The Opel Corsa OPC is the most powerful hot hatch available for under $30,000, and as it turns out, one of the most fun.
Priced from $28,990 (before on-road costs) the city-size Opel Corsa OPC – or ‘Opel Performance Centre’, the German marque’s sports-tuning off-shoot – is set to become the entry point for Opel’s performance range in Australia. Unlike the Astra OPC and Insignia OPC models that are on-sale now, however, the Corsa OPC isn’t expected until March/April.
At the heart of the Corsa OPC is a 1.6-litre turbocharged four making 141kW at 5850rpm and a none-too-insignificant 230Nm from 1980-5800rpm – plenty enough to fend off those other pint-sized hot hatches.
An extra 30Nm of torque arrives by way of an overboost function that briefly kicks in under full throttle in the top four gear ratios of the six-speed manual gearbox.
Only the acclaimed Renault Clio RS200 Cup produces more power (147.5kW), but uses a 2.0-litre non-turbo engine that makes less torque (215Nm). It also carries a $7500 premium over the Opel.
It’s enough to propel the 1280kg Corsa OPC from zero to 100km/h in a claimed 7.2 seconds, or 1.1 seconds quicker than the Clio (8.1), but two-tenths slower than the DSG-only Polo GTI’s claimed 7.0 seconds.
Behind the wheel, it doesn’t take long before the Opel Corsa OPC puts a grin on your face.
Right from the get-go you’ll appreciate the extra low-down torque afforded by the overboost facility. Power is both smooth and linear in its delivery.
However, mid-range acceleration is where the Corsa delivers its best performance – the proof being the Opel’s 80km/h to 120km/h time of 6.7 seconds – in fifth gear.
OPC has tweaked the chassis too – it sits 15mm lower to the ground than the regular Corsa, and the rear axle geometry has been modified for increased stiffness and a significantly reduced roll rate (down by a whopping 25 per cent).
The result being there’s next to no body roll even when you’re on the limit through turns three and four at Sydney Motorsport Park.
While the Corsa doesn’t get the Astra OPC’s powerful Brembo brakes, its 308mm front and 264mm-size discs do a superb job in hauling the car up under repeated heavy loads.
We like the electro-hydraulic steering too, especially the direct 13:1 steering ratio. It weights up nicely in the fast corners and lightens up during low speed parking manoeuvres, as it should do.
Given the Corsa OPC’s young target market, it’s no surprise that there’s nothing understated about the design. This is a car that craves attention.
A deep front splitter with satin-finish foglight surrounds, gills on the side of the bumper, odd-shaped side mirrors with a hollow base, and a Clio-style rear diffuser and triangular exhaust tip pump the aggression over the regular Opel Corsa hatchback.
Apart from the overcooked wing mirrors, the Opel Corsa OPC looks every bit the genuine article, especially when riding on the optional 18-inch alloys (up from the standard 17-inch rims).
Hot hatches of any breed require an interior that looks a cut above that of regular cooking models, and the Corsa OPC mostly delivers on that formula.
While the pixellated mono entertainment screen looks cheap, and the hard interior plastics a reminder that the Corsa hatchback is now six years old – having launched in Europe in 2006 – the real-deal Recaro seats (complete with side airbags) are truly excellent, both on and off the track.
There’s a refreshing clarity about the OPC’s dash after the bewildering collection of buttons you’re forced to decipher in its larger Astra OPC and Insignia OPC siblings.
The OPC-badged flat-bottomed steering wheel is great to grip and hold, too, but the shift lever doesn’t feel anywhere near as good as that in the Astra.
Like all Opel models sold in Australia, the Corsa OPC scores a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating, boasting a full suite of gear including six airbags, stability control with traction control and anti-locking brakes.
The Opel also gets a generous inventory of standard-fit creature comforts, including one-touch front windows (up/down), climate control air conditioning, OPC deluxe floor mats (front/rear), OPC door sill plates, Bluetooth, cruise control, rear park assist, auto headlamps and wipers, keyless entry and sports alloy pedals.
Options consist of just two items: premium paint at $595 and 18-inch alloys for $1000. Refreshingly for some enthusiasts, an automatic transmission isn’t available, and with Renault following Volkswagen with Polo GTI, offering a dual-clutch gearbox only in its next generation Clio RS, the Opel Corsa OPC may prove to be the budget, sorted, old school sweet spot for fans of the hot hatch genre.
Unfortunately, our test drive in the Corsa OPC was limited to the race track, so a more definitive review of the car focusing on ride quality on public roads and combined fuel economy will follow later in March, when test cars become available.