Buying a Vauxhall Corsa

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Buying Guide: Vauxhall Corsa Mk3
Stuart Morton from Auto Express gives us the low-down on one of the UK’s best-selling cars — the third generation Vauxhall Corsa. Launched in 2006, the Corsa Mk3 has continued the trend of its predecessors and rivalled the Ford Fiesta at the top of the supermini sales charts.

Other popular competitors include the Renault Clio, Mazda 2, Skoda Fabia, VW Polo and Kia Rio — but the Corsa stands out with its choice of three and five-door body styles, plus its wide range of petrol and diesel engines. There are also models to suit every taste and budget, from no-frills entry-level cars popular with fleets and cheap-to-run eco specials, to powerful high-performance versions.

All offer a reasonably well-built interior, although it’s starting to show its age now. The layout is clear and easy to get on with, though, and there’s a decent amount of space, with access to the rear seats obviously easier in the five-door. These seats also fold to increase boot capacity from 285 litres to 1,050 litres.

The array of trim levels can be confusing, so make sure you know what you’re buying. You should be able to get a good deal on any new or second-hand Corsa Mk3 at the moment, as Vauxhall is gearing up to introduce a new model in 2015.
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Vauxhall Corsa front view
Which one to buy?
There’s a huge range of Corsa models to choose from on the second-hand market, simply because the Mk3 car has been on sale for such a long time. Over the years, Vauxhall has tweaked the line-up with new trim levels, special editions and new engines — which can cause confusion.

The thing to do is decide how much you want to spend and work out exactly what you’re looking for. So if low running costs are the main priority, it’s probably best to steer clear of the petrol models, which trail behind rivals on performance and efficiency.
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Vauxhall Corsa rear view
Early diesels were powered by the 1.7 CDTi, which was found in the Mk2. This powerful 125bhp engine makes the Corsa a capable motorway cruiser with acceptable fuel efficiency. Even better — if you can afford them — are the later 1.3 CDTi diesels, which combine a strong punch with even lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Vauxhall also introduced a Corsa ecoFLEX in 2011, powered by the 75bhp 1.3 CDTi. This emits 94g/km of CO2, which means it’s exempt from road tax and promises 80mpg. 
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Vauxhall Corsa engine
If do you have to buy a petrol Corsa, aim for at least a 1.2-litre engine. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder feels underpowered, while the 1.4 isn’t much more powerful than the 1.2. Vauxhall updated the 1.4 in 2012, fitting stop-start and a turbocharger to cut fuel consumption and emissions, although both still lag behind rivals.

Topping the range is a 1.6-litre turbo, which delivers 192bhp in the sizzling VXR. But while this car is fast, it’s let down by an unforgiving ride. And if you’re buying a VXR second-hand — or considering an SRi, which has the same engine, toned down to 150bhp — watch out for abused boy-racer cars.
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Vauxhall Corsa interior
At the other end of the range, entry-level Life versions are a bit miserly on kit, so we’d aim for at least Design or SXi trim for the best balance of spec and value.

Also bear in mind that electronic stability control is only standard on the Corsa SRi. If you can find a used car with it fitted as an option, great. A bike carrier that slides out from the rear number plate is another option worth having.
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Vauxhall Corsa bootspace
Even though it’s not the best car in the supermini class, the Vauxhall Corsa Mk3 has been a sales smash since it was launched. That means there are loads on the used market, so prices are low. You won’t have to travel far to find an alternative, either, so there’s no need to compromise.

Prices start at £2,500 for a high-mileage 1.0 or 1.2 Life, with diesels costing from around £3,000. If you want an ecoFLEX model, you can expect to pay from £3,500 for an early £20 or £30-a-year road tax model. Later road tax-exempt versions are £5,000-plus. Buyers of cars with the ageing petrol engines aren’t so lucky, and face big road tax bills and frequent filling-station stops.
The Corsa needs servicing every 12 months or 20,000 miles, and Vauxhall offers discounted check-ups on cars over three years old. Only the 1.7-litre diesel has a cam belt to worry about and it needs replacing every 10 years or 60,000 miles. All other engines are chain-driven.
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Vauxhall Corsa rear seats
The Corsa has always been a popular driving-school car, as it’s so easy to drive, but this can mean bodywork scrapes and worn clutches. And many owners have reported juddering clutches, even on non-learner cars. Wheel bearings and steering racks are known not to be especially durable, either, while leaky radiators and split air-conditioning pipes seem to be common gripes.

This far from perfect reliability record is reflected in the Corsa’s recall history and Vauxhall has called the supermini back to dealers six times. Brake failures have largely been to blame for these recalls, although steering and ESP glitches have also arisen.

Even so, reliability doesn’t seem to be a major gripe among owners in the annual Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey. The Corsa has fallen steadily since debuting in 55th place back in 2009. It finished 126th in 2013 and 140th in 2014, but drivers seem more concerned about performance, ride, handling and running costs.
There are better buys on the second-hand supermini market and a Ford Fiesta or Mazda 2 will be more fun, while a VW Polo and Skoda Fabia will hold their price better. But few cars are better value for money than the Vauxhall Corsa, as there are so many about. This also means you can take your time choosing the perfect car for you and then haggle on the price.
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