The new Corsa is comfortable, well equipped and keenly priced


Price: From £10,825 (Sting 3dr)
Range spans: £8,995 to £16,235
Engine: 998cc, three cylinders, 12 valves, turbo-charged, 115bhp
Transmission: six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 121mph, 0-62 in 10.3sec, 57.6mpg, CO2 114g/km

Time has crept up on Vauxhall's Corsa. The fact that last year it sold as well as it ever has (an impressive 84,000 sales) has disguised the car's age, but the fourth generation of Vauxhall's small hatchback was launched a hefty eight years ago. So the marque has decided that now is the time for a new version.

Were it not for the bigger-mouthed radiator grille with a bar across it, like that of its fashion-model Adam Rocks sibling, the new version would not be readily distinguishable from the last one, unless the distinguisher saw old and new parked together. This is partly because Vauxhall sees little reason to change a shape liked by buyers, and partly because a lot of the underskin structure is shared with the old car.

But there are subtle changes. The front and rear lights have gained a fashionably cutaway look, there's a blade-like groove along the flanks, and the sleek dashboard has a touchscreen console able to "mirror" your phone. Owners of the old Corsa often complained that the windscreen misted up too easily, so the new one has a heated screen with very fine elements embedded in the glass.

Those are the new parts you can see – although the heating elements are barely noticeable, fortunately. But there's more. One snag with the old Corsa was that if you had also driven Ford's excellent Fiesta, the Vauxhall seemed a dull, unengaging machine with a loose, disconnected feel. The new one's suspension is attached to the body at slightly different points, which, combined with new, electrically assisted steering, makes it feel tauter, more incisive and more responsive while also dealing calmly with bumps. It's a lot of fun, in the way a small car should be.

Some new engines help, of which the star is the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol already under the bonnet of the Adam Rocks. This tiny engine, available with either 90 or 115bhp, makes the power delivery extremely smooth. The 115bhp version has a lively, punchy response, with the occasional hesitations criticised in the Adam absent here. This really is a terrific little unit, with enough of a three-cylinder's deep, tuneful engine note to give it character.

But buyers will need to get used to its strange place in the Corsa's fearsomely complicated model-range structure, in which another new engine – a 1.4-litre, four-cylinder unit, again turbocharged – produces just 100bhp and is offered at a lower price despite its larger size. You are paying for power and technological advancement with the smaller engine, plus the chance to recoup some of the outlay thanks to a lower CO2 figure, and an undeniably more enjoyable drive. That said, the 1.4 turbo is a relaxed engine with a willing pull from low speeds.

As for the trim levels, they ascend from Life to Sting, Sting R, Excite, Design, SRi, SRi VX-Line, SE and, finally, a range-topping Limited Edition. Someone has failed to see the wood from the baggage-laden trees here, forgetting that such a mish-mash is usually found at the end of a model's life rather than at the beginning

Yet none of this stops the new Corsa from being a much better small hatchback than the old one – comfortable, well equipped and keenly priced. It's a remake rather than an all-new car but, as remakes go, it's a good one.

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