40 years of Opel Corsa: a success story in six acts
2022 is an anniversary year for Opel: the company has been making innovations affordable for everyone for 160 years, whilst at the same time one of its biggest bestsellers is celebrating its 40th birthday. The Opel Corsa revolutionised the small car segment with its premiere in 1982 and today, in its sixth generation, is as successful as ever. Last year, the current Corsa was the most popular small car in Germany and the best-selling car in the UK. The battery-electric Opel Corsa-e won the Golden Steering Wheel 2020 and now already accounts for around one-quarter of Corsa sales. To date, 40 years after its launch, well over 14 million units have rolled off the assembly lines.
The Corsa rolled off the production line for the first time in the autumn of 1982 in the newly built car plant in Zaragoza and immediately took off on its path to becoming a bestseller for Opel. At just 3.62 meters long. Chief designer Erhard Schnell had created a sporty small car with crisp, chiseled lines, sporting bold, flared wheel-arches like a rally car. It had an exceptionally low 0.36 drag coefficient. The highlight was the 100hp Corsa GSi, and diesel power was also introduced. The two-door hatch and notchback line-up was expanded in 1985 with the addition of the popular five-door model. The Corsa A became a highly acclaimed top seller with 3.1 million units built.
Despite the success of Corsa number 1, the decision was taken to position its successor as a real ‘ladies’ darling’. Opel design legend Hideo Kodama set to work and created a much rounder, softer Corsa, with appealing ‘saucer-eye’ headlamps. The Corsa B was ten centimeters longer and much more spacious inside than its predecessor. It also introduced higher safety standards to its segment, including ABS cadence braking, side-impact protection and front airbags. Petrol engines already had fuel-injection technology and catalytic converters, while the GSi featured 16 valves and diesel power was now turbo-charged. The second Corsa was successful around the world and topped the four million sales mark.
In the spirit of never changing a winning team, Hideo Kodama was again asked to design the shape of the Corsa C. The Corsa grew again by ten centimeter in length and had a wider stance with a longer wheelbase, which greatly increased interior space. For the first time, the body was fully galvanized. Sophisticated four-valve ECOTEC petrol and new direct-injection turbo diesel engines ensured strong power, low fuel consumption and low emission values, to meet the Euro 4 emission standards. The Corsa C also became a star performer and sold 2.5 million units.
From this point, the three and five-door versions go their separate ways: the three-door Corsa had unique, coupé-like styling aimed at sporty customers, just like the original Corsa A. The five-door variant became a spacious, fully-fledged family car, just less than four meters in length. With Opel’s ecoFLEX technology, the Corsa had fuel-saving Start/Stop systems and highly efficient engines. The 1.3 CDTI ecoFLEX version consumed just 3.3 l/100km (combined) and emitted only 88 g/km CO2 (NEDC). The fourth generation Corsa sold over 2.9 million units.
Dynamic, practical and stylish, the Corsa E was also a bestseller with around 1.3 million units sold. At just over the 4m length mark, it offered high comfort and top technologies. Features included a heated steering wheel, heated seats, automatic climate control, front camera with distance indicator, Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Keep Assist, a 7” colour touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The small car’s sporty top-of-the-line model was initially the 207hp Corsa OPC and later, the Corsa GSi 150hp.
Today. the latest generation of the small car, which celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Frankfurt International Motor Show, was launched with petrol, diesel and battery-electric powertrains for the first time. With a length of 4.06 metres, the five-seat Corsa’s handling, practicality, safety, technology and comfort features remain exemplary. With this recipe for success, the small car with the Blitz has once again become a best-seller in countries such as Germany and Great Britain. In Germany, the Corsa-e won the “Golden Steering Wheel 2020” and as a modified Corsa-e Rally, it is demonstrating in motorsport how top performance and environmental compatibility can be combined.