31 Aug, 2018 4:30pm
Most younger drivers won’t remember the GSi badge that was once a thing of desire in the Vauxhall range. But it’s making a comeback following the launch of the Insignia GSi. Picking up where the VXR left off, the Corsa GSi occupies a part of the hatchback market that isn’t so densely populated: sporty cars that aren’t as fast as they look.
We’re driving an Opel-badged GSi, but Vauxhall models get the same stylish bodykit with a honeycomb grille, beefier sills, plus fake bonnet and bumper vents. All sit 10mm lower than regular Corsas.
Around the rear, there’s a prominent roof spoiler, but the VXR’s twin exhaust has been replaced by a more discreet single pipe. Carbon fibre-effect door mirror covers and 17-inch alloys round off what is a purposeful-looking hatch.
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The kit list is fairly generous, too. You get Vauxhall’s seven-inch IntelliLink touchscreen, with Apple and Android connectivity, although it’s mounted low down in the dash, forcing you to take your eyes off the road for longer than is ideal.
One of the original criticisms we had of the Corsa VXR with the Performance Pack was the harsh ride, especially on the optional 18-inch wheels. Many of the suspension components are carried over, but the GSi takes the base setting from the VXR, and this seems to result in a slightly more forgiving set-up, although we’ll need to try it on UK roads.
The GSi gets off the line well and is capable of 0-62mph in a respectable 8.9 seconds. The six-speed manual box has a satisfying shift action and a shorter throw than in a standard Corsa.
While the 1.4-litre turbo engine is feisty enough, the conventional exhaust means it doesn’t deliver much aural drama. The engine gets a specific GSi tune, resulting in 148bhp, and it’s happy to rev right up to its red line.
Although the unit likes to rev, it has plenty of low-down urge, so you don’t need to fire up and down the gearbox to keep the pace up. However, if you want to wring the most from the engine, you will have to work both with some effort.
There’s no fancy differential at the front axle, but the stability control system has been tweaked. The result is good levels of traction, especially when accelerating hard out of slower corners. On the sticky Michelin tyres, the Corsa gives you plenty of confidence on a cross-country B-road. It remains stable under heavy braking, too, and there’s lots of feel through the middle pedal.
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The end result is a car that doesn’t feel noticeably different from a standard Corsa when you’re pootling along in heavier traffic. You do need to push on a bit to fully appreciate the benefits of those chassis and suspension changes.
The GSi should score on running costs, though. Vauxhall rates it at 49.6mpg, and during our time with the car, we saw an average of around 35mpg, even after some keen driving.
High emissions hamstrung the VXR in terms of taxation, but the rating has been improved with the 1.4-litre engine. However, at 138g/km, it is still on par with the much more potent Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi, instead of its closest rivals the Fiesta ST-Line EcoBoost 140 and Suzuki Swift Sport.
The Corsa GSi is a fun thing that looks great, but the latter two cars seem to fit the bill of affordable sporty hatchback motoring much better than the Vauxhall.
- Model: Vauxhall Corsa GSi
- Price: £18,995
- Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl petrol
- Power/torque: 148bhp/220Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
- Top speed: 128mph
- Economy: 47.0mpg
- CO2: 138g/km
- On sale: Now