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A case of style over substance


FLATTERING TO DECEIVE: new version of Opel Corsa fails to deliver almost across the board

FLATTERING TO DECEIVE: new version of Opel Corsa fails to deliver almost across the board

FLATTERING TO DECEIVE: new version of Opel Corsa fails to deliver almost across the board

AFTER the beautiful excesses of driving the Mercedes Benz CLS of which I wrote last week, it was time to park the dreams for a while and get down to more realistic concerns.

As we are also in National Bike Week, it was even appropriate to forsake any car for seven days and rely on two wheels.

First off, though, it was a limited edition version of the Opel Corsa, which sells for €16,205, roughly the entry price of the Astra. The Corsa has been around for quite some time and the limited edition -- available in three and five-door versions in some strong colours -- is a way of giving it a bit of impetus.

It certainly looked impressive in a fire-engine red with black, 17-inch alloy wheels and dark glass roof -- which looked like it could retract or at least be seen from the inside, but in fact couldn't.

The mix of red and black continued through to the dark interior where red circles, looking like cooking rings, enlivened the air ducts.

Unfortunately, this edition of the Corsa was so much more about style than content. It promised a lot, but failed to deliver across the board. It is a roomy and pleasant car, but the long spec is only really a fluttering of stick-on eyelashes.

The fact that the front seats are completely lacking in good lumbar support is just the start of a number of comfort failings of which the main one was immediately noticeable after I picked up the Corsa on what turned out to be a very hot day.

There was no air conditioning on board and the overall ventilation system -- despite its bright red rings -- was annoying, and a couple of times led to the windscreen becoming very misty.

The 1.2 85bhp petrol engine in the car is economical and clean, but also slow and takes the best part of 14 seconds to reach 0-100km and its overtaking power (or torque) is woeful. This was so much so at times that, until I read the spec sheet at home, I thought I had either engaged the incorrect gears or something was wrong with the car. Joining the M50 after I had picked up the Corsa in Dublin's Sandyford industrial estate was hairy to say the least.

Apparently, there is a diesel version available which should give lot better torque, but I'm not a great fan of diesels being used in what are likely to be low-mileage urban cars.

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Opel has tried to give the suspension some sport tweaks, but without the engine to make it useful it becomes both annoying and bone-shaking as you potter about.

Rear passengers, once they have navigated the idiosyncrasies of the sliding front seats, will be particularly badly served in this respect.

I was disappointed the car didn't have an electronic stability programme either, but in that respect it is similar to too many other cars. Thankfully this life-saver is becoming compulsory next year.

The dragging of feet by manufacturers at the moment is deeply distressing. Such programmes can avoid about one-third of all accidents.

However, I thought the Corsa should be commended for having day-time running lights -- that was until I remembered they had been compulsory from February.

I would like to be more positive about the Corsa, as I haven't given Opel much of an outing in this column recently, but unfortunately I can't. The looks flatter to deceive. This is a very ordinary car that won't give you any performance or worthwhile attributes except for excellent economy. You wouldn't want one.

In three weeks, I'm off to see Opel's revolutionary Ampera extended-range electric car. I hope that glimpses of the future will banish memories of the Corsa. As long as General Motors don't decide to poison me.

However, the Opel people may not have any need for revenge. The potholes will get me first. It is one thing to go into them in a car; it is quite something else to be on a bike.

Trying to do my best for National Bike Week and in particular Cycle to Work day last Wednesday wasn't easy in some atrocious weather.

However, getting soaked isn't the real problem. The state of the roads is appalling for cyclists who are meant to use the inside of the road where potholes, broken curbs and ragged surfaces -- especially over speed bumps -- are the order of the day.

The massive rise in cycling because of the 50 per cent purchase refund scheme for Cycling to Work, the Dublin Bikes initiative and the squeeze on our pockets has been poorly served by the state of the roads.

On both two and four wheels, it wasn't a good couple of weeks.

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