Corsa raises stakes in battle of hot hatches
Extra power and good looks make Corsa OPC a contender, says Martin Brennan
Dedicated hot-hatch fans will welcome the arrival of the latest pocket rocket from Opel, the Corsa OPC. The leader of the pack in this league is the Ford Fiesta ST, which boasts a 1.6 litre 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine. But Opel has decided to come on with something stronger, a 1.6 litre engine with 202bhp on tap and 280Nm of torque, which beats even the Renault RS in terms of power out - (200bhp and 240NM of torque), both of which are ahead of Fiesta ST at 182bhp and 240Nm of torque.
Opel engineers have injected extra power compared to the previous model in an effort to make it top cat. It also looks strong, with large air intakes, distinctive hood, rear spoiler and twin-pipe exhaust, which is tuned to give out strong rev noises to get heads turning in the street. Special effects noises are also generated for driver satisfaction in the cockpit, where the sports car theme is continued with top quality Recaro seats which give excellent side support - greatly appreciated in fast cornering - a slick, six-speed gearbox, sports pedals and OPC-designed instrument cluster.
All in all, a good package that looks striking on the road, especially if the performance package is chosen, which adds an extra €3,000 to the €29,995 price tag. This gets you bigger brakes, bigger alloy wheels, stiffer suspension and limited slip differential to improve driving dynamics.
The Fiesta ST enters the fray at €26,995, with an extra €1,500 for the ST2 which adds partial leather, better suspension set-up and bigger brakes.
On paper, the Corsa has a marginally quicker sprint time to 100km/h - 6.5 seconds to Fiesta's 6.9 seconds - and the top speed of 230km/h beats Fiesta's 220km/h. But the Fiesta figures on C02 are impressive: 138gm/km to Corsa's 174gm/km, which attracts lower tax and accounts in part for the lower price. The Fiesta also comes out on top in the economy stakes by a good margin, but realistically this is not a major consideration for buyers of either model who are prepared to pay a high price for a three-door model strictly because of performance.
It is some time since I drove the Fiesta ST, but at the time it was regarded as the one to beat for driving pleasure. In fairness, the Corsa needs to have a longer test drive than the short foray at launch to properly evaluate it.
While the beefier Corsa has more torque on tap than the Fiesta, the Ford offering may still have the edge on handling. We will see in the near future. Others to consider are the Renault Clio RS, Seat Ibiza Cupra and the Peugeot 208 GTI.
The Corsa's finely tuned suspension gives a jolty drive on urban roads but makes up for this in high-speed driving on country roads - a doddle, with the big brakes well able to rein in the prancing horses.
The big alloy wheels add some extra noise, and the harsher suspensions make this a car for the young at heart - not a car to buy if long leisurely country journeys are the order of the day. Opel is currently running with a 6.5pc market share and the Corsa OPC should lift these figures during the year.
New engines and transmission units, which are more economical, have been added to the models throughout the range during the year and a new lightweight Astra model is due in the autumn.
Opel says that up to 200kg has been shaved off the weight, depending on the engine and equipment levels chosen, which will also be a big fuel saver.
The wheelbase is shorter than the outgoing model, but Opel engineers say that the interior now has more space due to new structural and seat configuration.