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Opel Corsa History

2003 Vauxhall Corsa

Holden Combo, panel van version of the Corsa/Barina

2004 Opel Corsa

2005 Chevrolet Corsa

General Motors Corsa

The Corsa is a small car or subcompact produced by General Motors in Europe. The Corsa is sold under a large range of brand names in different countries:

  • United Kingdom: Vauxhall Corsa
  • Continental Europe: Opel Corsa
  • Latin America: Chevrolet Corsa
  • Middle East: Chevrolet Barina
  • Australasia: Holden Barina (until 2005)
  • China: Buick Sail (until 2005)
  • Japan: Opel Vita (Toyota already had a model using the Corsa name)

It is not sold in the United States or Canada.

The Corsa has been built at GM's plant in Figueruelas, a small city in the Spanish region of Aragon, and is also produced in Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, India, and China.

Opel Corsa A

The front wheel drive Corsa was first launched in 1983 to replace the Vauxhall Chevette in Great Britain and to introduce a smaller model below Kadett in continental Europe. Built in Zaragoza, Spain, the first Corsas were three-door hatchback and two-door saloon models, with four-door and five-door versions arriving two years later. It was known in the UK as the Vauxhall Nova as it was considered that Corsa sounded too much like coarser. Similarly, the name Nova could not be used by Opel in the rest of Europe as no va means 'does not go' in Spanish, as GM had found before in Latin America with the Chevrolet Nova. The car became best known in the UK as a popular choice of car driving schools. Although many young British 'boy-racers' and 'Chavs' customised or 'souped up' their models (and continue to do so to this day), the Nova was usually seen as dull. Power came from 1.0 L, 1.2 L, 1.3 L, and 1.4 L petrol engines which were short on performance but strong on economy. The engines and most of the mechanical components were derived from those used in the Astra/Kadett.

A 1.6 L fuel injected engine with 100 hp (74 kW) and capable of 186 km/h (115 mph) was later added to the Corsa/Nova range, giving better performance and being badged as a GSi or, in Great Britain, GTE (only pre-facelift models, later models were all called GSi). But the car's handling was still criticized as uninvolving and the styling called dull inside and out. There were also reports of roll-over accidents not involving any other vehicles, that called the handling into question.

The design was freshened for 1991 with new bumpers, front lights and grille and with a new interior, but the car was showing its age against strong competition from cars like the Renault Clio and Peugeot 106.

Opel Corsa B

In 1993, a curvier, more attractive, Corsa was unveiled, and in the UK Vauxhall dropped the Nova name, the car now being known as the Corsa in the UK. The next year, it was launched by Holden in Australia, as the Barina replacing a version of the Suzuki Swift sold under that name. This proved a success, and was the first Spanish-built car to be sold in significant volumes on the Australian market.

Power came from 1.2 L, 1.4 L and 1.6 L Family 1 petrol engines, as well as an economical 1.5 L turbo-diesel. Unlike the previous model, there was no sedan version, but one was designed in Brazil for the Latin American market, as sedans were much preferred to hatchbacks. This was also introduced in South Africa and India. A station wagon, panel van and pick-up truck were also introduced. The wagon version was sold in some European markets, including Italy, badged as an Opel.

A 1.0 L 3-cylinder Family 0 economy version was launched in 1996, and a Lotus-tuned suspension was added as well as an exterior refresh. Strong competition came from new models like the Peugeot 206, Fiat Punto and Skoda Fabia.

A German designed Cabriolet version was offered in this model, based on the 3-door hatchback. The cabriolet featured a cloth roof, and a padded roll cage. The sedan model is still built and sold in Brazil since 2005 as the Chevrolet Classic, and Chevrolet Corsa Classic in Argentina. A budget version, the Chevrolet Celta, has bodywork resembling the late 90s Vectra and Astra. The sedan version was produced in China by GM Shanghai as Buick Sail until 2005. In India, the hatchback and wagon versions are still sold, as the Corsa Sail and Corsa Swing respectively.

Opel Corsa C

The current model Corsa was introduced in 2001, with distinctive styling for the three-door and five-door hatchbacks. General Motors dubbed the new chassis Gamma and intended to use it in a number of other models. A sedan version is also offered in Latin America, South Africa and the Middle East. The Brazilian version of the Corsa sold in those countries has a distinctive front end, more conservative than its European counterpart. Brazil also offers a pick-up truck version of the Corsa named Chevrolet Montana which, as well as the sedan, is exported in Completely Knocked-Down (CKD) kit to South Africa for local assembly.

The 1.0 L, 1.2 L and 1.4 L petrol engines are carry overs from the previous range, but the 1.7 L Circle L turbodiesel and 1.8 L petrol engines are both new. In 2002, the Corsa chassis spawned a mini-MPV called the Opel Meriva, development of which began under Opel in Russelsheim but finished by Chevrolet do Brasil.


A new version of the Gamma platform has been codeveloped by Fiat and Opel. It will be shared across 2006 Fiat Punto, 2007 Opel Corsa and future versions of Lancia Ypsilon and Fiat Idea.

GM Daewoo will take responsibility for future development of the platform. In Australia and New Zealand, the model will be dropped in 2005-06 in favour of a version of the Chevrolet Kalos, which will become the new Holden Barina.

Opel Corsa
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