Fire up the… Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 SRI

LIKE garnishing an omelette with a helping of jalapeños, Vauxhall’s hoping that treating its supermini to the sporty SRI treatment will give the Corsa some added spice.

While it’s not the hottest Corsa on offer – that honour going to the track day fan’s favourite, the VXR Nürburgring – this SRI screams potential, thanks to the 17-inch alloy wheels and the bodykit inspired by its leerier big brother. But before I can find out whether it’s as enticing to drive as it to behold, it’s time to get a confession out of the way. Over the past few years I’ve driven a couple of Corsas – primarily the 1.0 litre Ecoflex and the 1.2 petrol versions – and haven’t exactly heaped praise on them.

Happily, things get off to a good start with the SRI once you hop inside – the red stitching on the steering wheel and the scarlet seat surrounds immediately give you the air of being inside something a bit special without straying into boy racer territory, and it’s more than comfortable and amply equipped for its £15,600 price tag. It suffers from the same enormous blind spots as its Corsa siblings, but that aside it’s somewhere you’ll enjoy being on even the longest of trips.

Thanks to its clever variable valve timing system the 1.4 petrol engine offers up plenty of punch without resorting to turbocharging, but because the real oomph’s only to be discovered above 3,000rpm it’s a car that encourages you to drive it by the scruff of its neck – probably the reason why I only managed, despite my best efforts, to get a shade over forty to the gallon in it. It’s great for rev-happy blasts along country lanes, but effortless motorway overtaking really isn’t the SRI’s strong suit.

It’s a similarly mixed bag when you get to the corners too, because while it handles with plenty of aplomb the steering is nowhere near sharp enough to encourage a keen driver to start enjoying it. The SRI is keenly priced, handles well and is still one of the best looking superminis on the market – particularly after Ford’s not entirely successful facelift of the Fiesta – but in every other respect it’s comprehensively outclassed not just by the Fiesta, but by Peugeot’s 208 as well.

 It’s got plenty to offer, but until Vauxhall’s new Corsa comes on stream next year I couldn’t really recommend it.

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