Think supermini, think Ford Fiesta. It’s one of the best-selling cars on the planet – but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and there are plenty of viable rivals out there.
Take the Vauxhall Corsa for example, or the Mazda 2 supermini – the forerunner of which was based on the Fiesta. That gave Mazda all the insider info it needed to engineer the new edition from scratch.
So which should you be looking at if you’re in the market for a new compact car? We’ve put them through the wringer to find out.
Vauxhall gets off to a faltering start. The most recent facelift has brought the Corsa more into line with the Adam, but the Adam itself is no looker and the Corsa is dowdy. If anything, it actually looks old when stood beside the car it replaces.
In contrast, the Mazda is one of the best looking cars in its class. We’re not surprised: Mazda’s designers are on a bit of a roll at the moment and the current corporate visage – dubbed “KODO Soul of Motion” – translates very well in this instance. It’s even better from the back than it is from the front, so we’re calling this round a decisive win for the Mazda 2.
Interior and Practicality
On the inside though, the new Corsa is enormously improved. It’s well laid out and Vauxhall has leapt ahead in material quality. Standard equipment is generous, too, if you avoid the entry level Sting and Design variants.
Mazda takes takes things further still. The interior is smart enough to rival some premium marques. We love the asymmetric circular vents, and if you upgrade to the top-end Sport Nav edition, you’ll even get a head up display.
When it comes to interior space, there’s not much to separate them, with just five litres difference in boot capacity – 285 litres in the Corsa, and 280 litres in the Mazda 2.
Neither car’s back seats would be great for adults on a long journey – particularly if those in the front have long legs.
Go for the Mazda and you have a choice of 1.5 litre engines, both petrol and diesel, from the SkyActiv range. The petrol model is available in 75hp, 90hp and 115hp flavours, but there’s only one diesel, rated at 105hp.
Over at Vauxhall there’s a far wider range. The 1.3 CDTi diesel unit is available with 75hp or 95hp, and the petrol selection is even more varied. Entry level cars ship with a 1.2 litre, 70hp motor, and there’s a 1.4 litre version producing 90hp. Vauxhall will strap a turbo onto that to give 100hp, should you choose, or you can head for the smallest but most powerful 1.0 litre three cylinder turbo with 115hp. Speed fiends haven’t been forgotten, either, thanks to the 220hp, 1.6 litre turbo VXR model.
Despite the range on offer from Vauxhall, if you discount the VXR, Mazda has the performance edge. The top models of each car may be packing the same 115hp, but the Mazda 2 is 1.5 seconds faster to 60mph. It’s a similar story right down the range, with the gap widening to four seconds when you reach the entry-level cars.
Don’t assume that means the Corsa is necessarily a more moderate drinker, though. The Mazda engines lay claim to between 15 and 20 percent better fuel economy at every level – except in the 115hp cars which are pretty much neck and neck. At this point, without the reliance on turbocharging, it’s easier to get close to Mazda’s official fuel economy figure than it is in the Corsa.
The new Corsa may not look that different to the car it replaces, but it’s a whole different story when you get behind the wheel. In terms of pure driving experience, it’s the best Corsa yet. A lot of work has gone into making it more engaging, and Vauxhall has also focussed on reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), which has made it a more pleasant car all round.
The Corsa is an upgrade, though, while the Mazda 2 is a whole new car. Mazda’s experience of reworking Fiestas for the previous generation gave it some insider info. It fixed what needed improving, and in doing so it’s brought us a car that is actually better than its former stablemate.
Indeed, there’s little to choose from between Mazda 2 and Fiesta on the handling front. Tack on big-car levels of NVH care and attention, and the Mazda 2 makes a strong case for being the best all-round drive in the sector.
Value for Money
The Mazda falls down a bit on list price. You can’t even buy a Mazda 2 unless you’ve got £12,000 to wave about, which would get you your pick of about a quarter of the Corsa range.
This is due to the slightly higher level of standard equipment on the 2. That £12,000 buys you a lot of toys, but if you can do without them, and opt for the Corsa instead, the price starts at just £9,175 – almost 25 percent less. Even so, the Corsa isn’t missing much. Every model includes electric door mirrors, Bluetooth-compatible audio and a heated windscreen.
When it comes to running costs, the Mazda regains some ground. Fuel economy is far better almost across the board, so the equivalent Corsa will cost you more in road tax and won’t be so easy to sell second hand. Depreciation is a traditional Vauxhall bête noire…
Vauxhall Corsa vs Mazda 2 verdict
The Corsa has always been popular – and will continue to be in light of the improvements seen here. It also scores well in the bang-for-buck stakes – both in isolation and when compared to the previous model. In short, it’s excellent.
But so is the Mazda and there’s the rub. Pit them against one another and the Corsa’s merits are less obvious. Hot hatch model aside for now, the Mazda 2 is the better car in every area that matters – and it looks good, too.
If you like the look of either of the cars featured here, take a look at the Vauxhall Corsa and the Mazda 2 in our car configurator to see how much carwow can save you on either. For more options, head over to our deals page to see our latest discounts.