Vauxhall Corsa, the UK’s most popular car is still the best-selling model. But is it any better than Fiesta or Fiesta. Cars & motoring editor Rob Hull spent a fortnight driving one to find out.

Britain now has an official king of automobiles. Ford’s amazing 50-year reign at the top was ended abruptly in 2021 as Vauxhall Corsa rose up to the top of registrations.

The last time a motor without a blue oval on its bonnet took the number one spot was back in 1971 when the Austin 1100 boasted more sales than any other model.

Vauxhall celebrates Corsa’s triumph over the Fiesta. Vauxhall was forced to observe as Fiesta dominated the market as the go-to car in the country for 12 straight years.

Is the Vauxhall Corsa still the best-selling hatchback?  

Britain's new king of cars: The Vauxhall Corsa ended the Ford Fiesta's 12-year run at the top of the sales charts in 2021. Does that means it's the best small model on the market today? We tested one for a fortnight to find out...

Britain’s new car king: In 2021, the Vauxhall Corsa ended 12 years of Ford Fiesta dominance at the top of sales. This means that it is currently the most popular small car on the market. To find out, we tested it for two weeks.

Is it fair to speculate on Vauxhall’s climb to the top of the company? 

Vauxhall didn’t shy away from celebrating the recent success in sales. The official Twitter account shared the news repeatedly to thousands of its followers, much like a party popper. There were scattered reports about Vauxhall’s victory that looked like streamers and fireworks. 

Ford hasn’t stopped trying to parade its goods, however. Ford UK stated that the vehicle is the most loved in Britain, even though the order was confirmed by official figures earlier this month. 

Because it moved more Transit Custom vans than Vauxhall Corsas in the last year. 12 thousand more actually.

While some may call Ford’s actions sour, Ford’s surge in Transit delivery at the same moment as massive declines in Fiesta sales (which saw Ford drop out the top 10 in 2021) might be a sign of company strategy rather than consumer demand. 

These are last year's 10 most-bought new cars. As you can see, Ford's Fiesta is missing

These were last year’s ten best-selling new cars. Ford’s Fiesta, as you can see is not included.

Due to the huge impact of the global semiconductor shortage on car production, the manufacturers were forced to prioritize certain models. 

Insiders in the industry believe that Ford put commercial vehicles ahead of Fiesta’s frontrunner Fiesta because there was a pandemic. 

Financially, it makes sense. Vans are cheaper to make but sell for the same prices as passenger cars. 

Ford UK explained why Fiesta Sales had fallen towards the close of last year to This is Money. [facelifted]The Fiesta model was revealed in September, ahead of the first delivery in 2022. Fiesta is being affected by the same issue that affects other vehicles in the meantime. 

Are we making Ford excuses, or are we ignoring the reality that Corsas might be the best superminis on the market? To find out, we spent over a week driving the Corsa.

Corsa enters a new, French-inspired era

Vauxhall recently bought Corsa from General Motors in 2017 and the PSA Group took over. 

The new owner’s vehicle is the same as Peugeot’s Peugeot 208, and it has the same chassis and components.

It is also true for the electric versions both of the superminis, e-208, and Corsa-e. The latter contributed to 14% of Corsa’s total sales in last year. 

But we weren’t driving the electric version, instead our test car for two weeks was the frugal petrol powered 1.2-litre version, albeit in its range-topping £27,000 Ultimate specification.

With Vauxhall now under the stewardship of the French PSA Group, the latest Corsa (pictured) is mechanically similar to the current Peugeot 208

While the Corsa share the same parts as the 208 (pictured), both brands say they have been tuned to feel very different

Vauxhall’s latest Corsa is identical to the Peugeot208 currently under French PSA Group stewardship.

The Corsa & 208 are very similar in appearance, but you could still distinguish them by their emblems etched into the steering wheels centre.

Vauxhall Corsa – Will it fit into my garage? 

Price: from £17,380

Car tested at the following price £27,245

The engine was testedTurbocharged, 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol

Transmission:Auto 8 speed

Drive:Front wheel drive 

Max power: 99bhp

0-62mph:10.2 seconds

Highest speed 119mph

The fuel economy 45.6-48.7mpg

Emissions: 134g/km C02

Doors: 2


Dimensions – Length: 4,060mm

Width: 1,765mm (1,960 incl mirrors)

Height: 1,433mm

Kerb weight 1,090kg 

Boot space (seats up): 309 litres

Boot space (seats down): 1,118 litres

Fuel tank capacity: 44 litres 

Vauxhall insists that it is not a copy and paste of the Peugeot sibling car. 

From the inside, it doesn’t feel or look anything like the original 208 – which is a huge disappointment. 

The Peugeot is modern and classy, and feels great. It has a recessed dashboard and flashes piano-gloss panels at key touch points. However, the Vauxhall, even our top-of-the-line ‘Ultimate,’ feels rather drab. 

However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t meet its most basic needs. 

This device strikes the perfect balance between a large-definition LCD and several control switches. The latter controls the temperature, and the audio settings. 

It means that you won’t have tediously navigate through sub-menus of the colour touchscreen in order to make even the simplest adjustments such as heating your bottom, or tuning into Radio 2. 

It feels solidly put together, and has an excellent quality. 

Though you might expect more from a small model that, in this ‘Ultimate Nav’ test car’s case, costs a barely believable £27,245. This is more than an entry-level Mercedes A-Class.

This Corsa range-topping Corsa is a huge financial investment. However, it offers many luxuries such as a driver’s-seat massage function, larger 10-inch main touchscreen and an adaptive cruise control.

No matter what your driving style, there are enough adjustments in the seat and wheel to provide a comfortable setting. However, the lumbar support is not adjustable.

The Peugeot 208's interior (pictured) feels modern and classy, with its recessed dashboard, flashes of gloss panels and high-grade materials at key touch points
The Vauxhall's - even in our range-topping 'Ultimate' specification car (pictured) - feels comparatively drab

With its recessed dashboard and flashes gloss panels at key points, the interior of the Peugeot 208 (left), feels sophisticated and modern. Even in the Vauxhall’s top-of-the-line ‘Ultimate’ specification car (right), it feels relatively dull.

While everything is perfectly functional, the Corsa's cabin definitely lacks the wow factor - especially for a small car that costs over £27,000 in the 'Ultimate Nav' specification we had

While everything is perfectly functional, the Corsa’s cabin definitely lacks the wow factor – especially for a small car that costs over £27,000 in the ‘Ultimate Nav’ specification we had

While the dash is bland it does have separate control buttons for the heating, which are easy to access on the move from the driver's seat

Although the dash looks bland, it has separate controls for heating. These buttons can be accessed from the driver’s side.

The row of additional hard switches means you don't have to prod your way through arduous sub-menus in the touchscreen to make the smallest adjustments to the display and settings, which can be distracting in some new models

You don’t need to navigate through the submenus on the touchscreen to adjust the settings or display. This can become distracting for some models.

It can match Fiesta’s stunning driving dynamics.

Its precise-tuned chassis, engaging driving performance and other characteristics have kept Fiesta at its best for so many years. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Corsa will have to do its best to match this. This was one of our key comparisons during the two-week test.

Our £27,000-plus test car was fitted with the most powerful petrol engine: a 1.2-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder unit producing 99bhp, linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

This translates into a 0-to-60mph acceleration time of 10.2 seconds, and a top speed of 119 mph. This engine is also known for its fuel economy, which averages around 46mpg. 

It’s punchy enough to get around town, and flexible enough for long motorway trips. However, the engine is lacking in excitement but makes up for it with a smooth and hushed note. This only enters the cabin if you are extremely strong with your right foot.

Motorway speed, the engine rumble was not noticeable. This is probably due to wind noise and road noise cancelling it out. 

What is its performance compared to the biggest competitor? Fiesta offers a range of small-capacity, 1.0-litre petrols in three-cylinder form with either 99 or 123 bhp. These are more direct and responsive than Corsa’s. The Vauxhall will be about the same price as the Ford’s higher output engine, which is nearly a second faster to reach 62mph than the Ford.   

Our test car was fitted with the 99bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged engine, which, while not all that exciting, is the pick of the powerplants thanks to low running costs

This 99bhp, 1.2-litre turbocharged engine powered our test car. While not exciting by any means, it is still the top choice because of its low running cost.

One reason the Fiesta (pictured) has dominated in recent years is its fantastically compliant ride and handling. The Corsa really doesn't get within a sniff of the Ford in these departments

The Fiesta’s incredible ride quality and control has made it a favorite in recent years. These are the areas where Ford’s Corsa is just a fraction of Ford’s.

Our test car was fitted with an 8-speed auto transmission. It can make low-speed acceleration feel snatchy, so it takes some time to learn the ideal biting point of the throttle pedal

The 8-speed automatic transmission was installed in our test vehicle. Low-speed acceleration can feel slow and snatchy. It takes time to find the right throttle position.

Our test car’s automatic transmission felt snatchy when we first pressed the throttle, but once it is moving it moves smoothly enough. It also has eight gears so it doesn’t need to over-rev the engine as some other less sophisticated gearboxes. The manual will be available to most customers. 

However, the Vauxhall loses ground to its competitors when it comes to how it rides.

Although the suspension is able to withstand the most obvious of imperfections such as potholes in the road, cat-eye lane splitting, and drops, it can feel fidgety on small changes in the road surface, which triggers your senses every time you see the tarmac change. 

It could partly be due to our 17-inch alloy wheels, but a Peugeot208 with comparable-sized rims might not notice these small imperfections. 

The Ford’s more difficult setup is still more flexible and cushioning. 

The Corsa drops further when you get to a number of corners.

The biggest offense is a lack of steering feel – it’s heavier than a feather taken from an animal with alopecia. While this is great for driving in town, making three-point turns and parking the car, it’s too vague for other purposes.

The resistance [or lack of]We were reminded of a Twister spinner that is attached to a piece or cardboard. You can flip the arrow with your finger, and it will circulate for about a minute.

You add to this the feeling of being heavy and having bodyroll when changing direction, and it becomes unnerving. 

It’s nearly offensive, to say the Corsa handled the Fiesta in the same breath.

Space inside the Corsa is better than most rivals in this segment. While there's lots of head and leg-room in the front and back for taller passengers, these rear door apertures are narrow

There is more room inside the Corsa than in most other cars of this class. The rear door openings for the doors at the rear are not wide enough to allow taller passengers more head and leg room.

A luggage capacity of 309 litres with the seats up is very much middle of the road for a supermini of this size. But the space is usefully square and the boot sill not too high when lifting heavy items in and out

The supermini’s luggage space is 309 litres, with the seats raised. This is very reasonable for its size. However, the cargo space is practical and square. The boot sits low enough to lift heavy objects in and out.

The lack of performance is made up with the practicality.

This is where Corsa begins to win some brownie points over the Ford.

Over six-foot drivers should feel comfortable up front with plenty of head- and leg room – more than other cars in the class. The back is a very similar story, although the narrow apertures at the rear make it difficult to get in and out for those of average height.

Its dark interior and thick door pillars don’t help the feeling of spaciousness once you get inside. They also limit light and make it difficult for drivers to see at intersections.

As for the boot, a 309-litre compartment (with the seats up) is middle of the road for this segment, with more capacious superminis on the market, such as the latest Skoda Fabia and its 380 litres of luggage space. The boot is spacious enough and low enough for heavy lifting, so you don’t have to dial your osteopath. 

Although it does not have a height-adjustable floor for the boot, this is still an advantage over Fiesta.

Our weekend trip was split into two. After a test drive we loaded up our Corsa for a 2-week shopping spree.

It feels like the Corsa's rise to the top of the sales charts is more about technicalities rather than its accomplishments as a small car. And for that reason we'd still choose the Ford Fiesta

This makes it seem like Corsa’s climb to the top of sales charts has more to do with technicalities than about the car’s accomplishments as small cars. For that reason, we still recommend the Ford Fiesta

Cars & Motoring verdict

In Britain, the Corsa has been a top seller for years. Its price was so low that it could compete with its nearest competitors. This made up for an insufficient drive. We are surprised the Corsa’s sales have been higher than those of supermini competitors, considering the high price. 

Due to the relatively low residuals, this price increase shouldn’t make it all that appealing for PCP finance clients. According to cap hpi data, Corsa’s value drops by around 33% after 2 years and 12,000 miles. Comparative Fiestas lose about 28%.

Therefore, it is imperative that consumers make deals with salesmen to offer a discount. This has always been the case in Vauxhall dealerships. This is likely to be the case even today. 

It has excellent CO2 numbers and benefits-in kind taxation. This is even with small-car standards. It is becoming increasingly popular with fleets and businesses. It has been a popular choice for fleets and businesses alike, as well as the introduction of 1 percent BiK Corsae.

It was these technicalities, and the challenges that the semiconductor industry faced during 2021 that, in our humble opinion, pushed Corsa up the ranks, more than the achievements on the road.

Were we going to choose this one or Britain’s previous best-seller? 

Although it may take a while for a Ford Fiesta, we’d rather have a better car. The Ford Fiesta is far more enjoyable to drive. It’s practical though the Corsa might be, we still consider it the best.

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