22.1.2021Vauxhall Corsa-e review
When a model as popular as the Vauxhall Corsa gets an electric version, it’s a sure sign of a change in the automotive industry. To give credit where its due too, Vauxhall seems to be pitching the Corsa-e just as vigorously as its conventionally-powered stablemates, so the electric Corsa stands a good chance of becoming a big seller. With the option for buyers walking into dealerships of the same basic car but with petrol, diesel, or electric power, it will be fascinating to see just how many opt for plug-in performance. We test the Vauxhall Corsa-e to see whether the electric version stacks up.
Review by Chris Lilly
The PSA Group - soon to become Stellantis with the Fiat-Chrysler Association - involves Peugeot, Citroen, and Vauxhall (Opel on the continent). The group has gone about producing electric vehicles in a sensible way, bringing a number of core models to market by sharing a platform and powertrain. As such, the Vauxhall Corsa-e - like the Peugeots e-208 and e-2008, DS 3 Crossback E-Tense, or Citroen e-C4, and a host of van-based models from the group - uses a 50 kWh battery to power a 100 kW electric motor. In the Corsa-e, this is good for a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 93mph, with power going through the front wheels. As is usual with electric cars, there is no gearbox as such, simply an automatic gear selector that puts the car into drive, reverse, etc, as there’s only one ratio for the motor. The driver gets the chance to boost performance to feel the full 100 kW with the use of Sport mode, which I’d recommend leaving the Vauxhall in most of the time to get the full EV experience. Otherwise, in Eco and even Normal, the response is restricted, and the Corsa-e doesn’t feel as sprightly as you would expect a compact EV to be. Keep it in Sport and it’s fairly nippy, accelerating enthusiastically, if not sportily. The other driving modes make for ample performance, but one of the benefits of an EV is its instant response and pick-up at low speeds. That said, the Corsa-e is the quickest accelerating model in the range currently, so there’s still some sort of performance carrot being dangled in front of buyers.
With the Corsa-e, Vauxhall’s engineers have set up the EV for a safe and steady ride. To some that will be the worst moment I could say of any car, but to most car buyers, it’s exactly what they are looking for. The Corsa-e carries an additional few hundred kilograms per the petrol and diesel versions, but that increased weight comes from the battery. Since this is placed in the floor of the car, between the axles, it means it helps drop the centre of gravity, making the Vauxhall a stable car to drive. The suspension is set up to try and hide the added bulk, which it does relatively well. It’s a refined drive on the motorway, and performs well around town where poor road surfaces tend to be order of the day. There’s not the feedback through the steering wheel or suspension to make this a truly engaging car to drive down a twisty country road, though it will tackle this task with efficiency nonetheless. As such, the Corsa-e is best suited to tight, twisty streets where it’s compact footprint and quick responses make light work of most situations.
Vauxhall’s current Corsa is a pretty stylish offering in my view. It’s a coherent, co-ordinated supermini design without too much surfacing in an attempt to be ‘different’, but equally, it’s far from a boring car to look at. Being one of the most popular cars in the country, there is much riding on a new model’s design, and I think Vauxhall have balanced the line between safe and striking style pretty well. The compact electric hatchback is virtually indistinguishable from conventional models, with only a few very discreet badges on the boot and the central door pillars giving the game away. The charge socket is behind what would normally be a fuel filler flap anyway, and the whole car’s design looks essentially identical. This, along with the battery placed in the car’s floor, means the Corsa-e remains the same practical proposition as the rest of the line-up. Boot space is a little stingy when comparing with some rivals, but you can seat four adults in relative comfort, and there’s enough load space to tackle day-to-day jobs.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
With the Corsa-e sharing a number of components with other PSA Group models, it’s unsurprising to find this ethos in the cabin. Those that have driven recently launched Peugeot or DS Automobiles models will likely recognise the gear selector, drive mode selector, window switches, and infotainment system. Unfortunately, Peugeot’s cockpit styling hasn’t transferred over either, but I recognise that, divisive as it is, although I love it, it may well put a number of potential Vauxhall buyers off. Instead, buyers get a reasonably subtle interior, with plenty of black plastic around, and use of good, rather than excellent, materials throughout. Switchgear feels as well put together as you would expect from a middle-of-the-market model - not class-leading, but far from bargain basement too. The touchscreen system, driver’s instruments, and seats all follow this ethos too, with the Corsa-e excelling at nothing, but equally having no perceivable weak spots either.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Corsa-e’s official electric driving range is up to 209 miles on a single charge. That’s about average for the market, and not just because the Peugeot e-208, and compact crossovers Peugeot e-2008 and DS 3 Crossback E-Tense help pad out numbers when working out averages. There are those offering significantly lower ranges such as the Mini Electric and Honda e, which offer a much more engaging driving experience and a premium feel, but at a higher price and less range. Alternatively, the likes of Renault’s Zoe offers a fair bit more range, has a nicer cabin in my experience, and offers a similar driving experience, but without the ability to charge as quickly off rapid chargers. I have to admit, it’s nice to be able to write about an EV with so many direct competitors, and the Corsa-e’s qualities thus far make it a decent choice. In real world driving, I struggled to achieve the quoted range, an by a fair margin. With most EVs, I expect anything around 85-90% of the official range to be achievable with my driving style, and in the rural and hilly area I live in, though with easy access to large cities and fast motorways. Instead, whereas an initial ‘target’ of about 180 miles on a charge was anticipated, I was actually achieving around 160 miles per charge. It’s something I experienced with the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense too, but the Peugeot e-208 was closer to expected real-world range. It must be said that the Corsa-e was tested during a chilly January however, so I’d expect about 150 miles to more or less be a worst-case scenario, and drivers will find a longer range possible in more clement weather.
Naturally the Corsa-e is the most efficient model in the Corsa range, and with a useful range of between 170-200 real-world miles on a charge, it will easily cover most trips for drivers. Ultra-rapid charging at up to 100 kW makes longer distances easier too, and the optional 11 kW on-board charger will be worth the money for those regularly charging on public points or at workplaces for example. There’s a MyVauxhall app to remotely control things like pre-conditioning, check charge etc, and the driver gets a B mode on top of the normal D, with stronger brake energy recuperation. This isn’t enough for ‘one-pedal’ driving, but does significantly boost the deceleration feel and increase the amount of charge put back into the battery. There’s only the one ‘B’ setting - rather than the variable three or four settings available on some rivals - so you will find yourself switching between D and B quite regularly on anything other than the motorway or urban routes respectively. Charging is carried out through a CCS inlet on the near-side rear flank, which takes a Type 2 connector in the top section, and the full CCS connector when connected to a rapid unit. It will take 45 minutes on a conventional 50 kW rapid point for a 15-80% charge, or 30 minutes on a 100+ kW unit. Charging at 7 kW will take 7h 30m for all models, with the 11 kW on-board charger model tested taking 3h 20m on 11 or 22 kW AC charge points.
Vauxhall offers the Corsa-e in three trim levels - SE Nav Premium, Sri Nav Premium, and Elite Nav Premium - and each of these are offered with either the 7.4 kW or 11 kW on-board charger. As you may have guessed from the name, all feature satellite navigation as standard, within a 7-inch touchscreen system, which also includes BlueTooth, DAB, USB, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. There’s a 10-inch screen fitted to the top of the range model tested. 16-inch alloys are fitted as standard to Corsa-e models, but 17’s are added to Sri Nav Premium models up. Other standard kit includes cabin particulate filter, climate control, keyless start, automatic lights and wipers, electronic parking brake, and rear parking sensors. Elite Nav Premium tested includes heated front seats and steering wheel, parking sensors front and rear with reversing camera, keyless entry and start, and LED headlights. A striking Voltaic Blue two-coat metallic paint was the only option fitted, at £550.
The Vauxhall Corsa-e doesn’t stand out in a crowd, nor does it stand out in the EV market. But that’s surely the point. This is an electric car for those not interested in electric cars; who just want a compact, relatively affordable way to get around, that’s reasonably comfortably and with enough performance to keep up with others. The fact that it will cover approaching 200 miles on a charge, recharge very quickly on the right points, and look tidy is surely a bonus.
Model tested: Vauxhall Corsa-e Elite Nav Premium
Body-style: Family hatchback
Engine / CO2: 100 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: SE Nav Premium, SRi Nav Premium, and Elite Nav Premium
On-road price: From £26,640.
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars