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Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 SRi

By Tabitha Hergest

Vauxhall is a name which traces its origins back to the Middle Ages, when one Fulke le Brealte, a squire of King John, established a hall south of the Thames.  Through a number of changes, the area eventually became as we know it today.

The present home of MI6, the area used to contain the Vauxhall Iron Works, who started making cars in 1903.  The Great Depression saw the car company sold off to the American General Motors, who have since preserved the name, now exclusively for the British market.

Vauxhall, and indeed Opel (which name the same products carry on the continent) are said to produce dull, work-a-day cars, 'though my experience of them is anything other than dull.  I learnt to drive in a Vauxhall, even if my driving instructor's "he-man" duplicate controls weren't standard issue, it was still quite edifying.  Later - much later, I drove a new Vauxhall Cavalier, and was impressed by its power and quietness.

I didn't, however, know what to expect of the Corsa.  What used to be the smallest car in the Vauxhall range (the first iteration of what was always called a Corsa on the continent used to be called the Nova, until someone pointed out that no va is Spanish for not moving) is now supplanted by the rather lovely Adam, a car which we've mistaken for a Citroen before now.

The Corsa SRi is a lovely car to drive.  It handles superbly - on twisty roads in the Forest of Dean we had it dancing nimbly through the corners - the clutch on the five-speed gearbox (which comes replete with cruise control, which by use of the column stalk you can also use to increase or decrease your speed) is nicely weighted, making the car easy to manoeuvre.  Despite its five doors, the chassis aided handling: the reason rally cars are almost always two door is because the shortage of opening aids stiffness, and thus it handles better,  It took four of us, and our luggage, on a two day excursion, but the luggage space wasn't especially generous.  We had concerns, too, that the gearing was off - at seventy, the 1.2 litre lump was audibly whining at 3000 RPM: whilst cars of this engine capacity are best around town, the SRi specification betokens a sporting heritage which, in Vauxhalls, harks back to the early years of the company and the Prince Henry.

The car is well equipped, too.  Although it doesn't have auto engine stop and hybrid technology, that's no bad thing.  What it does have is air conditioning, a multi-function computer which monitors all sorts of things on the car including tyre pressure(!), and digital as well as analogue speedometer.  It's a bit of a learning curve for two days from cold, but it would keep the most gadget-proud man happy for a while.

Vauxhall is a badge exclusive to the British market, which is sad.  Were it to compete against Opel on the continent, Holden in Australia and other GM products in America, it would doubtless be a filip for British interests - especially given its London roots.  But then, the cross-competitive nature of conglomerate businesses is part of what did for British Leyland...

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