Ford Fiesta ST vs Vauxhall Corsa VXR Clubsport
The Ford Fiesta ST is the benchmark small hot hatch of the moment. This latest version of Vauxhall’s Corsa VXR, the Clubsport, has all the firepower and hardware it needs to take the fight to the brilliant Fiesta, but it’ll need to be a dramatic improvement on earlier Corsa VXRs if it isn’t to be humiliated in this twin test.
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It must also be said that the Corsa is an expensive car (before dealer discounts, certainly). At £22,390 it lists at £5395 more than an entry-level Fiesta ST. This particular example is an ST-2, which costs £17,995, with the £599 Mountune upgrade.
Both cars are powered by 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engines, driving the front wheels through six-speed manual gearboxes. The Fiesta has the edge on power output; 212bhp plays 202bhp, while 236lb ft of torque comfortably outpunches 184lb ft.
Where the Fiesta makes do with an open differential and an electronic torque vectoring system to transfer all of that power to the road, the Corsa has a Drexler limited-slip differential.
To further complement its power advantage the Fiesta has a clear edge on weight, too. Its 1163kg at the kerb is some way short of the Corsa’s 1223kg, which should benefit all aspects of performance, not to mention fuel efficiency.
Performance and handling
On corner exit, the Corsa puts its mechanical limited-slip differential to good use. Planting the throttle at the apex will either trigger the Fiesta’s traction control system or send it understeering wide, but the same action has the Corsa scrambling out of the corner without wasting a single horsepower. It’ll also tighten its line quite drastically under power, rather than washing out, which means the driver can reapply the throttle much sooner than in the Fiesta. That has the additional benefit of spooling the turbo up sooner to overcome what little lag there is.
That differential defines the Corsa’s driving experience; getting the best out of the Clubsport is all about making best use of that differential. It means that the Corsa has a slight performance edge on the Fiesta immediately out of corners, but once the road opens up a little the ST’s power and torque advantage do start to show.
In fact, in all other areas the Fiesta shows the Corsa the way. Its chassis is much better able to contain vertical and lateral motions on both smooth and uneven roads, making the ST the much more composed of the two. While the Corsa skips and bobs along challenging stretches of blacktop, the Fiesta is level and unflustered. That makes it not only faster along a road, but more enjoyable, too.
Its steering is also more intuitive and feelsome than the Corsa’s, which can be remote when it really matters. The Corsa also has a slightly woolly gearchange – at time you wonder if you missed the gear entirely – which serves to highlight just how pleasant the Fiesta’s mechanical, direct throw really is.
The Fiesta’s engine is also more satisfying with a sharper, freer revving top end. The Corsa’s powerplant can feel a little unrefined and lumpy in its delivery by comparison.
Both cars have Recaro seats, but the Fiesta’s are more supportive; the driver feels more a part of the Fiesta and that’s down, if only in part, to its better seats.
The Corsa is, of course, quite an old car now and that really is beginning to show both inside and out. The Fiesta’s cabin feels much fresher and the exterior styling is sharper. That said, the Corsa still looks every bit the road warrior in Asteroid Grey with black wheels.
In isolation, the Corsa VXR Clubsport is a fun and capable hot hatch. That differential gives it a real sense of excitement, as well as making it seriously quick down an engaging bit of road.
It’s direct comparison with a car as brilliant as the Fiesta ST that shows just where the Corsa fall short, however. The Vauxhall is not only significantly more expensive than the Ford, it’s also a much less accomplished small hot hatch.
Fiesta ST Mountune: five stars+ The small hot hatch class leader- Busy interior isn’t to all tastes
Corsa VXR Clubsport: four stars+ Fast and fun…- …but expensive and shown up by rivals