Earlier this week, we reported on a new version of the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa which is said to return 86mpg. At the other end of the Corsa price list sits the far more powerful VXR Nürburgring Edition. Glenn Brooks knows which of the two he’ll be asking Santa for.
This was one of those cars I wasn’t too sure about until I drove it. The Fiat-GM SCCS platform which underpins the Corsa and the similarly sized Punto has been around for some years now, and neither of those cars is a class leader when it comes to driving dynamics. So I found myself wondering if this architecture could possibly be the basis of a hot hatchback that will one day be remembered for all the right reasons.
Here in Europe we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to B-segment high performance cars. The Corsa Nürburgring Edition competes with the likes of the MINI Cooper S, Citroën DS3 and VW Polo GTI (powered by a 1.4-litre engine that’s both supercharged AND turbocharged), while the Peugeot 208 GTI and the Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo will each soon be in showrooms.
Just like its rivals, the hyper Corsa has been tweaked by specialist engineers. Vauxhall uses the VXR suffix for its fastest cars and most of these are tuned by an offshoot of Opel in Germany. The only exception to this rule is the V8-engined Maloo VXR which Vauxhall sources from HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) in Australia. As there’s no Opel version of this 6.2-litre pick-up, ergo no treatment by OPC engineers at their base in Rüsselsheim.
Back to the Corsa. According to Vauxhall, the Nürburgring, which can be ordered only as a three-door, produces 205PS (202bhp) and 280Nm (207 lb-ft) of torque. The turbocharged 1.6-litre engine sends its drive to the front wheels via a close ratio six-speed manual transmission.
As is the case with the Vauxhall Astra VXR which I drove a few months back, there is no automatic option. I’m pretty happy about that, as this car is so much fun to drive. Find the right traffic-free B-roads, and you’ll thrill to the constant 3-4-5-4-3 shifts up and down – the clutch engages and disengages cleanly every time so there’s no jerking and the acceleration is addictive.
Doing its very best to prevent wild wheelspin is a mechanical multiplate limited slip differential. I have to say, the boys and girls at OPC have done a remarkable job in taming understeer – I’m lucky enough to live not too far from some superb roads in the Cotswolds and south Wales and on these, the Corsa generated a lot of smiles.
What about the ride? Indeed. Well, yes, it’s firm. The cobbles on the street where I live might please the tourists but at anything more than about 20mph, they’re majorly irritating and especially so in this Corsa. I guess that’s the trade off for such stiff chassis settings. Still, the joy of driving this car on flowing rural roads more than offsets the occasional few moments of necessary slow-running on bumpy surfaces.
Opel and Vauxhall say this model received its final sign-off by OPC’s go-faster masters at the Nürburgring’s famous Nordschleife, or North Loop. Some of the changes that were specified include Bilstein-developed spring and damper units which have allowed a ride height which is reduced by 20mm at the front and 15mm at the rear.
Other changes over the standard Corsa include Brembo brakes, which are said to offer a weight saving of 30 percent, and have high-performance brake linings covering a 10 percent larger area. The ABS, traction control and electronic stability control systems have also all been recalibrated to take into account the bespoke suspension and powertrain changes that distinguish the VXR Nürburging Edition.
My test car came in what Vauxhall calls ‘Henna’ but in the metal, I’d call it dark copper, rather than red-tinged. I’ve also seen this car in a striking shade of green that I’ve since learned is known as Grasshopper.
Whichever colour you go for, inside, you’ll find black and red Recaro bucket seats which have hard, glossy plastic shells for the rally-driver look. The dashboard has gloss-black trim to match the seat-backs, while the seat fabric has contrasting white stitching and that’s also found on the handbrake and gearshift console. And yes, you read that correctly – no electronic parking brake – I usually moan about these in my car reviews so this time there’s no need. Hurrah.
I didn’t time the car myself but the manufacturer’s claim of just 6.5 seconds for zero to 60mph seems about right and I got nowhere near the stated top speed of 143mph. Still, these are good indicators of just how fast this little car was designed to be. Its grip out of corners is truly amazing and the engine’s raspy turbocharged scream was another reminder of just how good GM Europe’s cars can be – bring on a VXR version of the new Adam, I say.
The VXR Nürburgring Edition is priced from £22,305, which might seem like a lot for a Vauxhall Corsa, and it is. But the car is extremely well equipped and I haven’t seen many about, so unlike Mini Cooper drivers, you’re be part of a select club.
One last thought. The Corsa Nürburgring proves how deep the engineering talent runs through Opel-Vauxhall, at a time when so many of my colleagues in the media seem to only write one thing about the company – how it’s losing money. Yes, we must report what’s going on out there but let’s not also forget to celebrate the manufacturers which choose to go the extra mile and produce really superbly developed little sports cars. Cars to make you remember why you love cars.