The visionary who slipped an Opel Corsa onto General Motors' stand at last January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit is the individual currently strutting corporate halls with the "I told you so!" look on his face. If only Saturn's general manager, Jill Lajdziak, had mustered the courage to splash an ARRIVING THIS FALL banner over the electric-blue Corsa OPC hatchback. A fun, affordable fuel-sipper would be the perfect addition to the Opel-sired Astra, Aura, and Vue models already gracing Saturn showrooms and an excellent alternative to the Korean-built Chevy Aveo and Pontiac G3 at the gimme-mileage end of GM's product range.
Last summer, an Opel Corsa Sport served as our support vehicle during a weeklong Ferrari fest in Italy. Equipped with a 1.4-liter Twinport Ecotec four-cylinder generating 90 hp, it was no ball of fire, but this two-door hatchback felt solid and sure-footed, as you'd expect of any subcompact engineered to hum flat-out on the autobahn for hours on end. We clocked a top speed of 112 mph, recorded 24 mpg over 800 miles of hard driving, and thoroughly enjoyed the Corsa's congenial spirit.
Although most Americans consider 90 hp barely enough to power their air-conditioning, the Corsa's 1.4-liter gasoline engine is one of eight power sources ranging from a 60-hp, 1.0-liter puddle jumper to a spunky 192-hp, 1.6-liter turbo. To supplement five gasoline engines, there are three turbo-diesels ranging from 75 hp (1.3 liters) to 125 hp (1.7 liters).
Offering a hint of its future plans, GM presented a diesel/electric hybrid Corsa at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show. Combining a 1.3-liter turbo-diesel engine with a belt-driven starter/alternator increases fuel efficiency to a claimed 63 mpg. Shutting down the engine at stoplights, employing regenerative braking to convert unwanted momentum to electricity, and using the starter/alternator to boost acceleration are standard hybrid operating procedures. The only part of this concept that's not quite ready for production is the Corsa's lithium-ion battery pack.
Regrettably, GM probably won't roll Corsa-sized cars and crossovers into Saturn showrooms until the next-generation design is ready in three or so years.
Why We Want It:
Cheap, fun German engineering.
Why We Need It:
Where tiny hatches are concerned, autobahn breeding is thin on the ground.