Ryan Bubear straps himself into the Opel Corsa OPC…
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Cute. Not a word that would sit well with your average OPC owner.
Puppies are cute. That girl who works at the corner grocer is cute. But an OPC? Surely not...
Yet, more than one person chose to describe the Opel Corsa OPC I had on test by using that particular word. Admittedly, this Corsa is rather small, rather red and rather pretty. But it also features all manner of aggressive styling cues, as well as the most powerful engine in General Motors SA's current Opel range — even with the recent introduction of the Astra GTC.
From the outside, this latest version is hardly different to the Corsa OPC launched back in 2008. Despite this, it by no means looks outdated. The design is still fresh, and the eagle-eye headlights — including integrated daytime running lights, although not in LED form — add even more aggression to the front-end styling. Striking new 18-inch alloys squeezed under the wheelarches also help to boost the car's street-cred.
Imposing vents in the front and rear bumpers, eye-catching wing mirrors, and a cheeky rear spoiler suggest something other than "cute". And smoked rear lenses, a low stance, a rear diffuser housing the signature central-exit trapezoidal exhaust, and a blue-tinged OPC logo only add to the menacing feel.
Turn the key, and a naughty turbo whistle hints at what is to come, before the 1.6-litre forced-induction engine settles into a steady idle. The 1598cc powerplant pumps out a respectable 141kW at 5850rpm and some 230Nm between 1980 and 5850rpm, which is a fair bit more than the 110kW Corsa 1.6 Sport.
The exhaust note is pleasantly raspy, and as the little Corsa weighs just 1280kg, you can imagine that it's pretty amusing to drive. Turbo lag is difficult to ignore, but the power soon makes its presence felt, and allows the OPC to hit 100km/h from standstill in 7.2 seconds. Top speed is rated at 225km/h, but the "fun factor" peak can be found at far lower velocities.
The six-speed manual gearbox is a gem, facilitating smooth, precise throws, and the gearknob (one of those few that just feel right) fits nicely into the palm of the hand. With all that torque on tap, constant shifting is not required on traffic-infested roads, since the OPC pulls from low down with ease. But once the road opens up, putting the 'box through its paces is an absolute treat.
Opel claims a combined fuel economy figure of 7.3 litres per 100km, and despite a week dominated by a combination of short trips and rather spirited driving, my final consumption figure sat at a commendable 8 litres per 100km. Drive it with a little less enthusiasm and a little more open road, and figures of below seven could justifiably be expected from the 45-litre tank.
The OPC features a sport chassis, and the lowered suspension is surprisingly comfortable on normal roads, in terms of everyday use. On very badly rutted surfaces, however, the harshness of the ride is amplified; a small price to pay for admirable handling through the twisties.
The standard Recaro bucket seats are rather firm, but hug the driver and front passenger as only Recaros can. Round a sharp bend at speed and you stay firmly in position — no sliding about here. The majority of the interior is a pleasing blend of leather, gloss black inserts, OPC badging, and simple, easy-to-read instruments. A couple of switches and knobs, however, are fashioned from a light-coloured, rubbery substance that doesn't really suit the rest of the cabin.
The list of standard equipment is decent (including electric windows, electric mirrors, cruise control, air conditioning, seven-speaker sound system, auxiliary input and hill start assist), but the USB port common on many new vehicles these days is conspicuous by its absence. Also, Bluetooth is nowhere to be found. These two complaints are signs that this interior has been around a fair while.
Room in the rear is understandably tight, but the back bench features Isofix anchorage points nonetheless. There is no spare wheel, and the Corsa OPC comes with a fancy tyre repair kit built into the side of the luggage compartment instead. While the lack of a spare may not go down well with many motorists, it does result in a bit more boot space. But, being a small three-door hatch, this space is still relatively limited, even with an adjustable boot floor.
Comparisons with the RenaultSport Clio are inevitable. Although the RS employs a 2-litre naturally aspirated engine, its power figures are remarkably close to those of the force-fed OPC. The two hot hatches share a top speed, and boast similar 0-100km/h sprint times too. The RS is the more enthralling drive of the two (what with its meaty steering, immediate throttle response, and general chuckablity), but the Corsa is considerably easier to live with as a daily drive, especially in traffic. It's far more fuel efficient and comfortable on normal surfaces too.
Around a track, the RS would undoubtedly be the preferred choice. But driving to work and back each and every day? The Corsa has the edge here, thanks to an almost perfect blend of the fun and the sensible.
But is it cute? I'll leave that up to you...
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Click through to page 2 for specs and pricing.