- Hot-hatch-like driving
- 100kW charging support
- Uninspiring instrumentation
- Lower range than Renault New ZOE or Nissan Leaf e+
- Fiddly control system
Range (WLTP): 209 miles Top Speed: 93 mph 0 to 60: 7.6 sec Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): 3.35p
Anyone who entered driving age in the mid 1980s or early 1990s will have fond memories of the Vauxhall Corsa, or Nova as it was originally called. Okay, maybe not fond in every respect, but definitely memories. The Corsa/Nova had a certain reputation. It was practical and relatively inexpensive, and if a Peugeot 205 GTi was beyond your reach, the SRi version was a boy-racer’s viable alternative. They were simple cars and gained a bit of a “cheeky” reputation.
Since then, the Corsa has continued to develop and now the first fully electric version has arrived, descriptively named the Corsa-e. Where Nissan’s Leaf and Renault’s ZOE have aimed more at the eco-family hatchback market, Vauxhall is clearly hoping to channel some of the “cheeky SRi” vibe. Price-wize, it slots in at the top of the range, costing a grand more than the most expensive petrol or diesel version, and when the trim level is taken into account, closer to £10,000 more. But the electric motor is also a lot more powerful than any of the fossil fuel options, making this the new hot-hatch of the range.
Price and Options
There is a confusing array of trim and engine options available with the ICE Corsa, but only four versions of the Corsa-e. Effectively, there are currently just two. You can choose between the SE NAV and ELITE NAV trim levels, priced at £27,665 and £30,310 respectively, with £3,000 plug-in-grant deducted. These both have 7.4kW AC charging, but versions of both trims with 11kW AC charging will arrive later in 2020, for an additional £850.
All cars are equipped with a 100kW motor delivering 136PS / 134hp and a 50kWh battery, so performance should be effectively identical across the range. This is very close to the ZOE R135 in power and battery characteristics, but as we’ll see later, the end result is quite different. There is a significant variation between what is included with the SE NAV and ELITE NAV. Both have a 7in digital instrument cluster, but the SE only gets a 7in screen for its sat-nav and menu interface, whereas the ELITE gets a 10in panel.
You get keyless start with both versions, but keyless entry only with the ELITE. Both cars get rain-sensitive windscreen wipers and rear parking sensors, but only the ELITE gets front ones, a rear camera, and a 360 effect when parking. It also gets electronically folding mirrors with blind spot alert built in. Both have an electronic parking brake. Both get climate control, but only the ELITE has heated front seats and steering wheel, as well as electric rear windows. The ELITE also includes automatically controlled LED lighting front and rear. The SE comes with 16in alloys and the ELITE 17in. Neither model offers adaptive cruise control, which only the Ultimate Nav fossil fuel variant appears to include. Instead, you just get limited speed cruise control.
So there is plenty included with the ELITE to make the £2,645 premium worthwhile over the SE. Whichever trim or engine type you choose, however, the basic colour is navy blue metallic, but there are seven other colours to chose from ranging in price from £320 for white to £650 for the garish Power Orange and Hot Red options. The car we were sent for review was the ELITE NAV version in Voltaic Blue, a colour we have to admit preferring to the Celadon Blue of our review ZOE. This added £550 to the price.
The Corsa-e doesn’t look significantly different to other members of the current Corsa range from the outside, with just an e after the Corsa name badge and the letter e on each of the B pillars letting anyone know this car is electric. Appearance is always subjective, but we’d place the Corsa-e in between the Leaf and the ZOE, with the ZOE most stylish and the Leaf the least. With the ELITE, however, you get the darkened rear windows, which you may appreciate.
Basically, this is a Corsa. It’s not an ugly car, but it’s not stunning either. The Voltaic Blue does represent it well, though, which is probably why the press car was this shade. The 17in alloys on the ELITE are also reasonably attractive. There’s no proximity sensor for the door locks, and you only get keyless entry with the ELITE. So you’ll have to use the key fob to open the lock. This is a little disappointing where the ZOE will unlock as you approach, although this can also be a bit annoying if you didn’t want your car to open because you were just walking past.
Surprisingly, there’s no complete leather seat option with the Corsa-e – that’s reserved for the Ultimate Nav petrol / diesel version. Instead, you get fabric inserts and leather-effect side bolsters and surrounds. The seats are comfortable enough, and the front seats are six-way adjustable. The rear has just enough for an average-sized adult, but if you’re a bit taller you might have trouble with headroom and knee space. Kids will be absolutely fine, though, and there are headrests for all three rear seats.
There’s a single USB port and standard car power connection in the central console, but no Qi charging. You don’t get any USB ports in the rear, unlike the ZOE, and there are no AC vents in the rear, either. However, the AC has a full set of discrete buttons that make it quite easy to control. If your car has heated seating (ELITE only), there are individual buttons to control this as well.
Storage and Load Carrying
Although the Corsa-e is almost exactly the same length and width as the Renault ZOE, it’s about 13cm lower. This does have a mild effect on load carrying. The basic boot size is 309 litres, 29 fewer than the ZOE, and with the rear seats down this extends to 1,118 litres, 107 fewer than the ZOE. The rear seats have the usual 60/40 split so you can choose the exact balance you want between passengers and cargo.
There’s no extra usable cubby underneath the boot floor – this contains the elements of the emergency tyre inflation kit. However, when you do drop the rear seats down, the step isn’t as pronounced as with the Nissan Leaf or Renault ZOE, which could make it easier to load some longer pieces of cargo. Note that although the petrol and diesel Corsas can tow from 500 to 1,200kg, there’s no rating for the Corsa-e. Vauxhall currently lists this as “TBC”.
The Corsa-e’s control interface is an area where we feel Vauxhall has missed a trick or two. With most EVs, it’s intuitive to get in and figure out how to put the car in drive or reverse. The Corsa-e seems overly complicated. First, you have to use the Start/Stop button with the brake applied – so far, so normal. Then, instead of the normal procedure of keeping foot on brake and selecting drive, you have to also push a button the side of the stubby gearstick in the centre. There is a prompt for this onscreen, but it didn’t work as advertised every time. You may also have to press the Start/Stop button again with the brake depressed first.
You also need to push this button to find reverse, which is perhaps normal for a manual car and even some automatics, but since an EV is entirely electronic, it seems unnecessary. Most unclear of all, the extra B mode beyond D for greater regenerative braking is another tug backwards on the control stick. But there’s no obvious indication you’ve selected it, unlike other EVs we’ve driven with this feature such as the Nissan Leaf or Renault ZOE. There’s an electronic parking brake – something we think is a bit unnecessary in an EV. Surely this could just be part of the P mode?
The digital screens also feel very rudimentary. The information is there, such as whether you’re accelerating or receiving power back through braking, and a numerical reading of speed. But the presentation has little design about it. If you’ve just paid £30k for a car, you’re going to be disappointed about the lack of flair to the instrumentation. An EV is supposed to be exciting and new, but the 7in panel behind the steering wheel feels functional but uninspiring.
The satnav and main menu interface are a bit better, with a reasonably logical layout. The screen is touch-enabled, which makes destination address entry easy. The satnav looks old-fashioned in 2D mode, but much more modern when switched to 3D. Overall, you can find the main car settings without too much head scratching. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported for smartphone connectivity. The three-spoke steering wheel has an array of buttons for controlling volume and other car settings without removing your hands from the steering.
Corsas always felt quite nippy around town, and this is one area where the Corsa-e delivers effectively on its heritage. Despite having a similar engine power to the Renault ZOE R135, the Corsa-e is a whole lot quicker, reaching 60mph in 7.6 seconds – nearly 2 seconds fewer. The Nissan Leaf e+ is a little bit quicker still in a straight line, but its size and height make you less likely to want to chuck it around, where the Corsa-e maintains a good sense of hot-hatchness about it. The SRi spirit is strong, and the Corsa-e will bring out the laddish side in anyone with a Nova/Corsa history.
The steering feels a bit heavier than we’re used to with most entry-level EVs. It’s responsive enough and is quite precise, but family drivers might prefer a lighter touch. We also found that the lane departure warnings gave a noticeable tug on the steering wheel to let you know when you were moving towards the edge of the lane on a motorway or dual carriageway. This was a bit disconcerting at first until we realised what was going on. There are three drive modes – Sport, Normal and ECO. Sport is obviously the one for maximum fun, and ECO to get the most possible out of the battery.
Range and Charging
Where the Corsa-e wins over the ZOE on performance, it loses on range. The ZOE boasts 239 miles WLTP, and 245 miles for the basic Play version, but the Corsa-e can only manages 209 miles. It’s not a deal-breaker, when the Hyundai Ioniq Electric (for example) only offers 193 miles and is a bit more expensive still. However, one thing we noticed while driving the Corsa-e was that the range indicator on the dashboard was extremely erratic. One of our team had taken a Corsa-e for an earlier drive. Starting with an alleged 38 miles of charge left, it suddenly dropped to 8. With our review loan car, the range would sit at the same level for 5-10 minutes of driving before dropping by 5-10 miles. Most EVs we’ve tested will only lose a mile or two at a time, so this is a bit disconcerting.
However, there are some benefits for the Corsa-e for charging. The basic 7.4kW AC charging is behind the 22kW of the ZOE, and the future £850 11kW option is still lower. But the CCS-based DC charging is up to 100kW, where the ZOE only has 50kW, and that’s a £1,000 extra. Putting this altogether, a 7kW home wall box will take 7.5 hours to fully charge the vehicle, similar to the ZOE, but a 22kW public charger will take 5 hours to go to 80% from 15%, where the ZOE takes 2.3 hours. Both take 45 minutes to achieve 80% on a 50kW charger, but if you can find a 100kW one, it will just be 30 minutes for the Corsa-e. The CCS2 port as standard will mean a lot of chargers are available, and Vauxhall throws in 6 months of BP Chargemaster Polar subscription, after which it’s £7.85 a month – the usual price, but you get 3 more months for free than a regular new membership. If you order before October 5th, you get a free £800 charger, but this isn’t a permanent bonus.
With a 14p-per-kWh electricity supply, the Corsa-e costs a reasonable 3.35p per mile – assuming the WLTP range of 209 miles is correct. Putting this in perspective, the most frugal diesel Corsa can manage 70.6mpg, which is 7.2p per mile – and you can bet you won’t achieve anywhere near that around town. Vauxhall suggests an initial service after 8,000 miles or a year, whichever comes sooner, and then after 16,000 miles or two years, which is much less frequent than the yearly services for the petrol/diesel versions. There’s no indication of how much this will cost, although the first three years are free via Vauxhall Care. The Corsa comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, but the battery has an eight-year, 100,000-mile guarantee of at least 70% capacity.
The SE is in insurance group 24E, while the ELITE is 25E, so will be slightly more expensive to get a policy for. Both are higher than the Renault ZOE, even the R135 version. As with every EV, you won’t pay any VED, where the petrol/diesel cars will pay from £155 to £215 for the first year, and then £145 a year after that. BiK for the ICE cars is from 24% to 29%, whereas the Corsa-e will have zero benefit-in-kind (BiK) as a company car for the first year. So the Corsa-e is much more expensive to buy than its stable mates, but much cheaper to run after that.
All Corsas come with driver’s and front passenger’s airbags, plus front seat side-impact airbags and full-size curtain airbags. There’s automatic emergency city braking, which works up to speeds of 53mph. You also get Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), with traction control, cornering brake control, straight line stability control, and drag torque control for slippery roads. Tyre pressure monitoring is included. As mentioned earlier, lane departure warning is on hand and in our experience makes itself known more than some. You also get speed sign recognition, side blind spot alert via the wing mirrors (but only in the ELITE NAV), and a driver drowsiness system, although we didn’t experience that in action, as we’re always full of energy when driving an EV. The 2019 Corsa this car is based on only received a four-star NCAP safety rating, but Vauxhall doesn’t state if the 2020 Corsa-e shares this rating or has managed to achieve a five.
|Price:||SE NAV – £27,665; ELITE NAV – £30,310|
|Range (WLTP):||209 miles|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||7.5 hours|
|Charge time (50kW, 20-80%):||45 minutes|
|Charge time (100kW, 20-80%):||30 minutes|
|On Board Charger:||7.4kW (11kW available late 2020)|
|Cost per mile*:||3.35p|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh