Within the next 24 months, the all-new Opel Corsa will arrive on showroom floors. And while the excitement around the new car is rife, we still have the current generation to contend with. Admittedly, the current Corsa lags the competition in a number of areas and does it find itself almost hidden in a sea of hatchbacks.
To shed some light on the Corsa-range again, Opel launched a hot version of the car. Not an OPC, but a GSi version. And yes, the car is available in South Africa, as well.
The GSi name is one of those that you don’t just mention without knowing what you’re talking about. It carries a certain amount of appeal and heritage that you just don’t speak about it nonchalantly. In earlier years, the GSi badge was only used on the Opel Kadette, so it’s a bit strange to see it return on the Corsa and not the Kadette’s modern-day successor, the Astra.
The Corsa GSi is available only with three doors: two at the front and a third to open the boot. That immediately has an impact on how the car portrays and carries itself; quite a literal throwback to Opel’s OPC products.
At the front, the GSi boasts with an attractive face that houses a massive grille and front bumper. Atop the grille is a little horizontal opening to channel air to the engine. On either side of the bumper sits, what looks to be, two air inlets where the fog lights should’ve been. However, these inlets are just for show and do they not serve any purpose other than to be aesthetically pleasing. From the side, the car has very little to write home about, but the 18-inch wheels come to save the day with their impressive design. It sits snugly in the wheel arches and adds to the compact nature of the car.
The rear is a bit of a let-down, though. A single exhaust pipe to the left of the bumper, the spoiler, and the GSi badge are about the only giveaways that this is a special car. One would’ve liked to see a rear diffuser – even if just for some eye candy – as it would have surely added to the impression and message the car sends out.
Access to the cabin
As expected, the Corsa does not have the biggest interior in its segment. Against the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, it’s a rather tight space to squeeze in. And also not counting in the GSi’s favour, is the fact that this very interior has been carried over.
Every dial and knob is familiar Corsa and is there not much to differentiate it from the rest of the Corsa range. All the buttons and switchgear does what it has to, but it also highlights just how much the Corsa’s interior has dated.
It’s not all doom and gloom however, because there are some nice redeeming qualities about the cabin. For starters, the front seats are proper Recaro units. And for those of you who don’t know, Recaro makes racing seats. Slide into them, put on the racing red seatbelt, and feel how the seats fold and hug around your waste. The seats are also fitted with heaters, and the steering wheel has a warming function, too.
A set of metal pedals provide ample grip for your feet and does it add to that racing feeling.
Getting some lift
Let’s be honest: those low-profile 18-inch tyres are not the most comfortable. Every imperfection on your favourite stretch of road will bolt into the cabin. Even on our non-European national highways, the ride can at times be a bit overwhelming. But while it can be a tad uncomfortable on normal roads, the car really comes into its own when you put the hammer down on a decent road.
Disengage Eco mode and work the six-speed manual gearbox. The Corsa GSi has a turn-in that is sharp and somewhat direct, and it inspires enough confidence to know where the front wheels are and what they’re doing. Because the turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine sits virtually on top of the front axle, the car is not immune to understeer. Go into a corner with too much speed and the tyres will take a moment before they react to steering input. And if you’re not aware, a light tail slap (oversteer) and a lift from one of the rear wheels can catch you off-guard.
Regardless, it remains a ball of fun to drive this pocket rocket. Sending the engine’s 110kW and 220Nm to the front wheels is done via a six-speed manual gearbox. The unit’s short throw-action is addictive and modulating the clutch and accelerator for maximum fun never gets tired.
Opel claims a 0 – 100km/h time of 8.9 seconds, and a top speed of 207km/h. These figures will not headline any notice boards, but at least the driving experience will be rewarding.
Warren Wilson, Car Choice contributor and photographer, shares his thoughts.
South Africans love their fast cars and in 2019 we’ve been treated to a few of these hot hatches. Also hitting the market are lukewarm options that, in my opinion, have been welcomed with open arms. And the Opel Corsa GSi with its OPC looks is no exception.
The Corsa GSi’s ride quality is not the smoothest and you cringe every time the road surface becomes bumpy. It’s clear that this car is hard to live with on a daily basis – and something I would not use for my daily commute – but I love it for the fact that its meant to be driven on a curvy road over the weekend. Or on a tight track similar to Red Star Raceway. I mean, come on! it’s the same suspension setup from the Corsa OPC! You have to exploit it!
The 1.4-litre turbo engine is punchy, gear changes feel responsive and sporty to give you the feeling that you are driving a hot hatch and not a car that only looks the part. I’m sure people in the tuning scene will have some fun with it – I know what I would do to make just a little more “fun”.
Another party trick is those Recaro racing seats. I did, however, ask myself if these are really a necessary addition. A more affordable option could have been used to lower the asking price because frankly, R365 000 seems a tad too high. Then again, it does its job of keeping you well positioned and it’s aesthetically pleasing to look at – like the rest of the car.
During my stint with the car, I attended a breakfast drive with a few car enthusiasts. The petrol heads were taken aback with disbelief; as I was later told that they thought it was the new Corsa OPC. There was genuine interest from them. I’m sure it goes further than it being an OPC look-a-like, because the GSi badge has a rich heritage here in South Africa.
The Opel Corsa GSi is a welcome addition to our market, no doubt. But I’m just not sold on the price.