A quick glance at the Corsa’s brochure will probably leave you feeling bewildered. There are no fewer than eight engines to choose from (six petrols and two diesels) and seven of them pump out between 74bhp and 114bhp.
How do you possibly choose? Well, our advice is to discount the diesels; the 89bhp 1.3-litre CDTi is reasonably punchy, especially at low and medium revs, but it just doesn’t make much sense given that many of the petrols are cheaper and still very efficient.
You can probably also cross the 74bhp 1.4-litre off your shortlist, unless you barely leave the city’s limits because, well... it’s very slow. The 89bhp version of the same engine is better, but still needs working hard to get the best from it.
Our pick of the range is the 99bhp version of the 1.4 because it throws a turbocharger into the mix for much punchier acceleration – particularly at low revs. True, the 1.0-litre turbo engines are even better, but aren’t worth the considerable extra they cost.
All Corsas with 17in alloy wheels (either standard or fitted as an option) get sports suspension as standard. This firmer approach results in a slightly harsher ride over sharp-edged bumps, although things are still pretty settled over most surfaces. In short, you shouldn’t let it put you off if you like the sportier look that bigger wheels bring.
The comfort suspension is better, though; it’s appreciably suppler over big bumps and more composed over intrusions such as manhole covers and expansion joints. It can be still slightly fidgety along rippled town roads, though.
The regular suspension doesn’t keep body movements in check particularly well through tight twists and turns, so you do feel a bit like the car is leaning over onto its door handles. Still, there’s enough grip, so the Corsa never feels too wayward.
The firmer of the two suspension set-ups (fitted to cars with 17in alloy wheels) reduces body sway through bends. Unfortunately, all Corsas have somewhat vague steering that’s inconsistently weighted and doesn’t give you much sense of what’s going on at the front wheels.
A ‘City’ button is standard on all Corsas that brings super-light steering designed to assist with parking. It does make tight manoeuvres that bit easier.
Wind and tyre noise are an audible background din at motorway speeds, particularly on models with 17in wheels. Rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo and even the Seat Ibiza are quieter cruising companions.
All of the Corsa’s 1.4-litre petrols are coarse-sounding, even at moderate revs, while the 1.3-litre diesels are really quite clattery. The 1.0-litre petrols are much better; you feel a little vibration through the soles of your feet when accelerating but noise levels are very low.
Depending on which engine you go for, you either get a five or six-speed manual gearbox as standard. Neither is as good as the equivalent ’box in an Ibiza or Ford Fiesta, but the six-speeder is at least reasonably light and precise.
If you need an auto, avoid the jerky five-speed Easytronic gearbox and go for the six-speed ’box (available only on the 1.4i 90).
Chances are you’ll find it relatively easy to get comfortable in the Corsa. All versions have a steering wheel that adjusts for both height and reach, along with a driver’s seat that moves up and down.
The regular seats don’t hold you in place particularly well through corners, and while the sports seats that feature on the racier trims are better in this regard, they still don’t offer much in the way of lower back support. Adjustable lumbar support isn’t available – even as an option.
The dashboard is mostly logical, including the air-con controls, which feature big, clearly labelled buttons and dials.
The Corsa’s thick front pillars are rather raked back, so your view out of junctions is more obscured than in, say, a Skoda Fabia or Volkswagen Polo. Similarly, chunky pillars at the back hamper your over-the-shoulder view, although the same is true in many rivals.
Only range-topping SE and Elite trims come with parking sensors (both front and rear), although you can add rear sensors to lesser trims for a reasonable fee. You can also pay extra for a reversing camera on all trims apart from Elite, which gets one as standard.
There’s also an Advanced Park Assist option available on certain trims that can automatically steer the car into a space while you operate the pedals. This comes as part of a reasonably priced pack that also includes audible parking sensors and a blindspot warning system.
Sting models get a very basic FM/AM stereo with a CD player, Bluetooth and a USB socket. The tiny display means lots of scrolling if you’ve got a hefty music collection or loads of phone contacts.
Every other trim level gets Vauxhall’s Intellilink system with a 7.0in colour touchscreen. This gets you a DAB radio, but its main trick is to function as an extension of your phone – Apple or Android – thanks to smartphone mirroring.
The system isn’t as intuitive as those in the Polo and Seat Ibiza, but it isn’t far behind the Ford Fiesta’s. There is sometimes quite a long pause between you pressing the screen and the system responding, though.
A built-in sat-nav is available as an option, but we wouldn’t bother; you can use the smartphone mirroring feature and an app on your phone to get directions.
A variety of textured materials, including gloss-finish trim and cushioned rests on the front doors, make the Corsa’s interior look smart and prevent it from feeling too cheap. It’s much classier inside than budget options, such as the Dacia Sandero and Ford Ka+, for example.
That said, quality is a long way behind the Ibiza and Polo, and even the Fiesta just has the edge over the Corsa for general fit and finish.
There’s lots of head room in the front of the Corsa – more than in a Ford Fiesta or Seat Ibiza, actually – but long-legged drivers might wish there was more leg room. The interior is reasonably broad, so it doesn’t feel too cosy if you have a passenger next to you.
There are two cupholders in front of the gearlever that are fine for 500ml bottles or medium-sized takeaway cups. You can fit a bigger bottle in the door pockets, but otherwise the Corsa is a bit short of storage because the glovebox is quite small.
The Corsa is one of the better cars in the class for rear space, behind the Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo but ahead of the Fiesta. Two taller adults will be perfectly comfortable, although the very long-legged will be at risk of having their knees brushing the seats in front if they’re sitting behind a taller driver.
Access is good in the five-door model – better than the Fiesta and other more swoopy-looking hatches if you regularly need to duck in to reach a child seat – but obviously less brilliant in the cheaper three-door variant; you have to flip forward the front seat and clamber through the narrow gap.
The door pockets in the rear are fairly small, so you certainly won’t get a 1.0-litre bottle in there.
Disappointingly, you have to go for range-topping SE or Elite trim (or pay extra) to get 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Otherwise, you’re stuck with a single-piece foldable seatback that’s very cumbersome.
The seatback is released by pressing buttons on the outer edges of the bench. It doesn’t fold completely flat, though – whether it’s the split version or the single-piece variety.
You have to pay extra for a height-adjustable front passenger seat, but at least the front seats in the three-door model return to their original position after being flipped forward to allow access to the back.
The Corsa’s boot is nothing to write home about. It’s smaller than a Fiesta’s, for example, let alone the boot in the Ibiza or Skoda Fabia. Practicality isn’t helped by the fact that there’s a big drop down to the boot floor from the lip of the boot opening.
There's no option to add a height-adjustable boot floor to mitigate this, either, whereas this handy feature is available on the Ibiza and Fiesta.
You still won’t exactly struggle to fit the weekly shop in the Corsa’s boot, though, and the floor of the load bay is a usefully square shape.
There are so many different engines and trims to choose from that the Corsa ranges from ‘temptingly cheap’ to ‘very pricey indeed’.
We reckon the pick of the range is the 1.4i Turbo 100 in SRi trim. This is priced well below equivalent versions of the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza, and roughly in line with the Skoda Fabia. The cheaper 1.4i 90 and Design trim are worth considering if you’re on a tighter budget.
If you’re buying on PCP finance, as most buyers do, it’s best to check Vauxhall’s website regularly because special terms are sometimes only available on certain trim levels. Generally, though, the Corsa will cost you slightly more a month than an equivalent Ibiza.
Vauxhall chops and changes trim levels quite often and usually has a selection of limited-edition models that offer plenty of kit for a reasonable price.
But if you want to keep things as cheap as possible, you’ll want Sting trim, which gets you cruise control, electric front windows, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and a heated windscreen – but not a lot else.
We reckon SRi trim makes the most sense. This adds much-needed air-con, automatic lights and wipers, and a much better infotainment system (see infotainment section). Design and Energy trims are also worth a look, though.
SE trim, which adds heated front seats and OnStar automatic crash response, is a bit too pricey, but Elite is the one to really avoid. You get loads of kit, including climate control and xenon headlights, but it’s very expensive.
Vauxhall as a brand finished mid-table in the most recent What Car? reliability survey, as did the Corsa in the small car class. It was found to be more dependable than the Peugeot 208 but less reliable than the Fabia and Honda Jazz.
All Corsas come with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty as standard, along with 12 months of roadside recovery.
All Corsas have six airbags, tyre pressure monitoring and hill start assist. Blindspot monitoring is available as an option (bundled in with a self-parking system).
Crucially, though, there’s no automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning or traffic sign recognition. Don’t pay too much attention to the four-star Euro NCAP safety result, either, because the test was conducted back in 2014 under a less stringent set of criteria that modern cars have to meet.
And, disappointingly, you have to pay extra for an alarm on all but range-topping Elite trim.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here