The Verdict: Vauxhall Corsa VXR

No need to visit Halfords for your go-faster tweaks; Vauxhall’s done it all for you. But is this hot hatch overcooked? David Wilkins and our panel find out

Specifications

Price: £15,625
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo petrol
Performance: 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds, 35.8mpg
CO2: 190g/km:
Worth considering: Mini Cooper S, Renault Clio 2.0 Renaultsport 197, Seat Ibiza 180 Cupra

I'm really not very keen on the practice of sticking spoilers and other large pieces of plastic to cars’ bodywork. I’m even less in favour of fitting cars with wide wheels and very low profile tyres for the sake of appearances, an attitude I know a lot of people regard as snobbish.



My defence has always been the following. Manufacturers invest hundreds of millions of pounds developing and refining their new models. They go to enormous lengths to make sure that the aerodynamics of any car as it leaves the factory are optimised for economy and stability.



They also spend a lot of time on all that really boring stuff like making sure that the front wheels and tyres won’t foul a car’s bodywork when they are turned. I’ve always thought it exceedingly unlikely, therefore, that a recent school-leaver armed with a Halfords catalogue and a few hundred quid could improve on a lavishly funded development programme.



But this week’s test car, the Vauxhall Corsa VXR, finally put me on the spot and made me admit that I’m old, stuffy and boring. Because the fastest Corsa, you see, owes nothing to Hal-fords, but was chavved up – or perhaps that should be chavved down – at the factory by Vauxhall (or more accurately Opel) itself, which surely means that all those practicalities should have been taken care of. I’m still not that keen on the result, but then it’s a long time since I was 19.



Out on the road, though, this Corsa is pretty enjoyable; the comment of our reader-tester Lee Dalton that “if you drive everywhere like a loon, the VXR could be for you” captures quite a lot of its exuberant character. The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine has an awful lot of go, and positively begs to be pressed hard.



While the Corsa VXR always feels safe, though, there’s no mistaking the fact that there is an awful lot of power going through the front wheels of what is still a fairly small car. The hardworking electronics do manage to keep genuine unruliness to a minimum, however. There’s remarkably little roll under cornering, and the sporty Recaro seats with their big side bolsters keep you in place when you are pressing on. The rest of the cabin is fairly sporty, but rather more tastefully executed than the exterior.



One negative point is the Corsa’s rather limited luggage space. It’s not that the sort of people who will buy this car are going to be big on camping holidays or grocery shopping, but the small boot will certainly make it difficult for anyone to fit those over-sized subwoofers that any self-respecting boy racer must sport these days.

Lee Dalton, 34; Joshua Dalton, 8, senior project manager, schoolboy Binfield, Berkshire
USUAL CARS: FIAT BARCHETTA/CITROEN PICASSO AND REEBOK MOUNTAIN BIKE

“A badly behaved teenager with terrible dress sense” is the best way to describe this car. Unless you adapt to erratic behaviour, it will get the upper hand! Driven hard, it requires the driver’s full attention as turbo-induced torque steer throws you in all directions. It’s just as badly behaved about town, too. On twisting roads, the adolescent is much more fun, devouring bends and urging you on with its “go faster” exhaust note. If you drive everywhere like a loon, the VXR could be for you. But I imagine this car will be the undoing of many a driver, and I don’t want to be one of them.





David Duvall, 58, training manager from Reading
USUAL CARS: MERCEDES B200 CDI, MINI ONE

I’ve never owned a Vauxhall. Lack of driveability, heavy depreciation and, if I’m honest, image have put me off. But here is a Vauxhall for people who enjoy driving; 190bhp for this size of car makes for a terrific shove as soon as you touch the pedal – but there’s plenty of torque and you can pull smartly away from low revs. Ride is firm and handling sporty, but not excessively so, and the seats are excellent. Minus points: Vauxhall’s eccentric indicator operation has infected the wipers; the designer has clearly never tried to reach the seat-belt; and there’s too much boy-racer bodyk-it. I’m all for recapturing my lost youth – but I don’t need everyone else to know it.

Mark Jenner, 38, and Shaun Medhurst, 16, bank official and schoolboy Maidenhead, Berkshire
USUAL CAR: VAUXHALL ASTRA

Performance is electrifying; the acceleration is rapid (to say the least) whatever gear I was in. Smooth gear-changing was hampered in low gears by the revs “hanging on”, but the gearbox was easy to use otherwise. Braking was fearsome; Shaun said it felt like hitting a wall! The handling was superb, and driving position and seats were very good. Shaun said he was sliding around a bit in the back, but there was enough room. Tyre roar was bad at speed, and the boot’s not big enough for a family shop. Would I buy one? Yes, if I didn’t need to go on long motorway journeys.



THE VERDICT

If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@independent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions