Affordable Electric Cars? – Vauxhall Corsa-E Elite Nav 7.4kW review.
For – attractive, well made, well equipped, great commuter, amazing “regenerative braking”.
Against – out of depth on the highway, too expensive.
I last drove a Vauxhall Corsa about 4 years ago. I rented it, (well an Opel Corsa in fact) at Milan airport and it was probably the worst car I’ve ever driven. Shoddily built, cheap materials, and gutless. Times have certainly changed.
This new Corsa is very well put together, with all the tech stuff and luxury of a premium German. It is pure electric (there is of course a petrol and diesel range), so if you’re going to charge over £30,000 for what is really a little city car, you best add some highfalutin gizmos to soften the blow a little. The price clearly disqualifies it from the quest for an affordable electric car, but sadly so does the range. Vauxhall claims range of 209 miles, although my attempts at recharging never managed to get higher than 167 miles and a low of 142 miles.
(Vauxhall ownership has moved from General Motors to Groupe PSA, otherwise known as Peugeot, but soon to become Stellantis after PSA merges with Fiat Chrysler. Got it?).
But around town and on country roads it was a terrific commuter and the use of “regenerative braking” – you pull back the gear changer from D to B to engage it – recaptures energy to the battery when the car is moving down an incline. It can pay big dividends. This seemed hit and miss though. When you engage “regenerative braking” you can instantly feel the car brake a little as you lift off the accelerator pedal. This was unpredictable on this car and didn’t always work. But when it does it is quite remarkable. For instance, a 34 mile round trip in the Corsa e to a higher destination (The Dyke Golf Club since you ask) removed 19 miles from the predicted range availability outward bound. On the way back, using the recaptured energy, a theoretical zero miles was used so the whole trip used up only 19 miles.
Turns sour on the highway
All this turns sour when you venture on to a highway. On a trip cruising at about an indicated 75 mph, the 30 mile trip (Shoreham to Lewes and back on the A27) used up 62 miles from the indicated range, so your thoughts quickly turn to recharging. And don’t get me going on this because what should be a simple transaction is anything but (see my Forbes story here) – https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilwinton/2020/08/23/incompetent-charging-could-stall-electric-car-sales-in-europe-excluding-tesla/#6812f2612f91.
The Corsa E is a joy to drive, although this is getting to be a bit of cliché for electric cars. The acceleration is instantaneous and available right through the speed range. The steering and suspension were just fine. Bombing through my favourite corners on my test route, the car felt stable and safe. Inside, the trim was smart, the screen impressive and the leather seats astonishing after my shoddy Milan airport experience. There wasn’t much room in the rear seats, and both had to be folded down to load up golf gear. But this is a small car, after all. The graphic displays were smart. I particularly like the one which demonstrated how and when the “regenerative braking” was giving back free electricity. Oddly though, the movement of free electricity back into the battery was coloured blue, while the consumption showed up as green. The same colours applied on the regular dashboard readout. Why not the other way around?
And there’s no shortage of gizmos. Vauxhall puts it like this.
“The all-new Corsa-e features dynamic performance and a sporty design without compromising on comfort or practicality. LED lights deliver world-class beam technology into the small car segment for the first time, while standard safety and driver assistance features include Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Lane Keep Assist and Traffic Sign Recognition.”
There are two trim levels – SE Nav and Elite Nav. Standard includes automatic climate control, electric parking brake and keyless entry. There’s a 7-inch colour touchscreen and a digital cockpit as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The 50kWh battery supports up to 100kW rapid charging, with an 80% charge taking just 30 minutes, after you’ve found a compatible charging station, downloaded the app, filled in the form, selected a password, written it down etc. Best to make sure you invest in a home charger like my ChargePoint, which will keep you going through most of the year if you are a typical motorist. The train might be a better option if you’re planning a trip of more than 2 hours and your blood pressure is a bit suspect.
What to buy?
There is a huge range of battery powered choices now available, but none which qualifies as an “affordable” electric car; an electric vehicle that can compete with petrol and diesel performance, and price. The Hyundai Kona and Kia-e Niro seem to have the best range for the price. The Honda e, the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, Peugeot e208, Hyundai Ioniq, SEAT Miii electric and this Corsa-E will all provide terrific short-range commuting service. But none make much sense if you head for the open road. We await the imminent VW ID.3 to find if it can perform as an all-rounder like petrol and diesel cars. We already know the Tesla Model 3 can, but it’s pricey.
There seems an obvious solution to this problem. Clearly, electric cars can perform admirably on commuter runs, but fail miserably on the highway. They are also unaffordable, at least they will be when governments run out of subsidy money. So why don’t carmakers admit defeat (at least for the time being). They can’t make an affordable electric car because they are incapable of matching internal combustion engines’ range. Instead, design a cheap and cheerful car of limited range, a turbo-charged golf cart say, that does a few jobs, local commute, shopping, school run; max price £5,000, job done.
|Vauxhall Corsa-E Elite Nav 7.4kW|
|Engine:||134 hp synchronous electric motor|
|Acceleration:||0-60 mph 100 km/h 7.6 seconds|
|Top Speed:||93 mph 150 km/h|
|Claimed battery range:||209 miles
WintonsWorld road test - 142 to 167 miles
|CO2:||0 g/km from tailpipe|
|Charging:||100 kW 30 minutes-80%, 22kW 5 hours-80%|
|Boot capacity:||309/1,118 litres|
|Competition:||Honda e, Hyundai Kona, Kia-e-Niro, Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, VW ID.3, Mini e, Fiat 500e, Peugeot e208, Tesla Model 3, Hyundai Ioniq, Citroen eC4, BMW i3, SEAT Miii electric, Skoda Citigo e, Smart e|
|Would I buy one?||No
|Price:||£30,875 after £3,000 government grant|
|For:||attractive, well made, well equipped, great commuter, amazing “regenerative braking”|
|Against:||out of depth on the highway, too expensive|