine speeds the power delivery is smooth too thanks to improvements to the turbocharger. That low down shove makes it happy to roll on the throttle in higher gears without needing to downshift. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine revs quite freely and has a deep tone that will keep you hanging onto each gear a little bit longer for the sake of it. Its updated manual gearbox is more pleasant to use now that the throw between cogs has been shortened. In terms of outright engine performance the Opel engine is right up there with its rivals, if not quite as eager as the Ford Fiesta ST engine, but every bit as fast as it against the clock and as the Peugeot 208 GTi.
Our test cars were equipped with the optional Performance Package, an eye-watering €3,000 extra, which includes a mechanical limited slip differential from Drexler and a retuned Koni FSD damper setup. This, along with the larger 18-inch wheels and Brembo four-pot callipers that bite on beefier 330mm discs, lets you push the OPC that bit harder. On twisting mountain roads, the car feels very planted on its Michelin Pilot Supersport tyres. Turn in from the revised steering is sharp and remains communicative at a variety of speeds. The FSD suspension works well at limiting body roll during hard cornering too. One of the downsides to the larger wheels though is the degree of road noise that comes into the cabin. Even from speeds as low as 50km/h there is a very noticeable drone from the road that even the throaty engine can't overcome until higher speeds.
What you get for your Money:
Pricing and specification is where things start to fall apart for the Corsa OPC. With a starting price of €29,995, it is already €3,735 more expensive than the Fiesta ST - a car that is the king of this segment - and €1,595 more than the 208 GTi. The Opel makes the admittedly lesser powered SEAT Ibiza Cupra look like a steal by coming in some €6,380 less.
Standard specification in the Corsa gives you 17-inch Michelin-shod alloy wheels, sports seats, cruise control, air conditioning and bi-Xenon headlights. However, if you really want to get the most from the Corsa OPC you'll need to stump up a further €3,000 for the Performance Package. This gives you the larger wheels, uprated brakes, more finely tuned suspension and that Drexler limited slip diff. This further widens the price gap from its rivals who already offer their best mechanical setup in their standard cars.
One more fly in the ointment for Opel is its engine, which has emissions of 174g/km placing it into Band E. Opel plans to roll out more efficient engines down the line but for now you'll have to pay annual motor tax of €750 per annum whereas its rivals all offer engines in Band B2, where the annual rate is a far more affordable €280.
Opel really has pulled off an impressive feat with its latest Corsa OPC, delivering the right amount of useable power in a chassis that is noticeably improved. It is perhaps the closest rival to the mighty Fiesta ST and is only let down by its hefty price tag.