The Corsa VXR - horsepower to the people
A very hot version of Vauxhall-Opel's compact family hatchback is heading to Geneva for its global debut where it will face stiff competition form a host of other hot hatchbacks.
With announcements from Ford and Volkswagen and now from Vauxhall-Opel, February is shaping up to be the month of the hot hatchback and the best sign yet that demand for practical cars that can deliver spills and thrills as easily as they deliver the kids to school or carry the shopping home is exceedingly strong.
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When demand is strong, the choice for consumers is huge meaning that carmakers have to try very, very hard to make their hot hatch really stand out. If the Corsa VXR is to attract buyers, it needs to step out of the Ford Fiesta ST's shadow.
And, if the two cars were nothing more than cards in a game of Top Trumps, then the Corsa would win every time.
Its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine has 202bhp on tap and will push the car from 0-60mph (96.5km/h) in 6.8 seconds and from there onto a top speed of 143mph (230km/h). Both of which trump Ford's smallest hot hatch.
That 202bph engine also delivers a lot of torque, even at lower revs which means the Corsa will be no slouch on the motorways either. Vauxhall-Opel claims that in fifth gear, the Corsa VXR can accelerate from 50-75mph (80-120kmh) in 6.6 seconds -- perfect for passing slower-moving vehicles with confidence and without being forced to work the gearbox overtime.
However, what makes the Fiesta ST such a popular choice despite the competition is that it offers a wonderful blend of speed and agility. It handles sublimely even with lower speed maneuvering.
To ensure that the Corsa VXR can put its extra speed and power to good use, it sits 10mm lower than the standard model and its damping system has been developed in partnership with Koni and boasts a new technology called Frequency Selective Damping. What that basically means is that the car's body shouldn't feel like it's rolling about or about to lift when driving quickly through a corner or when quickly changing direction.
Powerful front-wheel-drive cars need more help than their rear-wheel drive counterparts when it comes to things like enhancing grip or improving stability, and in the case of the VRX there's a two-stage electronic stability program and a traction control system that can both step in to help when things get tense or can back off completely when being driven on a track.
And if none of that is enough to get practical petrol heads excited, the Corsa VXR can also be specified with an optional limited-slip differential, 330mm Brembo brakes and 18-inch alloys among other performance-focused toys.
On paper it sounds exciting and when it is officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show at the beginning of March, we'll be able to see how well it stands up to the competition in the looks department. But as for how well it tackles the bends, we'll have to wait for the first test drive reviews.