Those in the market for a feisty hot hatch are somewhat spoilt for choice, with the likes of Ford, Mini and Fiat all offering spicy yet surprisingly practical runarounds.
Vauxhall has long been at the forefront of race-spec, road going models with its line of rapid VXRs and the latest to get the track-day treatment is the mighty popular little Corsa.
Sporty spills on a shoestring
A hot hatch has always been a great choice if you want to get your Stig on without completely ostracising the family. The Corsa VXR stays true to this cut-price, practical performance mantra, with basic models starting at a very reasonable £17,995. For that, you get a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that has been tuned to develop 202bhp.
Plus, even entry-level models get flashy bi-xenon headlamps and an IntelliLink infotainment system that mirrors a number of smartphone functions onto a basic colour display. It's also cheaper than the rivalling Ford Fiesta ST and VW Polo GTI.
The latest Corsa VXR manages to be both quicker and more economical than the outgoing model it replaces thanks to the re-development of numerous components, most notably the turbo charger and exhaust system. Without getting too technical, the turbo can now suck in more air, while revised fuel injectors deliver a more precise amount of fuel.
The result is a more impressive explosion in the engine and therefore more exciting performance figures. The 0-60mph dash is taken care of in 6.5 seconds and the little Corsa VXR will accelerate all the way to 143mph.
The updates are palpable and a new overboost function makes overtaking slow moving traffic a doddle. It's the dictionary definition of nippy.
Sports Direct styling
Anyone with an aversion to eye-popping paint schemes, boot-lip spoilers and enormous bonnet scoops should probably look elsewhere, as the Corsa VXR has no doubt been designed for those who pick a tracksuit over tweed.
Inside, there is a pair of shell-backed cloth sports seats that grip front passengers like a vice, as well as VXR badging on the doorsills, speedo and gearstick. It's all very racy and definitely a lot more 'in-yer-face than' the VW Polo GTI, for example.
Just enough tech
It's not exactly a gadget-lovers' paradise inside the Corsa VXR but it does come equipped as standard with a 7-inch colour display with internet, internet radio and navigation via an IntelliLink smartphone scraping function.
Simply plug a phone into the USB slot (it has to run Android) and the screen will mirror a number of apps or alternatively, stream tunes via Bluetooth. It's no BMW iDrive but it's better than a tape deck.
Those looking for further country lane thrills or for those brave enough to frequent the occasional track day there is an additional Performance Pack. For £2,400, Vauxhall adds a motorsport-derived Drexler limited slip differential, Brembo performance brakes and re-tuned damper settings for a 15% firmer, more circuit-focussed ride.
The clever limited slip differential senses when a front tyre is losing grip and will apply more power to the wheel with traction to help propel the car through corners. It works a treat on track but can be a little bit unsettling on greasy public roads. Especially when a tyre suddenly gains grip and the steering wheel unexpectedly jerks to the left or right.
Vauxhall Corsa VXR verdict
The Vauxhall Corsa VXR is a tempting prospect, especially when you consider it is slightly cheaper than its closest rival, the Ford Fiesta ST. But it isn't quite as composed as the fast Ford, nor is it as good looking.
Those looking for a loud and lairy little hot hatch won't be disappointed in the Corsa VXR, but there are better all-rounders available.