OPC versus ST ... It's battle of the pocket rockets
Both are packing a real punch but which has that knockout blow to be crowned champ of super minis?
Published 24/01/2016 | 02:30
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that I have always had a soft spot for the Opel Corsa OPC - it was the first car I drove around the Nurburgring.
At over 20km long, 300 metres of altitude change and 170 corners, this legendary racetrack is considered the toughest, most dangerous circuit in the world and will test the mettle of both driver and car.
And as the feisty Corsa took it all in its stride and bounded around the corners, roared up the straight and thundered around the carousel, I fell completely under its spell.
But that was nearly 10 years ago and the latest Corsa OPC has been revamped and faces stiff opposition in particular from Ford's sizzling Fiesta ST.
Opel's latest version of the Corsa OPC packs a serious punch and most certainly looks the part.
Our test car came in 'Flash Blue', sporting a new and very aggressive front-end design with large air intakes and an aluminium-framed opening below the headlights. The twin Remus stainless steel sports exhaust snuggled within the rear diffuser is a clue to the potency under the bonnet.
Similarly Ford's ST has also sufficient sporty details to make it stand out from the regular Fiesta. With the body kit, large alloy wheels, a sports exhaust, boot spoiler and a lowered suspension combined with the 'Race Red' colour, it's a total head-turner.
The performance theme of both cars is evident in the cabins. Inside the Fiesta, the Recaro Sports seats are supremely comfortable and while the interior blends typical Fiesta quality with a few ST elements, if feels a little too much like the bog-standard Fiesta.
In contrast, the Corsa OPC's Recaro seats, a leather, flat-bottomed steering wheel and sports pedals are all very racy, giving an overall classy impression.
The clutter-free dash and user friendliness only adds to the appeal of the Corsa. Neither cars are huge in the back, but you will get three passengers in both without too much grumbling on short journeys, and boot space is adequate, 290 litres in the Fiesta compared to a marginally smaller 285 in the Corsa.
Power for the Corsa comes from a turbo-charged 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine sending 205bhp through the front tyres through a very sleek six-speed manual box. By comparison, the Fiesta ST only produces 180bhp but thanks to extra torque, the 0-100 dashes are achieved in virtually the same rate, with the ST at 6.9 - just 0.1 of a second behind the OPC.
On the road both are incredibly engaging to drive but the Fiesta has the edge. Its sounds better and has a sharpness to it that it just missing from the Corsa. The steering is well weighted on both and they share a firm, harsh ride, but it is the overall handling where the Fiesta truly shines.
However, it is running costs and economy where the differences become apparent and the gulf widens. Opel reckon that on a combined mix of motorway and country roads, the OPC will return 37.7mpg, which is a long way off Ford's official figure of 47.9mpg for their ST.
When it comes to taxing the cars, the OPC is not cheap - emissions of 174g/km means it sits in Band E and costs €750, whereas the Fiesta ST, with emissions of 138g/km, is just €280 to tax.
The Fiesta ST is priced from €26,390, the model we tested came in at €27,890.
Our Corsa OPC, as tested, was priced at €33,170. Strip out the extras (rear windows privacy tint €155, 18in alloy wheels €750, park assist (front and rear) €420 and OPC leather pack €1,850) and you can be on the road for €29,995.
Standard equipment on the Fiesta ST includes half leather upholstery, auto lights, auto wipers, cruise control, keyless entry, rear parking sensors, Sony audio, USB unit with iPod functionality, SYNC with Bluetooth voice control, rear privacy glass and halogen projector headlamps with LED DTRL.
The Corsa OPC is generously equipped and comes with standard kit that includes Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights, automatic lighting control, hill start assist, multi-function trip computer and cruise control, heated windscreen, IntelliLink infotainment system, remote control security alarm system and air conditioning.
Reassuringly, both cars are loaded with driver aids and safety features to make sure they stay on the road.
The new Corsa OPC is a beguiling blend of performance, power and cool and is a seriously good hot hatch but when compared to the Fiesta it looks a little on the pricey side and running costs are high.
But hot hatches are all about driving, and the Fiesta is the better of the two and indeed is the best small hot hatch currently on offer.
The affordable costs of the Fiesta (almost €4,000 or a family holiday in the difference) make it the rational choice but the razor sharp handling will make you reluctant to hand the keys back. It's justifiable with both your head and your heart.