Britain’s oldest car-maker is gearing up for the electric future, beginning with the Corsa-e, writes Robin Roberts.
The highly popular small hatchback is a natural starting point aimed at those who mostly commute or have low mileage lifestyles.
Responding to the UK Government’s drive towards lower and zero emission cars from 2030, the Vauxhall Corsa-e is available in six trim versions and purely electric drive.
Launched just before all car sales slowed when the coronavirus erupted, Vauxhall has since rejigged the ev model trims, reduced prices, improved specifications with new names and we tested the launch Elite Nav which has been since upgraded. The upgrades see the price list showing the Corsa-e series at almost double their petrol stablemates, which is a real setback to ownership.
Even at the higher price, the Corsa-e comes with only a rapid charger power cable and if you want to charge at home from a normal domestic socket the optional cable will cost over £585.
Vauxhall is hoping to boost the take up of its Corsa-e with a special home charging offer until 11 January. Take out a PCP at £330 a month and British Gas will fit a Home Charging Unit with Exclusive Tariff covering 30,000 miles electricity credit.
The offer is available on Corsa-e Personal Contract Hire whilst stocks last and users receive a free six-month subscription to the Polar public charging network when away from home.
A key change for 2021 models is the on-the-road price reduction across every all-electric Corsa-e variant, with savings of more than £1,000 on-the-road for entry-level SE Nav Premium models, making each of the six fully electric models better value.
All Corsa-e trim levels have also been renamed for 2021, and now include ‘Premium’ as part of the new naming structure in recognition of the comprehensive standard equipment. The Corsa-e is available in SE Nav Premium, SRi Nav Premium and Elite Nav Premium.
All Corsa-e models feature a 50kWh battery and 100kW or 136PS electric motor, capable of a claimed 209 miles potential range from a single charge. Supporting up to 100kW rapid charging, an 80% charge can be achieved in just 30 minutes.
For instance a near 80% charge indicated about 120 miles on our test car but after just a few miles it was down to about 100miles.
Staying off motorways and high speed roads and using A-class roads we managed to regenerate some electricity by coasting and braking and after 52 miles journey it indicated about 98 miles left to range.
That was confusing enough and I am told ambient temperatures can have a significant impact on the charging and range. However, returning the same 52 miles saw the range falling to a little over 45 miles.
This wide fluctuation in energy use and range over the same distance defies logic. Even running with lights and heating may affect range and in the winter you need wipers as well and have to factor in these power uses.
That said, the charging network is growing and you are usually fairly close to a point but it’s best to use a dedicated charging map and sign up to a number of power point providers to make payment as easy as possible. We had an issue with an Engie chargepoint at Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli which was overcome with a call to the control centre and a very helpful assistant. It’s just that you don’t want to be stuck at a poorly lit charge point on a cold evening while the car reboots. A domestic charging connection should be standard not an extra.
The connection and range issues aside, the Corsa-e is a very civilised commuter car with excellent seats and a comfortable ride, good infotainment and connectivity and a respectable turn of speed when needed. Heating and ventilation was good.
Press on and the Corsa-e chassis is up to the job, delivering good responses to steering, brakes and throttle, with strong roadholding and no vices in its handling.
A slim-roofline design ensures excellent vision and the wipers and lights are up to their task on winter days.
Controls are well laid out around the wheel, across the fascia and on the central console and the driver and passengers have good but not exceptional room.
Access is easy and the reasonable sized boot quick to load or empty with a near doubling of capacity when the rear seatback is folded.
With its electric motor spinning away and driving the front wheels, there is very little mechanical noise in the Corsa-e and what is comes from the tyres and suspension.
After the initial shock of the list price, the Corsa-e running costs are very low with, at the time of writing, no tax costs and recurring charges are non-existent. You need to shop around for the best insurance deal, however.
There is a place in the UK market for the Corsa-e but Vauxhall really need to look at its pricing in the sector where other pure battery and hybrid models are competing for buyers. One of its assets is that the hatchback battery electric vehicle does not have a lot of identical rivals and most BEVs are found in the crossover or mpv styles.
|Vauxhall Corsa-e Elite Nav 11kW
|Price: £31,810 after £3,000 grant and inc. options
|Mechanical: 100kW/136ps synchronous electric motor, 260Nm, 50kW lithium-ion battery, automatic, front wheel drive
|Max Speed: 93mph
|Range: 209 miles WLTP, 120miles on test
|Insurance Group: 25E
|C02 emissions: 0g/km
|Bik rating: Zero%, £ZeroFY, £ZeroSR
|Warranty: 8yrs/ 100,00 miles
|Size: L4.06m, W1.96m, H1.44m
|Bootspace: 309 – 1118 litres
For: Easy to drive, very responsive, good handling, comfortable seats and suspension, adequate for four people, good controls, clear visibility, cheap to run
Against: Hugely variable range, comes without domestic charging cable almost £600 extra, road noises prevalent, expensive to buy.