The Vauxhall Corsa GSi looks the part and its optional Recaro seats help it look and feel serious inside too. It isn’t that quick, though, it feels too firm and alternatives are more fun
If you’re looking for pocket-rocket driving thrills, few things puts a smile on your face like a brilliant small hot hatch. The Vauxhall Corsa GSi is designed to have you flashing those gnashers, mating a 1.4-litre turbocharged 150hp petrol engine which sporty suspension and sharp styling to create the pinnacle of the Corsa range.
Indeed the GSi badge has recently been revived by Vauxhall after some years on the shelf and is now the only truly sporty Vauxhall Corsa. It’s up against alternative hot hatches such as the Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTI and Volkswagen Polo GTI.
True, the Vauxhall Corsa GSi costs much the same as these rivals, but actually offers less get up and go. Its 150hp sounds like enough, but in reality that’s pretty modest for a modern hot hatch, and its 8.6sec 0-60mph time is markedly slower than the alternatives mentioned. Furthermore, its manual gear change feels notchy at times, and despite being turbocharged, the GSi’s 1.4 doesn’t really get going until deep into its rev range, meaning you’ll sometimes be caught out and have to change down a gear to keep pace.
Power isn’t everything though. What about the way the GSi conquers corners? Well, it has different lower and stiffer suspension than lesser Corsas, and there’s no doubt it corners tidily in terms of keeping its body upright and in check. But the experience is hindered by the fact that the GSi’s steering is inconsistent in how weighty it feels and that its front wheels slither and squirm when accelerating hard out of slow corners, altering the steering further. The best alternatives have the option of a special differential between the front wheels to meter how much power is sent to each, stop this happening and help the car exit corners more quickly and confidently. Not so here.
And don’t expect the Vauxhall Corsa GSi to smooth over urban ruts and bumps particularly well either. Stiffening the suspension might have helped with body control, but the GSi also thuds firmly over broken roads. Add to that the frustrating amount of road noise on the motorway and, ultimately, a Ford Fiesta ST is more comfortable, more of the time. In fact, driving an ST will put a bigger smile on your face full stop.
At least the Vauxhall Corsa GSi looks the part. It comes in three-door bodystyle only and features large front air intakes, a honeycomb grille design, large spoiler on the boot lid, unique body kit and carbon-effect door mirrors. Striking 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped around red brake calipers and a chrome tailpipe complete the look.
The Vauxhall Corsa GSi is billed as a hot hatch, but these days 150hp can only be described as lukewarm. The GSi also feels too firm and doesn’t handle as well as its alternatives
Yet inside the GSi isn’t so different from cheaper Corsas. Sure there are leather seats and a flat-bottom sports steering wheel, while the dashboard has a softer section higher up, but lower down it still feels a little cheap while the door materials seem particularly low-rent given the price and GSi badge. A Ford Fiesta ST only feels marginally higher quality, but a Volkswagen Polo GTI feels plush by comparison.
All GSis come with a 7.0-inch touchscreen on the dashboard via which you operate its DAB radio and Bluetooth phone connection. Having built-in sat-nav costs extra, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as both standard and offer much better navigation experiences than any manufacturer can. All told, the system has modern, sharp graphics and responds quickly to touch. The odd small button that’s hard to hit while driving is the only major gripe.
Importantly, the driver gets a good position behind the wheel, with generous seat and wheel adjustment. Things are made even better if you swap the GSi’s standard front pews for optional Recaro sports seats, because they look fantastic, are well made and provide even better support through fast bends. The trouble is, they’re very pricey.
Tall adults will have no issues with space in the front, but another couple behind them will struggle for knee room, while head room isn’t brilliant either. Both a Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI do a better job of carrying adults in the back, even if they, nor the GSi, will transport three adults across the back comfortably. The GSi’s boot, too, is only average in size versus these alternatives, has an awkward shape and a relatively high entrance lip.
Which leaves us with a hot hatch that isn’t very, well, hot, doesn’t stand out for its handling nor prove very comfortable on UK roads. It looks great, has a commendable infotainment system and its standard equipment is generous, but that’s not enough when its more rounded alternatives cost about the same to buy.
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