2015 Opel Corsa OPC driven
OPC development kingpin and former DTM star Volker Strycek (’84 champ, in an awkwardly un-Opel 635CSi BMW) isn’t kidding when he claims the new Corsa OPC’s stability control system is more laidback than a well-fed cat in the afternoon sun. Now with three positions (on, off and an intermediate Competition mode, which disables traction control while slackening the stability control leash), Strycek says the system was added only after the chassis had been fully developed the electronics are no sticking plaster and that it’s intelligent, giving you more leeway if, by some miracle, your mad flailing at the wheel tallies with the system’s idea of calm. The new Corsa OPC’s electronic safety net is certainly entertainingly laissez faire, letting the car’s rear end stray to some pretty significant angles should you get enthusiastic, and that’s before you even get to Competition mode. It’s a little edgy but likeably so this may be a more refined Corsa OPC than its torque-spiking, diff-tugging predecessor, but it’s still a bit hairy. OPC fans wouldn’t want it any other way.Based on the new-ish Corsa launched this year vastly improved interior, beaming Pokemon face the latest litle OPC is cheaper, slicker, faster and better equipped than before, all in a bid to divert even a fraction of the PCP-funded hordes currently charging into Ford dealerships and tearing out in Fiesta STs. A performance Pack brings bigger wheels (18-inch rims wearing Michelin Super Sport rubber), bigger brakes (330mm Brembos up front), a mechanical limited-slip differential and a firmer but not intolerable suspension set-up. (The bespoke Konis use bypass valves to help give both firm low-frequency damping, for good body control, and increased pliancy on high-frequency movements, for some semblance of ride quality. Standard cars use the same technology but run a softer set-up). The Performance Pack box bumps the price up but to less than comparable previous-gen’s Nerburgring edition Corsa OPC.
The engine’s an evolution of the previous car’s 1598cc turbocharged four, with tweaks to the fuel injection, air intake and the exhaust (a less restrictive but surprisingly hushed Remus) to usefully reduce emissions while marginally increasing performance. Peak power is up a little to 151kW but the bigger difference is a broader spread of torque; 245Nm from 1900rpm to 5800rpm as opposed to the previous car’s 2250rpm to 5500rpm. An overboost function unlocks a further punch of torque for five seconds. It’s not an engine to fall in love with its delivery is too flat for that, its voice too uninspiring but it is willing, smooth and always on-hand with useful grunt. It’s quick too, squirting the car to 100kph in a respectable 6.5 seconds and proving very adept at the kind of spontaneous in-gear overtakes that can mean the difference between km of empty road and an hour behind an eighteen-wheeler .Inside there’s also a good level of standard equipment, with a pair of fantastic Recaro front bucket seats, a smart flat-bottomed steering wheel, various bits of OPC-specific trim, a heated screen, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, cruise control and the now-familiar Opel dash of glossy black with tasteful chrome accents, an intuitive, crystal-clear touchscreen interface and intuitive Intellilink connectivity. The driving position’s cosy but comfortable and materials, detailing and finish all bear close scrutiny, though the firm ride prompts the odd squeak on rough roads and the tyre roar on the 18-inch wheels is pretty invasive on some surfaces, at least until you remember to whack up the volume on the deep trance.
On the road the Performance Pack Corsa OPC is a rapid, involving drive. The more linear, less dramatic power delivery works with the more refined limited-slip differential to let you use more throttle in any given scenario than you might reasonably expect of a front-wheel-drive hatch, with the diff in particular going about its line-tightening mid-corner black magic with little more than a smidge of corruption to the crisp, quick and nicely accurate steering.While some might lament the passing of the previous car’s mad drama, particularly on wet roads, a few km in what is clearly a lovingly honed little performance car will soon help them move on. Failing that, just get it on track, where the feisty Opel acquits itself nicely with its poise, easy power and darty enthusiasm for getting into corners at speed.
Without the Performance Pack the Corsa OPC feels caught between two stools less focused than the mightily capable and rewarding Fiesta ST but lacking the day-to-day refinement of the slick, relatively grown-up Polo GTI. So it’s Performance Pack or bust, complete with its honest ride quality, fine body control, oodles of sheer mechanical grip and all the adjustability you could wish for, and possibly a little more.