Vauxhall Corsa (2006-2013) Expert Review

The Vauxhall Corsa is an eminently popular choice for those seeking a sensibly priced supermini. This generation of the Corsa, launched in 2006 and sold until 2014, came in a wide range of versions, including a high-performance VXR variant. All were decently built and drive competently. The Corsa isn’t as fun to drive as a Fiesta, and doesn’t have as much cachet as a Volkswagen Polo, but it does offer good value for money.

Fact File

Body Styles

  • Three-door hatchback
  • Five-door hatchback

Years Available

2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Main Rivals


Vauxhall Corsa (2006-2013) Expert Review

The Vauxhall Corsa has long been the go-to choice for those seeking a straightforward, inexpensive and economical family hatchback, and this, the global fourth-generation model – dubbed the Corsa D – was unveiled in 2006.

You might not recall seeing three previous generations of Corsa here in the UK, however, and there's a good reason. The first-generation Corsa, as it was known in the rest of Europe, which ran between 1982 and 1993, was sold in the UK, but it was called the Nova instead.

This generation marked a big change for the long-running compact hatchback. It was an all-new car that was larger than its predecessor, granting it improved interior space and accessibility without excessively increasing its footprint.

It continued to be offered in both three- and five-door form and, to further its appeal, improved trims and materials were used to deliver a higher-quality feel. A wide range of options and upgrades were also offered, including a line-up of frugal petrol and diesel engines.

Consequently, it rivalled myriad superminis, from the equally popular Ford Fiesta to alternatives such as the Toyota Yaris, Volkswagen Polo, Seat Ibiza and Fiat Punto.

At launch, five trim levels were offered: Expression, Life, Club, SXi and Design. The Expression model came with features such as anti-lock brakes, speed-sensitive power steering and electric mirrors, but jumping up to Design added creature comforts like air conditioning, alloy wheels, automatic lights and better interior trims.

The range would be continually fettled, too; sporty SRi and high-performance VXR versions were added in 2007, the engines were continually refined and a major facelift sharpened things up further in late 2010.

No conventional Corsa was as good to drive as a Ford Fiesta or Mazda 2 but, uninvolving steering and underpowered 1.0-litre engine option aside, it was serviceable and safe. The Corsa was also quite comfortable, with space for four, and long journeys wouldn’t leave you feeling tired or sore.

Those looking for something more involving to drive also had the option of the high-performance Vauxhall Corsa VXR, which packed 189bhp and a wide range of upgrades. The result was a quick and capable hatch that was far more exciting and involving.

There’s more to owning a car than just how it drives, however, and the Vauxhall scored well on lots of other fronts and continues to do so to this day. There’s a wide dealer network, extensive specialist support, parts are easy to come by and many versions benefit from low insurance groups. The net result, when coupled with the extensive array of options and frugal engines, is a car that’s easy to live with and cheap to run.

While not as plush or as rewarding as some alternatives, and not as desirable as rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo, the Vauxhall’s broad range of talents and sheer accessibility make it worth considering, especially if all you want is a simple, unfussy and affordable hatchback.

Three Things To Know

Vauxhall Corsa (2006-2013) Expert Review
  • A major facelift for the Corsa was announced in November 2010. New headlights, a chrome front signature grille, new exterior colours – including lime green – and a refreshed interior palette brought the car in line with newer Vauxhalls. A 5.0-inch touchscreen media system was also among the new options. These cars also continued to benefit from suspension revisions designed to improve their handling, which formed part of an update announced earlier in November 2009.
  • The first generation of high-performance Corsa VXR arrived in 2007. It featured a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that produced a stout 189bhp, which allowed it to accelerate from 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds. It also received bespoke VXR exterior and interior upgrades, as well as uprated brakes and suspension. Like the standard Corsa, the VXR was easy to drive, comfortable and uncomplicated to live with. Enthusiasts will probably prefer the way a hot Clio or Fiesta drives, but the Corsa often proves more affordable today.
  • Seven engine options were offered when the Vauxhall was launched. The entry-level option was a 58bhp 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine. Customers could also opt for four-cylinder 79bhp 1.2 or 89bhp 1.4-litre petrol engines, as well as a more powerful 148bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol. There were also two 1.3-litre diesels, producing 74bhp and 89bhp, respectively, and a more powerful 123bhp 1.7-litre diesel. This line-up wouldn’t change much over the years, but the engines would all receive minor improvements as time went on, and the range would later be topped by the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine found in the VXR.

Which One to Buy

Vauxhall Corsa (2006-2013) Expert Review
  • If you want the best all-rounder: There are a lot of options in the Corsa range but we’d probably go for a version with the economical, low-maintenance 1.2-litre petrol engine. A five-door model will be more practical, if that’s important to you, and we’d aim for a version with air conditioning. If you’re looking at early Corsas, for example, you’d need to get a Design model at least, which will also benefit from 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers and automatic lights.
  • If you want the best mpg: It makes good sense to opt for a diesel Corsa if you want the best fuel economy. The early diesels are a good option for those on a budget, but the later ecoFLEX diesels with engine start-stop technology are more economical and cleaner. Get your hands on a 2010-on CDTi ecoFLEX, as a case in point, and it’ll average a claimed 80.7mpg in lightest three-door form and cost nothing to tax.
  • If you’re on a budget: The least expensive model in the Corsa range was initially the three-door Expression version with the 1.0-litre engine. It didn’t even get front electric windows, so there’s not much to go wrong if you’re looking at inexpensive used examples. Stick to the petrol models if you want a cheap Corsa, but do buy a well-maintained car that’s in good order to avoid costly repairs.
  • If you want the most driving fun: The SRi and SXi versions of the Corsa feature sports suspension, making them a bit more entertaining through the corners than normal models. A range of engines were also available, making them a good choice for those looking to balance economy with driving enjoyment. None have particularly good steering, though, so you’ll have to opt for the range-topping VXR if you want an engaging and sporty experience.

Running Costs

Vauxhall Corsa (2006-2013) Expert Review

The Corsa was designed primarily as a cost-effective hatchback, meaning that – aside from the high-performance VXR model – all versions will prove cheap to run.

Take the common 1.2-litre petrol version, for example; an early Club version, offered from 2006-2010, will cost £150 in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) each year and average a claimed 48.7mpg. It’ll also only need servicing, as is the case with other Corsa models, yearly or every 20,000 miles.

Unsurprisingly, you’ll be pressed to get near the claimed average economy in the real world, but most owners report in the region of 40mpg. Achieve that and, as every Corsa has a 45-litre tank, you’ll cover some 400 miles between refills.

You could stand to save some money with a diesel if your mileage is high enough, as even the earliest 74bhp 1.3 CDTi Corsa was claimed to average an impressive 62.8mpg. Driven gently, expect an mpg figure close to 60 in the real world. Many of the later and cleaner diesel variants also benefit from far lower VED costs, which could again reduce your bills.

The only downside is that the diesel versions are more complicated and, should a problem develop, any savings could quickly be whittled away by repair costs, so do the maths to see if your mileag is high enough to justify a diesel. Consumables will prove inexpensive; premium-brand tyres for most standard Corsas will cost around £70 a corner, while a set of brand-name front discs and pads can cost as little as £65.

There’s more good news: many engines in the Corsa line-up use a timing chain instead of a belt, avoiding the need for a more costly service every few years. This further helps keep costs down and, usefully, makes buying a used example less of a gamble. Just remember to check beforehand what’s required for the car you’re looking at, and then make sure the required servicing has been done as necessary.


Vauxhall Corsa (2006-2013) Expert Review

When new, the Corsa came with a conventional three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty. Extensions were also available when new but, it’s academic now, because any warranty on a Corsa will have expired by now.

That means that some care and consideration is required when buying one, as reliability can be a little patchy, particularly if the car in question is older and has been neglected. Even when new, the car often scored middling results for reliability.

You subsequently want to make sure that everything works, that nothing leaks, that the cabin is dry and that it drives as it should. Be mindful to check aspects such as brake and tyre wear, especially if you’re looking at the less costly end of the market, because replacements could ratchet the overall purchase price up quickly. As always, you’ll also want to get a history check on any prospective purchase.

There have been numerous recalls on this generation of Corsa, so it’s worth using the government recalls website to check what applies to the car you’re looking at. You can then check the history, or talk to a dealer to see what has been attended to, and what might still need doing. In 2008, for example, there were recalls for a potential airbag issue, a fire hazard and an issue relating to the brake pedal.

You might even be able to get your hands on a used approved Vauxhall Corsa of this generation. Network Q, which is the official Vauxhall used cars scheme, only offers cars up to seven years old and with fewer than 70,000 miles on the clock, so some later models may be available at the time of writing.

The CarGurus Verdict

Vauxhall Corsa (2006-2013) Expert Review

Many might turn their nose up at a Corsa, given that it doesn’t have the premium appeal of a Volkswagen Polo or the fine handling of a Ford Fiesta. It shouldn’t be overlooked, though, especially if you’re on a budget; a good used example can be a sensible, honest and practical car that’s ideal for families or commuters.

Because there’s such variety to the line-up, it’s easy to find a version best suited to your needs. The extensive Vauxhall dealer network and the car’s uncomplicated nature also means it’s easy to get a Corsa looked after and maintained, so fuss should be minimal.

The Corsa VXR is an interesting hot hatch option, too, and offers serious punch and a fun driving experience. It doesn’t handle as well as a Renault Clio Renaultsport, nor is it as talented as the later turbocharged Ford Fiesta ST, but – as is the case with the standard car and its contemporaries – it’s often far more affordable.

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Updated by Lewis Kingston

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