Make / Model Search

Car reviews - Opel - Corsa - Enjoy 5-door hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Solidity, classy instruments, roomy interior, handling/roadholding, five-star safety
Room for improvement
Pricey, under-powered, long-throw gearshift, high engine revs when cruising, firm ride, infuriating air-con system, no audio streaming, ageing design

25 Oct 2012

NEW brand, new model, new face. Along with a name that sounds like ‘rough gem’ in Latin, freshness is the coolest thing the little Opel Corsa has going right now.

But even a short stint behind the wheel of the $18,990 Corsa Enjoy reveals something else entirely. It’s all in the little Opel’s history.

Unveiled in May 2006, the fourth-generation B-car/supermini by Opel directly replaced the Corsa C, which was imported to Australia as the XC Barina from 2001 to 2005.

However, Holden then looked to Korea for its latter-day light-car combatant, and we all threw our arms up in dismay as a result. Now the ‘Barina’ from Germany is back, just 6.5 years late.

Old brand. Old car. New audience. That’s the Corsa story so far.

The problem is, every single one of its competitors – and we’re talking about some formidable opponents here – is now newer, including the TM Barina that is a (very distant) relative.

That would be OK if the Corsa five-door was priced in the mid-teens, but at $19K the Enjoy is $1200 more expensive than the fine Fiesta LX and right up against the leading Polo 77TSI Comfortline.

And, while the Opel might have the five-star safety and (most of) the equipment to take them on, its ageing 1.4-litre engine belongs to another era entirely, let alone the price bracket.

Let’s not beat around the bush – this engine in some form or another has powered the Barina since the horrible old SB-series (Corsa B) days of the mid-1990s.

Producing a reasonable 74kW of power and 130Nm of torque, it has sufficient off-the-step acceleration to feel fairly lively in everyday traffic conditions, and is pretty smooth most of the time.

But add an adult or two, switch on the air-conditioning, or fill the (surprisingly large) boot, and the Corsa starts to feel under-powered, lacking the sparkle of its fruitier competitors.

There just isn’t enough oomph for quick overtaking, joining freeway traffic requires forward planning, and you’re flooring the accelerator so often that fuel consumption – on 95 RON premium unleaded, no less – suffers.

And the five-speed manual gearshift – with long throws and a slightly rubbery feel that’s not much fun – is hampered by ratios that have the engine falling into a torque hole if you fail to change up at precisely the right point. And why are the revs so high – nearly 3000rpm – in top gear?

Basically, you have to cane the Corsa when most of its competitors have modern direct injection and/or downsized turbo powerplants that the Opel can’t hope to compete against.

The high pricing and meagre power delivery scenario is actually a big shame, because the Corsa punches above its weight in some areas.

For instance, the steering is nicely weighted and responsive enough to provide some level of satisfying interactivity. Even keen drivers can appreciate the safe and secure cornering and roadholding characteristics on offer. And the Enjoy’s brakes are right up to the task as well.

Mind you, the ride quality on its 195/65R16 rubber and handsome alloys errs on the overly firm side, resulting in an unpleasant jiggly action for the hapless people perched in the rear seat.

And, like every German car on our coarse bitumen, you have to contend with a fair amount of droning road noise. Coupled with the hard-working 1.4, it does not make for the refined European supermini experience Opel would have us believe.

But the Corsa doesn’t go down without a fight.

We were impressed with the sheer solidity of the body when you shut the door, along with the amount of space available for occupants in both the front and rear. There’s nothing tinny or tiny about the way this five-door hatch accommodates a quartet of adults.

The interior has a sober, Teutonic look and feel, with what we think is an agreeable mix of soft-touch surfaces and hard-wearing plastic trim in the appropriate areas. But, of course, Volkswagen does this stuff much better.

With its effectively big central vent eyelets, the dash looks like an extra from 2008’s WALL-E (they are from a similar era, after all), and scores with easy-reach controls that are rubberised for tactile pleasure, and a good-to-grasp steering wheel (that adjusts for reach and height), ensuring that most will find a happy driving position.

A big thumbs-up also goes to the classy and ultra-clear instrumentation graphics, which infuse a quality German ambience to the driving experience.

The seats are typically firm for a German car and a bit flat for our tastes – and comfort is made worse by the fidgety suspension – but they’re really no worse than most at this price point.

What we did find infuriating is the over-complexity of the climate control system fitted standard in the up-spec Enjoy, which suffers for having too many sub menus coupled with complicated and confusing graphics and instructions.

After a week with the Corsa – and a further extended period in an identically equipped Vauxhall version in Scotland – we struggled to master the layout, when all we needed was an airflow redirection. It drove us spare with frustration at one point.

Apparently a revised Bluetooth/USB connection interface is coming for 2013, but the lack of audio streaming in a high-line model is a fail with the more tech-savvy among us.

Which neatly sums up the not-so-new Corsa. We know Australia is late to the party, but the hardy and sensible little Opel is looking dated and a tad frumpy in a class that is pulsating with style, modernity and pizzazz.

At $18,990 – or a heady $20,990 with the Technology Pack that brings adaptive front lighting, parking radar, rain-sensing wipers and auto headlights among other little luxuries – the competent and accommodating Enjoy is nevertheless desperately crying out for a newer and more advanced powertrain.

We can’t imagine how dreary the 1.4/four-speed auto combination would be in an era of six and seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmissions.

Our advice is to shop elsewhere or spend just a bit more on the ace new Astra that shares the dealer forecourt with Corsa. At least that’s a much fresher Opel proposition for Australia’s newest old brand.

The Road to Recovery podcast series

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

GoAuto can help you buy a new Corsa

Customer Terms and Conditions – New Car Lead enquires


This is an agreement between GoAutoMedia Pty Limited ACN 094 732 457 of PO Box 18, Beach Road, Sandringham, VIC, 3191 (“we/us”), the owner and operator of the GoAuto.com.au website (“the website”) and the person wanting GoAuto.com.au to provide them with a lead for the purchase of a new car (“you”).

By completing a New Car Lead Enquiry, you agree to the terms and conditions and disclaimers and acknowledge the policies set out below.

Terms and Conditions

  • In order for us to effect a lead you must you must complete a New Car Lead Enquiry (“Enquiry”).
  • We will call you as soon as possible after you complete the Enquiry and certainly no later than the next business day. When we call, we will discuss with you your new car requirements.
  • You consent to our passing on the Enquiry and your requirements to an appropriate authorised motor car dealer as a lead.
  • We will contact you again in approximately eight days following your initial enquiry to check on the progress of the Enquiry.
  • While we will provide the dealer with the Enquiry and details of your new car requirements, we take no responsibility for what happens after passing on that material as a lead.
  • You acknowledge that we are a new car information service providing new car editorial information, pictures and prices to our customers as a guide only. Any new car prices published on the website are the manufacturers’ recommended retail prices and do not include delivery charges and on-road costs. Any authorized motor car dealer to which we pass on your Enquiry as a lead will provide you with full details of the price at which the vehicle will be sold to you.
  • You acknowledge that we do not sell motor vehicles. Any sale of a new car to you by a dealer after we have passed on your Enquiry to that dealer as a lead, is a sale by that dealer not by us.

Privacy Policy– New Car Lead Enquires

  • We take privacy very seriously. We understand that you will only complete an Enquiry if you can trust us to protect your personal information and use it appropriately. Our policy is to ensure that the personal information collected when you make an Enquiry is only used for the purposes of connecting you with an authorised motor car dealer.
  • We do not on-sell information collected from you or any other customer.
  • From time to time, we may email you with information or promotions that may be relevant for car buyers. You will continue to receive communications from us unless you tell us that you do not want to receive any advertising or promotional information in the future by unsubscribing from these communications.
* Denotes required field
** Australian inquiries only

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here