Vauxhall Corsa-e review
|Car type||Electric range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|Electric||209 miles||7hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||28mins (10-80%, 100kW)|
For years, the Vauxhall Corsa has been a stalwart of UK driving schools and a favourite of young motorists enjoying their first taste of freedom behind the wheel. It's long been an affordable, no-nonsense sort of car, but with the arrival of the latest generation model, it leaps right to the front of the car industry's electrification revolution, with this pure-electric Corsa-e being offered alongside conventional petrol and diesel-engined versions.
Of course, it's possible we wouldn't have an electric Corsa just yet, had Vauxhall and its German sister brand Opel not been taken over by Peugeot and Citroen's parent company the PSA Group in 2017. The buyout means both the internal-combustion and electric versions of the new Corsa are based on the same mechanical underpinnings as the Peugeot 208, Peugeot 2008 and DS 3 Crossback.
The electric Corsa-e is certainly not as affordable as its internal-combustion-engined counterparts; the cheapest version costs £27,665 after the plug-in grant has been applied, rising to £30,310 for the luxuriously specced Elite Nav model. That puts it in the company of some pretty accomplished rivals, such as the Honda e, MINI Electric and Renault ZOE, as well as larger and more practical offerings like the MG ZS EV and Nissan Leaf.
Exterior styling of the Corsa-e differs little from other versions; all the changes are under the bonnet. In place of a petrol or diesel engine, it's driven by a 134bhp electric motor, drawing power from a 50kWh battery. Maximum range in ideal conditions is 209 miles, but we'd expect to see more like 150-170 miles in real-world driving, depending on the outside temperature and how much time you spend on the motorway.
Inside, higher-spec models like the Elite Nav get an impressive 10-inch touchscreen display, but the overall quality of the materials and design is less impressive, especially when you consider the car's high price. There are many more luxurious and premium-feeling alternatives – albeit with petrol or diesel engines – that you could get for the Corsa-e's £310 per month (on a four-year PCP with a £6k deposit) finance payment. On the plus side, there's plenty of clever on-board technology, including driver-assistance features such as traffic-sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance.
On the road, the Corsa-e unsurprisingly feels quite similar to its closely-related sister car the Peugeot e-208, so it drives engagingly and precisely down a twisty road. On the downside, the 345kg battery pack represents a significant addition to the base car's weight, so the chassis and suspension are a little stiffer than on a petrol or diesel Corsa, resulting in a harsher ride.
Like most electric cars, the Corsa-e is a peppy performer, getting from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and topping out at 93mph. For that level of performance, however, you need to be in Sport mode, which has the tandem effect of reducing the car's range. For day-to-day driving, it's best to stick with Normal mode, which restricts the power output to 108bhp. Eco mode turns the dial down further, to a typical petrol supermini output figure of 81bhp, in order to extract the maximum range from the battery.
That power output is most suited to the Corsa's natural habitat: urban and suburban roads, where you can make most use of the regenerative braking system to further conserve energy on the move. It takes some getting used to, but after a while you learn to anticipate when it's possible to roll off the accelerator and bring the car to a stop without using the brake pedal. Eventually, you'll end up driving like this for the vast majority of your journeys.
If you need to charge up while out and about, the Corsa's battery can be replenished to 80% capacity in about half an hour from a 100kW rapid charger (these are getting more common in the UK, but many public points are still 50kW and so will take longer). Order a Corsa-e in the UK before 2 April 2020 and Vauxhall will give you a free home wallbox, which will charge the car fully in less than eight hours overnight. You also get six months' free subscription to the Polar Plus charging network.
Overall, the Corsa-e is a likeable and impressive electric car on its own terms, but harsh reality is that the Renault ZOE offers more for less money, and even the Corsa's Peugeot e-208 sister car offers more stylish looks and a slightly trendier badge on the bonnet.