Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi Design review

Impressive refinement for a small car

September 2006

picture of car from the front picture of car from the rear picture of car interior picture of car detail

Overall rating

4 out of 5 stars


  • Stylish exterior is familiar but a step forward
  • Cabin is spacious and much improved in quality
  • Refinement impressive for a small car
  • Big car features are a welcome addition


  • Thick rear pillar reduces visibility
  • Some interior colours cause windscreen reflections
  • Cars on smaller wheels can look weedy
  • Indicators can be counter intuitive at times

The Vauxhall Corsa has been one of the best selling cars in the UK for over 10 years, and has become a familiar site on the road. Its replacement has the difficult job of continuing a strong presence in the popular supermini market, as well as taking on renewed opposition from rival manufacturers.

From the first glance the new car clearly shares a number of design features with its predecessor. It retains the cheeky looks that have won over many buyers, but at the same time it has a modern appearance. The high roofline and large grille and headlamps are reminiscent of the bigger Astra, while the three and five door models have a notably different look.

Inside the Corsa benefits from an all-new cabin, which makes big strides in terms of quality compared to the last generation car. The dashboard layout, although relatively simple, is attractive and constructed from good materials. The use of steering wheel controls, translucent switches that glow at night and a range of trim colours give the Corsa a more upmarket feel than before.

Mechanically the Corsa is in line with the format of modern superminis, using transversely mounted three and four cylinder engines, driving the front wheels only. New features include the electric power steering system, which varies the amount of assistance depending on speed, giving light steering for parking but more weight on the motorway. It also comes with an added electronic braking control, which helps to keep the car in a straight line during an emergency stop.

Elsewhere the Corsa benefits from some clever storage ideas, including the dual floor boot which allows valuable or fragile items to be secured out of sight, and an integrated bike rack dubbed Flex Fix, which folds out from the rear of the car and includes all the lighting required to carry two full sized bikes.

Our verdict on the Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi Design

Despite strong competition in this sector, the Corsa has all the right ingredients to succeed. It meets the criteria for a wide range of buyers, and its appeal is strong. Backed by a larger dealer network and with a low purchase price and running costs, it is likely to be a hit.


Running costs for the Corsa should be very low, particularly the smaller engined models, and even the initial purchase price is, for some models, lower than the old car.

Space and practicality

Coming in under four metres in length, the new Corsa makes the most of its interior space thanks to the high roof design. Passengers front and rear are well accommodated, and there are a number of useful storage spaces throughout the cabin. Additionally, the boot can be had with a split floor, and a built-in bike rack is also available as an option.

Controls and display

The layout of the Corsa is very good, with a clear and attractive design throughout the cabin. The buttons are soft touch and illuminated in an attractive way, and all the controls are within easy reach.


For a car of this size the Corsa boasts impressive comfort levels, with comfortable if narrow seats, good ride quality and low noise levels for a car of this class. Engine noise does increase when revved, but the overall level of comfort is good.

Car security

All models bar the entry Expression model come with remote central locking, while an engine immobiliser is fitted as standard to all models.

Car safety

The Corsa has a number of features contributing towards safety, and as well as ABS, airbags and seat belt pretensioners, the Corsa also sets a high standard for pedestrian safety thanks to the design of the front end of the car.

Driver appeal

The Corsa retains a sprightly feel out on the road, making the most of its dimensions and weight. It is lively in town with responsive steering and keen engines, while the ride is well composed on poor roads. When driven with enthusiasm it is safe yet quite entertaining, and grips well. Most buyers will find it a pleasing car to drive.

Family car appeal

A five-door Corsa would make an effective family car, with sufficient space to cope with a reasonably sized family. Even taller children should have sufficient legroom in the rear, while still retaining space in the boot.

First car appeal

The Corsa would make an excellent first car, and is designed to suit the needs of new drivers. The ease of driving and ownership will give buyers few problems to contend with, and the entry-level model with the 1.0-litre engine should be within the financial reach of many.

Quality and image

The Corsa sets a high standard of quality, with a pleasing feel to the cabin and an overall sharpness of design. This will inevitably help its image, which is already strong thanks to its popularity, its youth appeal and its common use as a driving school vehicle.


A tall roofline makes it easier for passengers to gain entry to the Corsa, for both front and rear seats. Five door models have good access, and three-door models are helped by tilting and sliding seats, although the gap is still relatively narrow.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

All models come with a radio/CD, which is placed high up on the dashboard, and delivers decent sound quality. Higher specification versions have a higher output and MP3 compatibility.

Colours and trim

The Corsa is available with a variety of trim colours with various grades of fabric, which give a feeling of quality as well as brightening the cabin. The interior is a big step forward over the previous generation, and is likely to find favour with buyers.


The Corsa is an easy car to park thanks to its relatively compact dimensions and electric power steering, although the chunky rear pillars can restrict the view through the rear of the car.

Spare wheel

Steel full size spare wheel fitted beneath the boot floor.

Range information

Six engine options: 1.0-litre petrol (57bhp), 1.2-litre petrol (78bhp), 1.4-litre petrol (88bhp), 1.3-litre diesel (73bhp and 88bhp) and 1.7-litre diesel (121bhp). All petrol engines come with a five-speed manual gearbox as does the smaller output diesel, while the higher output 1.3-litre and the 1.7-litre diesel get a six-speed gearbox as standard. An automated manual gearbox is available on the 1.2-litre petrol, with a conventional automatic available on the 1.4-litre petrol. Trim levels are Expression, Life, Club, SXi and Design.