Get ready for a big turf war. The popular and well-respected Vauxhall Corsa takes on the feisty new kid on the block, Ford’s all-new Fiesta. This is a muscle tussle between the two leading superminis. And the victor is? …… Read on and find out
Big cars are so yesterday. At least, that’s the way it feels in these fiscally-challenged times. Much of the significant action in the new car market is happening lower down the size scale than it used to. Downsizing has never been more popular. All of which puts a very bright spotlight on this particular clash of the tiny Titans, our Head To Head between the new Ford Fiesta and its arch-rival, the newish Vauxhall Corsa. So will it be ‘C’mon’ to the Corsa, or ‘hooray, Henry’ for the Fiesta?
Let’s start at the business end, under the bonnet.Not that you can see very much of the motor in the engine bay of the Corsa. It’s discreetly topped with a big plastic cover that looks very tidy but doesn’t reveal a great deal. It’s a trait that it shares with a good many other cars these days. Not the Fiesta, though. Unlatch the little Ford’s bonnet lever – painted yellow so you can see it if you peer under the edge – and the layout that confronts you looks less tidy but quite a bit more accessible. No big engine-top covers in there to neaten the clutter. It’s a similar story down at the other end. The Corsa’s boot is tidier, trimmed out with fabric that extends nicely up the back of the rear seats. It gives the boot space quite a classy, well-finished look, and Vauxhall’s useful DualFloor system is a standard feature on this model. It splits the boot in two horizontally, creating a covered compartment underneath the apparent boot floor. So far then, the Corsa is nudging ahead. Its tidily tailored boot makes the Fiesta’s look a bit messy and unfinished in comparison. Directly under and behind the Corsa’s boot, set into the centre of the bumper zone, is a handy feature. It’s a Flex-Fix integrated carrier system that includes two bicyclecarrier attachments. No need for roof-top or tailgate-mounted bike carriers, with the Corsa’s clever £375 option, you can transport a pair of bikes mounted sideways behind the car, and still be able to open the boot when they’re there.
“THE FIESTA HAS THE BIGGER ENGINE BY 150CC, BUT IT’S AN EIGHT-VALVE UNIT WHILE THE CORSA IS A 16-VALVE.” “PARK YOURSELF IN THE FORD’S CABIN, AND IMMEDIATELY YOU CAN’T HELP BUT NOTICE THAT THE DASHBOARD IS SPARKIER, THE DÉCOR IS FRESHER, AND THE MAIN SWATHE OF PLASTIC ACROSS THE FASCIA IS ALL SOFTTOUCH .” “FORD’S BABY IS SUPERIOR FOR BOTH FUEL ECONOMY AND CO2 EMISSIONS.”
Over to the Fiesta, which has its own ingenious feature, and arguably a more universally useful one: the innovative Ford Easy Fuel capless refuelling system. This has an automatic fuel shutoff device that prevents you from accidentally topping up the car’s diesel tank with petrol by mistake. It’s not an option, it’s standard kit that comes with the car and is well worth having. Now let’s step inside each of the two cars, and sorry Vauxhall, here the Fiesta wins hands down. Park yourself in the Ford’s cabin, and immediately you can’t help but notice that the dashboard is sparkier, the décor is fresher, and the main swathe of plastic across the fascia is all soft-touch. The main layout of controls has been imaginatively designed to resemble an up-market mobile phone (the iconic Motorola Razr was apparently the inspiration) and it gives the Fiesta’s cockpit a very contemporary look. In comparison, the Corsa’s dash is neatly laid out and competently organised, but looks much more conventional and, frankly, much duller. It’s corporate dark, only relieved by a pattern of slim white flashes adorning the seat upholstery. The fascia is completely kitted out in low-budget, hard surface plastics. It seems rather old-fashioned and a bit clunky alongside the Fiesta, like an old Sony Walkman alongside an iPod Touch. Ford’s colour scheming may not suit every taste, especially the brownishmaroon shade used in our test car, but at least there is some colour in there. Vauxhall have opted for monochrome, unrelieved by any touches of warmth or flair.
So much for showroom appeal. Out on the road is where it really matters. So having driven them both, which set of keys would we snatch up first, next time? Unquestionably the Fiesta’s. For a start, the driving position feels more modern. You sit a touch higher in the Ford, and it feels easier to achieve a really comfortable seating position. The Corsa’s driving seat doesn’t feel quite as supportive, it seems set quite low and less command-control than the Fiesta’s.
The new baby Ford has a remarkably grown-up feel behind the wheel for a relatively small car. Here’s a smaller model you can downsize to without sacrificing very much. The ride is very good, handling feels sure-footed and secure, there is a solidly well-built feel to the structure, and the cabin is such a pleasing place to be. Hop across to the Corsa, and it’s still a very decently mannered car that rides and handles better than we traditionally expect of a car in this class. It’s good, but not quite in the same league as the Fiesta. Neither car is particularly quiet. Engine noise is quite hard to suppress effectively in a car this small, and in both models there is a fair bit of feed-back to let you know that the engine is hard at work up front. How do they compare when you peruse the paper evidence? The Fiesta has the bigger engine by 150cc, but it’s an eight-valve unit while the Corsa is a 16-valve. Both cars have fivespeed manual gearboxes. The Fiesta’s bhp and torque are both lower than the Corsa’s, and the Ford is slower to 60mph. Both cars have identical top speeds, though. The Corsa can lug a bigger load than the Fiesta, so for anyone tempted to tow a trailer behind one of these, the Corsa is obviously the one to go for.
On the other hand, Ford’s baby is superior for both fuel economy and CO2 emissions. It does 67.2mpg on the combined cycle, nearly 5mpg better than its rival. Both cars qualify for £35 a year road tax, but the Fiesta’s CO2 figure is 110g/km against the Corsa’s 119g/km. What about running costs? The Fiesta is dearer on initial purchase, but also expects to hold its second-hand value a touch better. They pay the same rate of Vehicle Excise Duty. The Fiesta drinks less fuel. On insurance the Corsa fares slightly better than the Fiesta, though there’s not much in it. They’re just one insurance group apart. Had we been able to test the cheaper Fiesta Style model, the groupings would have been identical for both cars at group 3. Ford quotes a 12,500 miles service interval for the Fiesta, but the Corsa’s is 20,000 miles.
With the two cars running so close from so many aspects, the choice between them must come down to individual preference, maybe more a heart than a head thing. If you do a high mileage, are concerned about servicing frequency, or happen to live near to a convenient Vauxhall dealer, the Corsa could well woo you. If not, chances are you’ll lean towards the Fiesta.
Our verdict? Each car deserves its fans, both cars deserve to do well. We’ll take the one that’s the more engaging company, the most fun to drive, and the most appealing environment in which to travel. The Corsa is a very good little car, but the Fiesta is even better. It’s our clear winner.