Does Opel’s sixth-generation Corsa – now with a Gallic underbelly – have what it takes to trouble the segment’s best?

+ improved cruising refinement; some big-car kit

– cramped rear quarters; glitchy infotainment system

South Africa’s bustling B-segment is positively dominated by one particular nameplate. We are, of course, talking about Volkswagen’s locally built Polo hatchback, which routinely outsells every other passenger car bar its more affordable sibling, the Vivo. Fair or not, any new or improved entrant to this corner of the market invariably finds itself measured against the yardstick that is the Polo.

Corsa cuts a handsome figure, though isn’t quite as distinctive as its Peugeot 208 sibling.

Opel’s sixth-generation Corsa is the latest challenger. Does it have what it takes to trouble its fellow German? Well, we should point out that were the F-generation hatchback to suddenly acquire the ability to speak, it’d likely exhibit more of a flowing French accent than an abrupt Germanic intonation.

Yes, the new Corsa – which, to muddy the nationality waters further, is built in Spain – is decidedly Gallic underneath, riding on the PSA Group’s EMP1 architecture (shared with Stellantis siblings such as the Peugeot 208). That’s no bad thing, though, since the adoption of these modular underpinnings sees the little Opel shed some weight and score some nimbleness.

Roofline 48 mm lower than before.

The powertrain in this range-topping Elegance model, too, has been whipped directly from the PSA parts bin, comprising a lively turbocharged 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol unit driving the front axle via a six-speed automatic transmission (rather than the eight-speeder offered in Europe). While the 96 kW turbo-triple’s soundtrack borders on gruff at idle, it becomes endearingly warbly under even moderate throttle inputs before quietening down nicely at cruising speeds.

Thanks in part to the 55-profile rubber wrapped around its 16-inch alloys, the Corsa 1.2T Elegance filters out minor road imperfections with ease, though struggles to dampen more pronounced corrugations. With a lower centre of gravity compared with that of its predecessor, the five-door Opel is a tidy enough handler, too.

Model shown here features manual gearbox and different instrument cluster.

The driver’s pew can be adjusted pleasingly low (the Rüsselsheim-based automaker says the pilot’s derrière rides some 28 mm closer to the tarmac than before), while reach and rake adjustment on the steering column is generous. The 7.0-inch touchscreen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, though it proved a touch glitchy during our test, with the display mysteriously going blank during one trip. Still, we’re happy to report Opel has stuck with physical controls for the climate control system rather than burying them deep within the infotainment arrangement’s bowels.

“The Elegance derivative’s cabin features a pleasing mix of gloss panels, partial faux-leather upholstery and an interesting texture atop the dashboard”

The digital instrument cluster takes on an unusual rectangular configuration, complete with a bar-type tachometer. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing arrangement but it clearly conveys the requisite information to the driver. Space on the rear bench, meanwhile, is a little tight even for average-sized adults.

First units for SA had two-tone wheels.

The Elegance derivative’s cabin features a pleasing mix of gloss panels, partial faux-leather upholstery and an interesting texture atop the dashboard, though areas of the door trim settle for scratchier plastic somewhat at odds with the price tag. Still, there’s plenty of big-car kit included, such as heated front seats, lane-keep assist and an auto high-beam function for the LED headlights.

So, back to our original question: will the Polo lose any sleep over this new model’s arrival? The short answer is no, such is the dominance of the segment’s strongest seller. But that certainly doesn’t mean the Corsa isn’t worth a test drive. While it’s not as dynamically poised as Ford’s wieldy Fiesta nor quite as sophisticated as the Polo, the sixth-generation Corsa is a competent all-rounder, with its zesty engine proving the highlight of the package.

Model shown here features manual gearbox and different instrument cluster.


On paper, the new Corsa 1.2T Elegance flagship outpunches the equivalent Polo (the 1.0 TSI Highline DSG), offering a peppier powertrain and extra standard equipment. It’s a touch more expensive, though, and isn’t quite as polished a product, while the local range is slim at just three variants.

Deep data

Opel Corsa 1.2T Elegance AT

Price: R386 900
Engine: 1.2-litre, 3-cyl, turbopetrol
Transmission: 6-spd AT
Driven wheels: F
Power: 96 kW @ 5 500 r/min
Torque: 230 Nm @ 1 750 r/min
0-100 km/h: 8.7 seconds
Top speed: 208 km/h
Fuel consumption: 6.3 L/100 km
CO2: 143 g/km
Length: 4 055 mm
Height: 1 435 mm
Width: 1 745 mm
Wheelbase: 2 540 mm
Weight: 1 233 kg
Luggage capacity: 309 L
Fuel tank: 44 L
Warranty: 3 years/120 000 km
Service plan: 3 years/45 000 km