2014 Opel Corsa OPC Review

A Premium Pocket Rocket For Plush Punters
By Imthishan Giado 

2014 Opel Corsa OPC

Thus far, Opel’s return to the UAE has been a silky-smooth rise to the top. The Astra OPC I drove was a spectacularly good hot hatch that soundly thumped every other contender in the class, and the regular hatch is no slouch either.

Now they’re brought the diminutive Corsa to our shores. And not just as a lowly 1.0-litre but full fat OPC, Nurburgring Edition trim for those cashed-up teenagers out there. And it costs an eye-watering AED115,000. Yes, you read right – the same as the Astra OP (now price bumped to a significantly less-competitive AED130,000). Can the price-challenged Corsa still succeed with brutal German turbocharged power and athletic ‘Ring tuned handling?

2014 Opel Corsa OPC

This isn’t the smallest Opel you can buy, that honour falling to the even tinier Adam city car…which believe it or not, is also sitting in dealer Liberty’s showrooms. The Corsa is certainly a tiddler though, sitting in roughly the same B-segment footprint as a Toyota Yaris.

2014 Opel Corsa OPC

But you’d have to be blind to prefer the Yaris, or in fact anything else in this segment. With its chunky pumped-up arches, hunkered down stance, menacingly-low front splitter, gill-encrusted bodywork and dead cool gloss black wheels this is the meanest supermini in the country, a flyweight boxer, all naked aggression and clenched mouthguard. A shrinking violet, this is most definitely not.

You may wonder what the Nurburgring Edition business is all about. The answer is 13bhp, actually…the tiddly 1.6-litre four cylinder under the bonnet has a revised turbo fitted, some ECU fiddling and a fruity to raise the power up to 207bhp and 207lb ft of torque, the latter figure arriving at a mere 2250rpm. With only 1307kg to push around, the turbo terrier has plenty of go-juice and joy of joys, the only transmission on offer is a six-speed manual.

2014 Opel Corsa OPC

Max Interior
For a car that’s priced lineball with a base Golf GTI – a full size bigger, and with one of the nicest cabins in its class – the Corsa OPC interior must impress. Sadly…it doesn’t, really. Bargain bin plastics abound with hard scratchy surfaces and the switch gear, though clear in appearance, is barely average in terms of tactility. And Opel, chrome rings and piano black surrounds for the centre console do not a premium interior make, and neither does barely-discernible contrast stitching for the seats.

2014 Opel Corsa OPC

Speaking of pews, standard seats for the OPC are a superb set of Recaros, sized just right and not overly aggressive. Don’t let the narrow exterior dimensions foo you, the Corsa has plenty of room for four, even in the back thanks to the tall-boy styling. Predictably boot space suffers and if you want to carry more than a set of shopping, you’ll be folding the seats down sharpish.

2014 Opel Corsa OPC

At least for that price, you get all the toys one could reasonably ask for. A sunroof is standard, all the usual steering wheel gubbins buttons are present and there’s both reach and rake for the helm. Not one but two screens are present, though the dull orange-and-black monochrome upper display betrays the Corsa’s economy car roots and shows so little information you’ll wonder why they even bothered with it. Better is the lower ‘Touch And Go’ screen used for audio and Bluetooth functions – a snap to pair your phone and the sound quality is surprisingly good for tiny speakers. They’ll make your poorly-coded MP3s sound great. But despite having prominent buttons for navigation, no actual maps are present. Finally, the automatic climate control seemed quite strong and efficient though admittedly our December weather is hardly a test of any kind. 

2014 Opel Corsa OPC

On the road
The Corsa looks like a teenager’s wet dream and to a large extent, it drives like one too, albeit one that’s received a stern lecture from a kindly headmaster. Power delivery from the 1.6 is linear and predictable rather than the kind of sudden-boost turbo rush you might expect, and there’s only the slightest of nudges above 3000rpm to even remind you that this car has forced induction at all. It’s a good engine, well behaved on the highway, appreciably frugal and reasonably blessed with midrange torque, but the thin top end isn’t going to send you into paroxysms of pleasure. Clutch effort is light, but as usual the Opel manual gearbox is a let down – sloppy, indistinct, like stirring a rubber chicken in a bowl of chutney. The gearstick itself seems to have been shaped for someone with Lego claw-hands and though the pedal box is well placed for heel-and-toe driving, this is a manual setup you’ll endure rather than enjoy.

2014 Opel Corsa OPC

Fortunately, the rest of the car delivers some seriously raw thrills. With a mechanical limited slip diff at the front, the Corsa eats corners like a ravenous lion on the Serengeti and comes greedily back for more. As long as you keep your foot in and the turbo on the boil, the OPC has tremendous traction from the 18s, aided by a meaty helm, if one lacking in absolute feel. You expect understeer to rear its ugly head but try as I might, it never came, the Corsa gobbling up all the turning lock you can desperately throw at it. In the hands of a skilled driver and in the fine tradition of all hot hatches, this little terrier can absolutely keep up with some much faster metal.

2014 Opel Corsa OPC
In the hands of a skilled driver, though. Beware the moment you decide to lift off mid corner because the back end will rotate immediately. It’s not a scary, fast snap that will leave you facing from whence you came, the rotation is slow enough that you have plenty of time to wind some lock. Nevertheless for the novice it can be unsettling and especially because the stability control doesn’t seem to be doing anything to intervene. Anyway, any chassis which moves around is a fun chassis, and snap oversteer – in a front wheel drive car! – is no demerit in my book.

If there’s one complaint, it’s the ride which is damn near rock solid and borderline unbearable. I know, I know, maybe I am an old man but I’d like some compliance once in a while and the Corsa OPC has virtually none. Drive down Sheikh Zayed road and you will discover hitherto-unknown hills and valleys on what seemed billiard-table smooth tarmac. And woe betide the man who tries to fly over a speed hump; you will catch some air! To be honest, I wish Opel had softened it slightly, even if they had to lose the Nurburgring cachet. Similar youth-market cars like the Focus ST and the 86 don’t beat you up on a daily basis…but hey, I don’t understand stance either.

2014 Opel Corsa OPC

Verdict
This is a tough one. I can only commend Opel for their courage in bringing this car to this market at that price. Nevertheless I’m glad they did because the Corsa OPC is a great handling little car, genuinely practical, powerful enough and even with a recalcitrant manual gearbox, easy to blast around town in.

Trouble is, it’s a youth car designed for Europe’s narrow streets and alleyways, a streetfighter bike in a world of grand tourers and luxobarges. On the wide fast highways of Dubai the little Corsa feels somewhat out of its element, surrounded by towering SUVs and speeding muscle cars, a problem its bigger Astra brother doesn’t suffer from. While I’d rather have that car I’m not the target market. Looking back to my early 20s, something with so much attitude and punchiness would have been right at the top of my Santa wishlist…and that’s exactly who’s going to buy it today.

2014 Opel Corsa OPC

So enjoy the hooning, future Corsa-owning teenagers…and don’t forget to turn that stereo right up when you drive past old people like me.

2014 Opel Corsa OPC
Specs
Price: AED115,000 ($31k)
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo, 202bhp @ 5750rpm, 207lb ft @ 2250-5500rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 6.5, 230kph (est)
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Weight: 1307kg

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