Opel Corsa 1.2 T Elegance

If this sleeper is anything to go by we can’t wait to meet more new era Opels

It’s been a while since I last wrote a motoring article for a number of reasons. So it really was good to be back behind the wheel. Even better, my first test in a while proved more than just a surprise!

Not much to shout about on first sight

Parked in the driveway, the only reason I knew this was the latest all-new Opel Corsa was that famous goose-blitz badge and the Corsa label on the back. Nothing more, nothing less, just a straightforward hatchback of which I’ve tested so many over the years. Cars built for transporting passengers about in comfort and calm driving pleasure without much excitement.

Taking it for a spin, I turned out of my gate and took off like on any other everyday drive, via a few stop streets and I was soon tailing a bakkie. Swinging out briskly I floored the accelerator. Lo-and-behold, the Corsa responded like a wild animal. Like a rocket! Flabbergasted I eased off the accelerator after that quick overtake. Was I dreaming? Isn’t this just a tiny 1.2-litre engine? Dad being out of the saddle for a while really impaired my judgement that badly?

Add to that, the guys who dropped the car off simply left me a ‘Corsa’. So I was flummoxed and quite in the dark as to what, exactly, this secret weapon was. Then my test-driving instinct took over. I convinced myself that this was no mild Corsa. No, this was a bit of a wild thing. Shocked by its unexpected deftness, I took advantage and had a little fun. Quite exciting, actually!

Power & response of a far larger car

Still, my mind soon began hunting and searching for clues once again. This Corsa exhibited power responses akin to a far larger capacity car. And being so small and nimble, handed well and delivered fine roadholding qualities — more big plusses.

Back in the office, I called the editor. I was concerned that after a little time he came back to me and said he was only aware of Corsa being launched in a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre that could never have delivered such a sensation. Then they tested it. And we were all even more confused.

Allow me put all this into context. This little car completely confirmed my suspicions on the VBox. 0 to 100 km/h in 8.3 seconds, the quarter-mile in under 16 seconds and beyond 140km/h? That’s basically what the great Opel Kadett GSi achieved when launched 35 years ago. And it took a hot 95 kW 2 litre to pull that off. Never mind a space-age dash, all all the skirts and wings and the rest to fully broadcast its greatness to anyone who dared look at it.

GSI’s Great grandson hides its roots

This car has none of that — it looks like an everyday rental or company hack. So we did a bit of research. Lo and behold — secretly and almost unannounced under its new PSA-Stellantis ownership, Opel not only stripped 108 kg out of Corsa’s heft by building it on the new Peugeot 208’s longer wheelbase chassis, but it snuck this quite stunning little 96 kW 213 Nm turbo 1.2-litre under the bonnet.

That call it the 1.2T Elegance. But they forgot to put any badges on to confirm the T bit. Never mind — Elegance? No GSi or OPC or whatever other badge from Opel’s sack of performance monikers to at least suggest it’s a sleeper!

To top it all, this latest Corsa is fitted with best-in-class safety systems and the tech-rich interior is clad in soft toughened yarn. Best of all however is yes, here’s a car that totally confounded us. It packs a tiny engine that competes favourably with far larger brethren to deliver among the biggest surprises in our test schedule for quite a while. And it delivers far more that you’d ever expect at first glance. At a pretty compelling price. too

We can’t wait for what comes next!

Yes, that secrecy was helped by a subtle lack of communications in the brand’s transformation, but if this secret weapon is the first example of how Opel fits into its new realm alongside Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat and Alfa Romeo, we can’t wait to see what comes next.

Dare we say, Opel may very well be returning to its glorious performance roots in South Africa. Bring it on! – Mario Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Opel Corsa 1.2T Elegance
Engine: 96 kW 230 Nm 1.2-litre turbo petrol I3
Drive: 6-speed automatic FWD
0-60 km/h:        3.75 sec
0-100 km/h:       8.32 sec
0-120 km/h:       11.48 sec
0-160 km/h:       21.40 sec
400m:             15.9 sec @ 142 km/h
80-120 km/h:      5.64 sec
120-160 km/h:     9.93 sec
VMax:             208 km/h
Fuel:             6.3 l/100 km
CO2:              143 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y 120K/1y 945K km
LIST PRICE:       R386K
RATED:            8
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