It’s a relief to be writing about cars that you can physically go out and buy for a change. For the past few months, as you know, you could read but not touch as the lockdown closed dealer doors. How many of us will bother with a new motor this year is anyone’s guess but at least, to quote Barack Obama, we can: is féidir linn.
o the distinction of being the first new car to be reviewed here as the lockdown begins to ease, appropriately enough, an electric vehicle.
Appropriate? Well yes, given that the Government is committed to an outright sales ban of new fossil-fuel cars by the end of the decade. That’s what they say anyway, but there is a long road ahead.
So step up the Opel Corsa-e, the first electric car from the marque now part of the French PSA group. Outwardly, it differs little from its fossil-fuel Corsa siblings apart from a few little e-badges on the side windows and boot. But it gets a fair old dollop of extra equipment compared with the diesel and petrols.
That helps, considering the opening price is €27,000 or thereabouts, while my higher-trim version costs nearly €31,000. It is a lot of money for an admittedly roomy supermini, but the main reason for the cost is the simple fact it is electric. We should never forget that it would be €10,000 more again, only that we taxpayers are subsidising it so significantly.
To be fair, the price/package is competitive as it is for perceived rivals such as the Peugeot e-208, Renault Zoe, Mini electric, Hyundai Ioniq and Nissan Leaf.
Technically, the Opel is a match for any of them. There is 100kW (136hp) of power and it felt spritely when I pushed for pickup. It can nip from a standing start to 100kmh in 8.1 secs. The 50kWh battery pack (216 cells arranged in 18 modules) can manage a range of up to 337km between charges. Fast charging will get you 80pc of that in 30 minutes. I’m pessimistic about the 337km claim; based on my driving, I’d say you’ll do well to get into the late 200kms even with careful use of the pedal and a limited number of longer higher-speed drives.
It was grand in urban driving at low speeds, especially where I could capture deceleration and braking energy. But, predictably, anything approaching motorway velocity burnt up range rapidly. I stuck with Normal driving mode but dabbled with Eco and Sport occasionally.
The Corsa is a sturdy little number but, after driving its Peugeot first cousin (they belong in the same group), it has to be said it doesn’t have its exterior design or interior flair. Whatever about the former, I think the latter will become an increasingly distinguishing priority.
That said, the Peugeot has a stand-out cabin that outshines the others too. But the contrast with the Corsa was all the more marked because I got out of one and into the other.
Nonetheless, it was nicely set up to drive; there was an excellent feel to it on the road and it was easy to get around in general thanks to excellent steering and feedback.
Within the PSA Group, Opel is emphasising its German-build quality as a distinguishing feature. That is reflected in the more straightforward, direct design lines and comes across in the sturdy looking dash/central console. This is easy to use and key driving information and infotainment are presented clearly. It’s an area that can be overlooked. Some can be really fussy and poorly positioned, which can force you to peer for much longer than should be the case.
After initial reservations about looks and dash, I have to say the Corsa grew on me as I tipped about on the sort of nip-around urban journeys for which it was made. It was grand on longer drives, too but, understandably, like all the others in that respect, could not escape the physical reality: the faster you go, the more power you use more rapidly in an EV.
Would I buy one? I could make a good, strong case for it – as I could for most of the rivals, each with their own pros and cons. But I, and thousands of rural dwellers, want something to get us at 600km/700km without having to refill – be it petrol, diesel or electricity.
We are at the starting gate of the electric journey but the more I drive EVs, the more I see an urban-rural divide for some time to come.
Facts & Figures
Opel Corsa-e electric car:
From €27,338 (SC trim), Elite (on test) €30,800. SC includes 7in t/screen, speed sign recognition, hill assist, cruise control, LED headlights, 16in alloys, high beam assist. ‘Elite’ adds multimedia infotainment system, 10in t/screen/7in cluster, half-leather effect, 17in alloys, rear-view camera, parking sensors, intelligent speed adaption, auto wipers/headlights.