New 2019 electric Vauxhall Corsa concept driven
Driving the Vauxhall GT X Experimental concept car is a surreal experience. For a start, the single, clear panel that curves over your head to form the windscreen and roof, together with the huge, panoramic ‘pure panel’ touchscreen readout directly in front of you, make it feel as if you should be flying it rather than driving it.
And then there’s the pure electric powertrain. Underneath the GT X’s futuristic body is a single electric motor that drives the front wheels, powered by a 50kWh, LG-supplied, lithium-ion battery pack that's fitted in a ‘skateboard’ layout along the car’s floorpan. This is the electric powertrain that will be offered in the next-generation Vauxhall Corsa, alongside a range of standard petrol and diesel engines.
The 2019 Corsa is the first Vauxhall model to have been fully developed since the brand came under PSA ownership, hence why you'll also see this electric powertrain in the next-generation Peugeot 208, Citroen C4 and DS 3 Crossback. Vauxhall will also be launching a plug-in hybrid Grandland X next year, along with two more electric models by 2020. By 2024, it will have an electric option in every model range.
We expect the eCorsa to offer a range of around 250 miles, and while company executives wouldn’t confirm charging details, it’d be reasonable to assume the electric Corsa will offer Type 2 and CCS charging, so it can be used at the vast majority of public chargers.
It’d be easy to say the GT X feels as spaceship-like to drive as it does to sit in, but it’s actually not the case. Gripping the super-slim steering wheel, with its 'floating' hub complete with LED Griffin logo that stays upright as you swing the wheel, the GT X feels rather lumpy as its chunky tyres squeal around the shiny warehouse floor we're driving it on.
Concept cars, as incredibly valuable, hand-built one-offs, nearly always feel a little brittle and odd to drive, and the GT X is no different. The electric powertrain, however, gives a predictably smooth build-up of power, with a hint of seriously aggressive acceleration should you want it. No official power output has been stated for the GT X (or the new e-Corsa), but it feels like an easy 150bhp, so a ‘hot’ electric Corsa wouldn’t be a difficult leap to make.
Those tyres, too, promise good things for the Corsa. The clever alloy-wheel design extends around the sidewall of the tyre so it appears to be a larger wheel than it is – the GT X actually has 17-inch wheels but they look like 20s. So it promises the sort of cushy ride comfort that you’d want from a Corsa, while also looking appealingly aggressive. Here’s hoping the wheel design makes it to full production models.
There are plenty of other design touches around the GT X Experimental that'll make it to future Vauxhalls, including the one-piece grille that has been dubbed the ‘Vauxhall Visor’. That single large touchscreen in front of the driver and the buttonless interior are also no hollow design fantasies, but rather hint at the more minimal, more hi-tech interiors that Vauxhall is working on.
One neat design trick that we’re hoping will make production on the electric Corsa is the GT X’s exterior charge status indicator, which mimics a digital hourglass gradually filling up. It’s useful, and also weirdly hypnotic to watch.
Sure, the cameras used in place of side mirrors, LED badges that change colour when the car is in autonomous driving mode and a clever system that uses a camera on the steering wheel to track your eye level and automatically adjust the seat to your driving position, are all unlikely to make production soon. Even so, they offer an interesting insight into more distant technology.
Other highlights of the GT X Experimental include Level 3 autonomy, where the car can effectively drive itself in certain road conditions, but the driver is still required to take control when necessary. Expect the next-generation Corsa to offer advanced autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise and lane-keeping assistance systems.
Ultimately, Vauxhall’s aim is to maintain the Corsa’s appeal as an affordable, practical compact hatchback, so don’t expect to see the extreme design flair of the GT X. However, the next Corsa will herald a fresh design focus and a new electrified era for the company, with the eCorsa being the first car to really take on the Renault ZOE, which currently holds sway as the most affordable way into a compact family hatchback.
Given that company sources suggest you’ll be able to order the Vauxhall eCorsa before the end of 2019, the Renault’s time in a class of its own is just about up. And electric power is about to go mainstream like never before.