Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 SXi ecoFLEX
by David Finlay (13 September 2012)
If you want the ultimate in high fuel economy and low CO2 emissions from within the Vauxhall Corsa range, you're going to have to buy a diesel. But you know how it is. Diesels may be cheaper to run (in terms of fuel and tax payments, anyway) than their petrol-fuelled brethren, but they're more expensive to buy, and although you may be able to get the extra money back at resale time that might not suit your financial situation right now.
Among the petrol-engined Corsas, the most economical and cheapest to tax is the 1.2-litre ecoFLEX tested here in its most expensive and best-equipped SXi form. It differs from the non-ecoFLEX 1.2 in that it has a start/stop system which raises the official combined fuel economy figure by 4mpg to 55.4mpg and reduces CO2 emissions on the EU test by 10g/km to 119g/km.
That latter statistic reduces annual Vehicle Excise Duty payments from £100 to £30, which sounds great. The only problem here is that the ecoFLEX costs £775 more than the regular 1.2, and clearly the VED situation on its own isn't going to cover all of that, assuming you sell the car within eleven years of buying it.
The greater fuel economy is likely to make more of a difference, though it depends on what kind of driving you do. Stop/start works only when the car comes to a halt, obviously, so if you spend most of your time driving in towns and cities it's going to have quite an impact. In regular motorway driving, not so much.
I like to think that I gave the test car an opportunity to show what it was made of in a wide variety of conditions. It took just over 450 miles to get through the first tankful, with motorways accounting for almost exactly one-third of that distance. The rest consisted of urban work, in which the start/stop system did its stuff nearly every time the car came to rest, and a fair bit of driving on country roads where acceleration was higher on the priority list than economy. (It's not that I was trying to break any records, just that the engine's 84bhp maximum, while very sturdy for a 1.2, doesn't give the Corsa a great turn of speed, so you might find yourself at full throttle quite often.)
Measured fuel consumption for all that was 49.4mpg, which isn't so very far off the official 55.4mpg, and only two short of the combined figure for the non-ecoFLEX car. You may safely say I was happy with that.
And with other things, too. Early in 2011 Vauxhall reworked the Corsa's steering and suspension to excellent effect. The ride quality is excellent, the handling jolly, manoeuvring round town a piece of cake as long as you're not reversing. If you are, it's very difficult to see what's behind you, though the situation is not nearly as bad in the five-door tested here as it is in the thoroughly ghastly three-door.
Another piece of silliness is the placing of the light control knob so far away that you have to lean forward in the seat to reach it. Who on earth believes this is acceptable in a car designed this side of the 1960s? The Corsa is also some way behind more recently-introduced Vauxhalls in its interior styling, and there is nothing like the sense of big-car quality that you find in its closest rival, the Ford Fiesta.
I've said before that the Corsa feels overdue for replacement. Nothing about this test made me reconsider that opinion. But while grumbling about the car's bad bits over the course of a week I also appreciated the good bits, and by the end of the process I realised that I . . . well, damn it, I liked it.