Review and road test of the Vauxhall Corsavan (2007 - 2015)
ALL THE SMALL THINGS
By Andy Enright
Vauxhall has been turning its hand to small vans with some success for over 40 years. Those of you with longer memories might well recall the Chevanne of the 1970s. That was replaced by the Astravan, but slotting in beneath came the Novavan for city operators who wanted to keep things even more economical. Vauxhall's subsequent Corsa was a natural for the van treatment and this duly appeared in 1993. At the tail end of 2006, Vauxhall unveiled the van we examine here, the Mk 4 Corsavan. It's been a favourite right through to its replacement by an all-new Corsa range in 2015. Here's what to look for when buying used.
3dr city van (1.2 petrol, 1.3 diesel [Sportive])
Buoyed by the success of prior Corsavan generations, Vauxhall designed the 2007 Corsa with an eye to creating a van version. The suspension couldn't intrude too far into the car and there needed to be a flat load floor that was as broad and long as possible, all factors which informed the design of the passenger car too. Launched with a choice of 1.2-litre petrol or 1.3-litre diesel engines, the range was soon joined in late 2007 with the Sportive trim. This got a styling pack which includes body-coloured side mouldings, front fog lights, a sports exhaust tailpipe and 15-inch alloy wheels. Other features over and above the standard Corsavan include heated, body-coloured door mirrors, sports instruments, air conditioning, electric windows and sports seats.
At the end of 2010, the Corsavan ecoFLEX became the first Vauxhall commercial vehicle to feature Start/Stop technology, enabling the Euro 5-compliant 1.3 CDTi (75PS) models to achieve 70.6mpg, a near 8mpg (or more than 12 per cent improvement) on the combined cycle over the previous Euro 4 model. CO2 emissions improved to 105g/km.
Vauxhall didn't stop there though. In July 2011, the ecoFLEX became even cleaner. The 95PS version achieved a sub-100g/km figure through a host of efficiency improvements including a variable geometry turbocharger, a lowered chassis, aerodynamic wheel covers and optimised gear ratios with a 'shift up' indicator. These upgrades got it through the Euro 5 compliancy and meant an impressive 78.3mpg on the combined cycle. In May 2012 the 1.2-litre petrol engine got a start/stop system.
The company was quick to recognise the benefits of DAB radios and offered them to Corsavan customers for just £195 as far back as October 2012.
What You Get
Jump inside the Corsavan and it's probably a bit plusher than you expect for a small commercial vehicle cabin, with the soft-touch materials that supermini car buyers now increasingly expect. But this also remains a sturdily-built contender, with chunky controls and durable materials that should cope with all the dust, dirt, rough treatment and spilt tea that typical LCV drivers can dish out. In-cabin storage is impressive, with a two-tier bin in each of the doors, the bottom part of which will accommodate a cup or a can. Actually, there are cupholders everywhere, two in front of the gearstick, one behind the handbrake lever and yet another on the inner face of the glovebox lid. To make up for the tiny glovebox, there's also a storage tray under the passenger seat and a document pocket in the driver's sun visor.
All Corsavans are reasonably equipped, coming fitted with a CD stereo, remote central locking, a 12v powerpoint, electric mirrors, side protection mouldings and tinted tailgate glass. Unfortunately, you have to pay extra for powered windows, as well as height adjustment for the steering wheel and driver's seat. The need to pay extra for air conditioning is less surprising: bear in mind if you do that for some reason, this will reduce your Corsavan's towing capacity by 20kgs.
Safety-wise, there's only a driver's airbag in the standard tally, though a passenger bag is on the options list. It's disappointing to find ESP stability control also there, but in compensation, there's a whole raft of other safety technology fitted as standard. The ABS braking system, for example, will flash in emergency stops to warn following motorists and there's Electronic Brakeforce Distribution to make it more effective and Emergency Brake Assist to aid in sudden stops aided by a Straight Line Stability Control system. Cornering Brake Control is there to help should you have to brake halfway through a bend, while Dynamic Safety Suspension is designed to help you keep control if you brake on surfaces with different levels of grip, such as gravel and dry tarmac. And there's Drag Torque Control that helps stability if you suddenly take your foot off the accelerator. Should all of this fail to stop you having an accident, you'll be relieved to know that this van scored the maximum score of five stars in Euro NCAP safety testing for adult occupant protection.
What to Look For
These vans are pretty tough, but there are a few things you'll need to look out for. Slipping clutches - especially in the 1.2-litre petrol vans - are something you should test for. Diesel particulate filters have been known to fail on the 1.3-litre CDTi engines. There have been a number of recalls for the Corsavan based on foot and handbrake issues in recent years, so it might well be worth running your VIN number by your Vauxhall dealer to make sure the necessary upgrade work has all been taken care of. Otherwise it's the usual advice with small vans to buy on condition rather than year and look for a van that has tended to have performed lightweight delivery duties rather than consistently butting up against its payload limits.
(approx based on a 1.2-litre Corsavan) A new clutch will cost you about £90 and a full exhaust system around £300. Front shock absorbers are about £50 a pair and rears around £35. An alternator is about £115 and a starter motor around £90. A radiator is about £115 and a replacement windscreen close to £105. A tail lamp is about £40, a headlamp about £65 and a front wing about £75. A catalyst is just over £200.
On the Road
Driving enjoyment isn't usually a significant determining factor in the purchase of a van - but it is here. Corsavan owners like the lithe, agile way that this little load carrier can be spirited about town, with the same crisp response you'd find in any normal Corsa supermini. This side of things was much improved in March 2010, with a far-reaching package of changes that included tweaks to everything from the rear axle to the front suspension, from the dampers to the springs. As a result, if your experience of this fourth generation Corsavan is based on an older model, it might be worth trying a more recent one before deciding upon something else.
It certainly feels sharper and more wieldy at the wheel here than would be the case in Vauxhall's other small van, the Combo, or indeed in any of that vehicle's competitors - Ford Transit Connects, Citroen Nemos, Peugeot Bippers and the like. Such are the benefits of a small supermini van that is, in almost every way, a real supermini.
Power comes courtesy of a choice of three main engines: a 70PS petrol 1.2 16v unit and a couple of 1.3-litre CDTi diesels, developing either 75 or 95PS, both of which can be ordered with or without a Start/Stop system that cuts the engine when stationary in traffic. Most Corsavan customers, not surprisingly, go the diesel route, so it's just as well that both of the powerplants on offer are willing units. Even the entry-level 75PS variant develops a useful 190Nm of torque, hence the 1,200kg braked towing weight that applies to all diesel models.
Around the twisty stuff, this Corsa continues to ride and steer very adroitly. There's class-leading ride comfort, with the suspension doing a good job of soaking up bumps on the flat and dispatching speed humps with suitable disdain. True, this Vauxhall can't boast the sharpest handling supermini platform on the market but it's close enough to the class best to impress LCV drivers used to more utilitarian fare.
The small van market has really taken off in recent years with many urban businesses realising that it's usually better to run two small vans than one large one. While many manufacturers have developed some rather seductive specialist city vans with cube-like cargo bays, the Corsavan has remained popular due to its low running costs, its ease of use and car-like driving characteristics which are beloved by owner-operators.
Yes, a bit more room in the cargo area would be nice, but high expectations of that sort are a bit unrealistic in a supermini-van. If space isn't an issue and you're attracted by the affordable asking prices, then a Corsavan could be a brilliant option for an urban business start-up. It might have been around for a while, but there's a reason for that. Some ideas just work.
Vauxhall Corsavan (2007 - 2015) review by Andy Enright