Opel introduced in August last year two “green” versions in their two popular series Corsa and Astra. Having never driven the Corsa so far, we took the opportunity to drive for you their compact baby in the ecological series “ecoFLEX.” The car surprised us not only with its frugality, but also won our harts with its (very) good manners and lively performance.
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Before we say anything about the engine or mechanicals, we would like to tell you more about the Corsa itself. We found the styling quite pleasing from any angle, and the car looks pleasingly “grown up” without a trace of the usual compact car allures.
This was also a car where one could enter without having to remove your hat or without being obliged to tilt your head in the post awkward positions. We can assure you that this is becoming a very rare feat in our present-day passenger cars. A pleasing seating position was also quickly found on the firm but very supportive seats. Roominess is found both in front and in the back of this car, despite the coupé –like styling of the tested 3-door version.
The finish both inside and out and the quality of the chosen materials is also beyond reproach and the test car was well equipped with very good radio and sound system, with a navigation system also being built in.
No small wonder that the Corsa was elected “Family Car of the Year” in 2007 in Flanders by the Flemish Automobile Club. This prize is awarded by a jury and some 60 families. By the way, since its introduction in 2006, the present Corsa now has been sold already more than 600.000 times…
The car behaves quite well both in city and open roads, and even on the German Autobahnen, where we drove it to see some of the not to be missed German Christmas markets, it is able to cruise at speeds well into 140-150 kph, without any significant wind or road noise. The car also remained utterly stable at these speeds, and indeed road holding and ‘sure-footedness’ in any circumstances is also one of the qualities of the car.
Economical and lively
The engine is a reworked version of the familiar 1.3 CDTI, and develops the same 75 hp as the normal version. But the engine has been equipped with further optimized engine management and a standard maintenance-free particle filter.
The marking strips on the rev counter show the driver that the car is most economical at engine speeds between 1300 and 2000 rpm, and at these lower revs is still quite flexible with a maximum torque of 170 Nm, which it actually develops between 1750 and 2500 rpm. Keeping carefully to the lower rev ranges, the consumption is nothing short of astonishing; it did not take any effort to reach average consumption figures between 4 and 4.5 litres in heavy city (Christmas shopping) traffic , alternated with speedy ‘Autobahn’ work.
The engine is very quiet when warmed up and at higher cruising speeds, but develops a distinct albeit not unpleasant roar between 1500 and 2500 rpm when pulling hard or accelerating. We just imagined – nostalgic buffs as we are – that we were driving a Mille Miglia Balilla coupé streamliner which produces the same sound, but of course none of the pulling power of this wonderful Diesel.
It only reminds us how well developed present-day “classic” engine technology has become, and what can be achieved by further optimizing the engine management of today’s Diesels.
To achieve excellent liveliness and performance, a top speed of 168 kph and an acceleration of 0 to 100 km in 14.5 seconds actually belie somewhat the subjective impression of agility one has, the smooth changing 5 speed gearbox being more than sufficient.
Of course, the Corsa in this ecoFLEX version has been lowered some 20 mm, the gear ratios are higher, and air scoops and ducts were further optimized for an uninterrupted airflow. Our test car came equipped with aluminum wheels, but in the standard version the wheels are smaller with lower rolling resistance (175/70) and the lighter 14 inch steel wheels have more streamlined wheel covers.
The weight of the car has been brought down by some 45 kilos. All this results in some admirably “green” figures: the CO2 emissions are down to 109g/km, meaning that the Flemish government will subsidize your purchase by some 200 Euros, and the Walloon government, if you live there, will add another 800 Euro as an “Ecobonus” on top of that…
The Corsa struck us as a very well-balanced car, lively and besides its frugality a true joy to drive. We know that the excellent Insignia will also be launched with the ecoFLEX version, as is the popular Astra. We look forward for a drive with these cars, and will report you about it.
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The compact Corsa combines agility and frugality, the good perfmance paying good tribute to the "lightning" logo of the marque...
The fuel meter moves really very slowly in this Corsa ecoFLEX...