(Cybertech) – For some people of a certain age, the Vauxhall Corsa will bring back ‘first car’ memories. Just a glance up and down any road in the UK will reveal several generations of the Corsa, so popular has this car been in the past, but it’s more recently edged out by the Ford Fiesta as one of the top-selling small cars.
Vauxhall’s fresh new design certainly bodes well for the future of the Corsa, but the option of an electric version adds and interesting twist to this car’s story. With many more competitors now in the small electric car space, does the Corsa-e represent history repeating in its potential success?
It looks so much better
It’s fair to say the previous generation of Vauxhall weren’t the best-looking vehicles it had ever put on the road. While the Corsa didn’t look too bad, the larger Mokka dated really quickly – and as we said in our review of that larger model, the new design gives you plenty to look at.
The Corsa-e shares some design cues with its larger sibling, with a front end that’s more sporty, and that ridge down the bonnet that gives it a little more character. There’s little to separate the combustion from the electric models when it comes to looks, unlike the differentiation you’ll see in, say, the Mini Electric compared to the rest of that range.
The Corsa’s proportions are better than the outgoing model, shown here with 17-inch two-tone wheels – that you’ll get on the SRi Nav Premium and Elite Nav trim). The SE Nav Premium – the entry point for the electric model – gets 16-inch wheels instead.
There aren’t huge external differences to the body work as you move through the trim levels: additional lights in the front bumper bring a sportier look, while the SRi Nav Premium and Elite Nav Premium get tinted rear windows and a black roof to give it a little more kerbside appeal.
The top of the range also gets a different grille on the front. Purely decorative, the metal flecks give it a little boost over the lower-spec models. All-in, it’s a Corsa, but not as you know it – although it does stick to being a regular hatchback – Vauxhall hasn’t been tempted to turn this into some sort of crossover.
An interior that fits
Slip into the cabin and some of what you’ll see will be familiar. The Corsa-e shares components with other models across the Stellantis group – that’s Citroen, DS Automobiles, Peugeot – all sitting on the same common modular platform (or CMP as it’s called). That explains some of the familiarity between these brands – at the core, they are much the same car.
The cabin in the Corsa-e is obviously fairly small because it’s a compact car, but there is a 267-litre boot (shrinking slightly from the combustion version). There’s no spare wheel and minimal under-floor space here, but the boot is large enough for the weekly shop or a weekend away.
The rear seat is better suited to children or occasional use. Legroom isn’t huge, but there’s headroom for adults, so it’s not so bad on shorter trips. The Vauxhall Mokka-e or Citroën ë-C4 are a little more generous if you need more space.
For the driver and front passenger, however, that’s not a worry – with plenty of head, knee and elbow room to keep things comfortable. The seats are plenty comfortable on the Elite Nav level too, pairing a cloth with leather-effect trim to give them a premium look.
Most of the cabin uses hard plastics, which is where things are slightly set apart from models that come in a little more expensive. There’s soft-touch material across the top of the dash, but then a combination of harder plastics and glossy materials elsewhere, with more premium materials limited to door inserts and other touch points.
That’s not a problem at this price, but some might look at the Mini Electric or the Honda e and prefer those interiors – but then they are a mite more expensive too.
A familiar tech loadout
If you’ve read our reviews of other CMP-based cars, you’ll know that the tech arrangement is generally the same across all these models: indeed, the underlying experience is the same on the Corsa-e as it is on the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense or the Citroën ë-C4.
Vauxhall offers two central display sizes based on the model you buy: there’s a 7-inch on the SR and SRi; saving the 10-inch for the Elite model. The smaller display gets flanked touch controls to take you to major areas – calling, nav, music – while the larger display gets physical buttons underneath to navigate to all these areas, which we think is the better arrangement.
While car manufacturers are increasingly trying to reduce the number of buttons, here you’re well served, with direct access to key areas of the infotainment system to minimise tapping on the display. At the same time, the expanded 10-inch display isn’t used to its full, the left and right flanks often left blank.
All offer navigation, DAB and Bluetooth just as you’d expect, with a USB connection to power Android Auto or Apple CarPlay – which some might prefer over the default system. Certainly, Vauxhall’s voice control system doesn’t even come close to the experience of Google Assistant that’s available through Android Auto.
The default services work well enough, but we remain slightly cynical about the mapping and points of interest system it uses to find charging stations. While charging points are listed on the map, they’re very out of date and so not really a reliable way to find your next charge – you’re better off using an app like Zap-Map or Plug Share, or indeed voice search on Google Maps will return you more details than the default maps in the car.
There’s a button to go straight to some of the electric information, including basic stats. Not much is made of these though – a basic average for your trip and a graph that shows averages over time. On our model – as we saw on the DS3 E-Tense – the scale was wrong, so the graph was totally useless, so that’s probably a simple software fix – but it’s nothing like as useful as the information you’ll get from Kia’s electric cars, for example.
At this top level on the Elite Nav Premium you also get a rear camera and top-down view when reversing – so it’s incredibly easy to squeeze into tight charging spaces – plus keyless entry and a start button, as well as heated seats and steering wheel.
Importantly, however, whichever model you choose, you get the tech you need. While our preference is for the top level, of course, it’s not hugely different to what you’ll find in the more affordable trims – and importantly, the drive experience is very much the same.
The Elite Nav Premium pictured here would set you back £31,710, so we suspect many would opt for the lower-tier models, which start from just over £21,000.
Drive, range and charging
The good news for the Corsa-e is that it gets the same loadout as lots of other models on the market from that Stellantis super group. If you’re researching electric cars to buy, these stats will become increasingly familiar.
The Corsa-e has a 50kWh battery, a 100kW motor driving the front wheels, which produces about 136PS and 260Nm torque. This is the same across all trim levels, which is refreshing, because it means the drive is pretty much the same no matter which model you select.
Vauxhall cites a range of 209 miles. The real-world performance will depend on how you drive, how loaded the car is, whether you need the aircon on, and the weather (how hot/cold it is), but still, this is a useful range.
During our testing, we managed to get up to 5.5 miles per kWh in careful driving around town, which would return more like 275 miles; in more carefree driving we were closer to 4 miles per kWh, which would return 200 miles. The lightness of the Corsa-e gives is an advantage over larger vehicles because you’ll get a little more range from it.
There are three driving modes – eco, normal, sport – with the former dulling the throttle response and increasing the lift-off regeneration and reducing the climate control; the latter pair, meanwhile, give a higher performance drive with a more immediate throttle response. There are also two positions on the ‘gear stick’ – with D for normal driving and B giving you a little more lift-off regen, allowing for less braking.
Driving around urban environments makes a lot of sense as you’ll soon get used to lifting your foot off and having regen slow the car as you approach a junction. This system doesn’t allow you to come to a complete halt like it will on the Nissan Leaf or Fiat 500e, however, so you’ll have to dab the brake when you actually need to stop.
The 0-62mph speed is 7.6 seconds, but it’s really the 0-30mph speed that you feel off the line, making this a fun and nippy car ideally suited to B roads or urban driving.
The suspension is firmer than some of the French models it’s comparable to, though, and that makes it a little more sporty through the corners. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel unduly rough over broken roads or speed bumps.
That makes for a great drive overall. And while many cars are getting bigger, with EVs mainly appearing in the crossover segment, there’s only a few models that feel better suited to city life. Notably the Mini Electric has a slightly more powerful motor and drives a little more like a go-kart, but the Corsa-e has a larger battery, giving better range.
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There’s support for 100kW DC charging, giving it an advantage over the Renault Zoe (which only offers 50kW charging as standard), so in the small car segment, there’s a lot going for it. That 100kW charging would see the car up to 80 per cent battery in about 30 minutes; a typical full change on a 7kW home charger would be about 7 and a half hours.
The Vauxhall Corsa-e is a great little electric car that has a lot going for it. It’s not as unique as the Honda-e, not as premium as the Mini Electric, or as cute as the Fiat 500e, but it beats them all on range – while also offering faster-charging than some small models.
Because it’s small, it’s also more affordable than a lot of the electric cars on the road. Yes, you lose space and some of the practicality, but for those looking for a small electric car, you’d be mad not to consider the Corsa-e.
Just as the Corsa was a first car for many people, it could well be the case that the Corsa-e is a first electric car for many people too. Forget any assumptions you might have about the name badge, this is a completely new experience – and we really like it.
The Fiat 500e offers charm in its compact form and sits on a different platform, meaning it can offer a smaller battery for a lower entry price. It also offers a better interior and better technology loadout, but is a little smaller.
The most unique electric car on the road, with an interior like nothing else out there. While it has a smaller battery than the Corsa-e, it wins on style – and that goes a long way in the small car segment.
Writing by Chris Hall. Editing by Mike Lowe.