Skip to content


A Champion Autotest driver, an old aerodrome and new compact sporty hatchback with a famous name, all pointed to an interesting and informative day. The driver- Paul Swift (formerly The Stig), the venue- Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome and the car- the new Corsa GSi.

This newcomer majors not only on performance but on style and safety, so it’s not just another compact sporty hatchback and depending where you live on our island, it comes as an Opel or Vauxhall.

Like so many cars that carry the GSi sports tag it was overseen by former DTM driver Volker Strycek and the famous Nurburgring in Germany was used in testing,

The Insignia GSi has gained quite a number of headlines and over the coming months, will the Corsa version follow in its wheeltracks?

A key element of the newcomer is that it is built on the Corsa VXR chassis, a key to the handling qualities and after being behind the wheel, I immediately saw its benefits. I also had the opportunity to drive the newcomer over an autotest course with Paul Swift as my co-driver!

Right to the heart of the matter, the power unit. It’s a 1.4 litre engine with turbo assistance, the end result is a very useful 150PS and equally important 220Nm of torque.

This provides in performance terms, rest to 100kph (62mph) in 8.9 seconds and where legal on to a top speed of 206kph (128mph). Still with performance and between 3,000 to 4,500 rpm and in fifth gear, acceleration from 80-112kph (50-70mph) is achieved in less than ten seconds.

The eager power unit combines with a short ratio six speed transmission to put a smile on the face of anyone who takes the wheel. While the standard outputs of the 1.4 Turbo engine remain unchanged, for the GSi, boost pressure, fuel injection and timing have been subtly recalibrated to allow the unit to breathe more freely, especially at higher revs. This allows more power to be maintained in the upper reaches of its performance. Power alone is simply not enough to deliver the complete driving package though, and thanks to big brother VXR’s superb chassis- further honed for the GSi, confident roadholding is assured. The GSi uses Koni’s Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) technology, which provides acceptable comfort for everyday use, but increased damping characteristics for more enthusiastic driving. Compared with a conventional damper, which works by oil passing through a piston assembly, FSD adds a valve which controls a parallel flow of oil next to the piston. This secondary oil flow can therefore be closed off, giving a rise in damper force when conditions demand it. Put simply, FSD is a hydraulic amplifier which can delay the build-up of pressure if required, achieving the best possible combination of handling and comfort, without the complexity and expense of a regular adaptive damper.

Lightweight alloys (optional) shod with road hugging 215/40 X 18 tyres further enhance the drive experience.

While performance and handling will be appreciated by most, the customer demands more in terms of styling and packaging. You might expect such a car to be sparsely appointed, not so it has all the goodies.

You won’t fail to recognise this sporty member of the Corsa family with large front air intakes, a sculptured bonnet and a distinctive rear spoiler which provides downforce when cornering at high speed.

Other exterior cosmetic touches include a chrome tailpipe and front brake calipers, painted in the customary red, something of a tell tale of a sporty model. The 308mm disc brakes are a major part of the package too, delivering confident braking power.

The interior is very much in harmony with the exterior and worth adding the Recaro seats (an option) which provide superb support, a key ingredient for a car in this class.

Other familiar items that we expect are a leather sports steering wheel and of course race-style aluminum pedals. Technology is in demand these days and this newcomer satisfies with the carmaker’s IntelliLink infotainment system which offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. I employed the latter with google maps to guide me round a test route.

The newcomer has strong on road presence, a car you will be noticed in and the good news that it is cheaper than most, if not all, of its competitors. To add further a GSi Plus Pack, which includes 18 inch diamond cut alloys, Recaro leather seats and bi-xenon headlights with cornering lights will be an option. I certainly enjoyed my time behind the wheel, while the suspension was a trifle firm but for those who appreciate a sporty drive, this little number will definitely get the thumbs up.

Ian Lynas