Vauxhall's new Corsa has enough power to make you forget you're driving 'The Jeremy Kyle Show' on wheels
Would suit : Kerry Katona
Price: £16,025 (as tested)
Performance: 140mph, 0-60 6.8 secs
Combined fuel consumption: 35.8mpg
Further information: 08457 400 800
Here we go again. Another step in the coarsening (Corsa-ning, geddit?) of Britain, along with things such as out-of-town supermarkets that look like ersatz haciendas, people starting every sentence with "Yeah, no", Kerry Katona and the rest.
At least that's what I thought when I first caught sight of Vauxhall's new Corsa VXR. A chav's chariot, if ever there was one, with its silly side skirts, joke rear diffuser, fake air vents and, of course, 18-inch wheels. And let's not forget the triangular exhaust pipe and spoiler on the roof. We've seen it all before on cars dating back almost three decades. Isn't it time for something new? I don't know – some hanging baskets, say. Maybe a Burberry pattern on the roof...
The Corsa has a 1.6-litre, turbo-charged, 189bhp engine – again, nothing special – but look closely and a more impressive statistic leaps out from the spec sheet, giving a hint of why we can't dismiss this as just another heated-up hatch: a maximum torque of 192lb ft.
For those of you who aren't as technically minded as I am, I should perhaps explain here what torque is and why it is so important: imagine torque is like a rotary washing line. As the wind blows, the line rotates and the clothes dry. Unless it's raining, of course, but why hang your washing out then, you fool? Anyway, if you measured the energy created by the rotation, you would be able to calculate the number of torques, although this would of course also be dependent on how wet the washing was/whether it is underwear. Put it another way, imagine something silver spiralling in the wind. Pretty, isn't it?
So you see, torque is really, really important, and the Corsa has loads of it. Which means it's really, really fast all the time; faster than other hot hatches such as the Renaultsport Clio 197 and the Honda Civic Type R GT, which costs over £2,000 more, for instance. It is brilliant fun to drive and though there is loads of torquey thrust, there isn't any of the torque steer that can so often plague front-wheel-drive cars that are given too much power to deal with. What's torque steer? For heaven's sake! Are you thick or what? Torque steer is when the washing line spins so fast that your knickers fall off and you have to wash them again (look, in future when you can't keep up with this jargon, just go and read Wikipedia – that's where I get it all from).
My point is that, once you drive the Corsa, you tend to forget it makes you look like Darren from Kwik-Fit. It has a fluidity and balance that few warmed-up shopping trollies can equal, plus more power, I mean torque (aren't they the same? I don't know. Who do you think I am, Judith Hann?), than all of them. It has great brakes and there's lots of room in back and boot, too.
The Vauxhall badge will be a problem for many, of course, and the snobs will balk at the clunky interior and dressy VXR logos. And unfortunately, those for whom these kind of things don't matter may well struggle to cover the insurance, let alone the sticker price, so I do wonder who is going to buy it. But that's not my problem. I'm more worried that I have begun to start every sentence with "No, yeah". *
It's a classic
There was a time when Vauxhall rivalled Bentley and made a car that was considered the Ferrari of its day. Admittedly we are talking almost a century ago when chief engineer LH Pomeroy created the Prince Henry models.
Those exclusive sporting models were developed into the 30/98, launched in 1913. This was the fastest sports car in the world at the time, with a top speed of more than 100mph – quite astonishing in a world still largely powered by horses, and quite terrifying when you consider that the brakes operated on only two wheels.
Buyers bought a chassis from Vauxhall and would then commission a coach-builder to make a body, so a variety of styles appeared and its price of £1,670 was on a par with the Bentleys of the period. By the time production ended in 1927, over 300 30/98s and its successor, the OE-Type, had been built.