Tag Archives: Hot Hatch

2019 Opel Corsa GSi – Irish New Car Review

This week, a family friend but also who I would have considered an inspiration passed away. This was Declan O’Byrne. Declan wrote for the Irish Independent and, more recently, the Roscommon Champion. Declan was a good friend of my father’s throughout school but I remember him as Declan – the motoring journalist. I have fond memories of him pulling up to my house in a brand new press car as I “ooh-ed” and “ah-ed” over his job. I wanted to follow suit so he pointed me in the right direction on how to do so. I don’t think I could have achieved what I have as a motoring journalist without Declan. So here’s to do you Declan, gone but never forgotten. I bid you farewell with a review, that of the 2019 Opel Corsa GSi.

The 2019 Opel Corsa GSi plays the part of being Opel’s hot hatch, until they figure what to do with the OPC name plate. It is apparent from my review of the 2016 Opel Corsa OPC that it was good but far from perfect. The GSi takes what was good about the regular Corsa city hatchback and adds a  bit of spice. It aims to take on the Ford Fiesta ST and the 2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI.From the outside, the Corsa GSi hasn’t changed much at all. It has kept the OPC’s aero body kit and faux-air intake on the bonnet. The optional 18-inch Titan diamond cut alloys (€750) set off the Lava Red (€155) paintwork nicely. The front grill’s “mustache” and wing mirror housing are carbon effect, standard for the GSi. The overall package is unique and reassuring knowing that they haven’t just shrunk the Astra. Out of the Corsa’s close competitors, it definitely looks the best.

Inside, it also remains the same as the OPC. The optional Recaro leather seats (€1,450) are the talking point of this warm hatch. Although they hug you in the tight, country back lane twisties, they weren’t made for comfort. A two hour motorway journey had me thinking twice if they are worth the extra cash over the standard seats. They also add extra inconvenience trying to access the rear seats. You had to slam and tug the whole seat forward before the seat will release and move forward in its rails. And even then, the rear seats aren’t easily accessible.The infotainment system is easy to use. It hooks up to your phone, through Bluetooth, without any hassle. Something Opel can do very well, are easy to use, no nonsense infotainment systems.

The Corsa GSi’s interior is seriously let down by the ergonomics. The infotainment is presented flat on the centre console so you must move your left arm if you want to check the time, see what song is playing, etc. This could be fixed by re-positioning the Navi 4.0 Intellilink 7-inch screen. I didn’t realise the Corsa had one-touch auto windows because you have to hold your finger on the window button for about 2 or 3 seconds before they go up or down automatically.The worst, and most inconvenient part, were the doors. They feel absolutely massive for the size of the car. The whole car measures in at just over 4 metres. I noticed the door size when I was getting in and out of the car in a car park. Even with enough room between me and the next car, I had to squeeze out of the small gap. Otherwise, I may have bumped the door off the car next to me. The climate control could also be revised. I could never get the car the right temperature without the windows fogging up.I can finally sing the 2019 Corsa GSi’s praises out on the open road. It’s reminiscent of my time with the Opel Adam S. The 1.4 petrol’s turbo engine only puts out 150hp and 220Nm but this is all the GSi needs to have fun. The steering’s lightness is weighten up once you leave the city so the 1,200kg car can really let it’s hair down. The gear change is nicely notchy too. Opel have been criticised in the past for this but I feel it works here. You can feel the gears engaging and makes you want to practice your heel-toeing technique.

The OPC’s major setback was the value for money, mainly the running costs. It cost €750 per year to tax and got 10.5l/100km. The GSi is more reasonable. The warm hatch puts out 147g/km of CO2 meaning it’s €390 to tax. Based off the couple of motorway runs and mainly backroad spirited driving I was doing, I averaged 8.3l/100km over 681km. With extras the GSi costs €29,465 with the base price being €24,895. This optioned up price puts it €3,000 less than the OPC was and, I believe, you get a lot more for your money.The 2019 Opel Corsa GSi certainly ticks the right boxes. It’s 150hp is usable on Irish roads, it looks much better than the Volkswagen Polo GTI and all for an, arguably, reasonable price. If you can overlook the interior’s niggles then the Corsa GSi is the perfect city car-cum-backroad hooner for you.

2018 Renault Megane RS – New Car Review Ireland

Any Irish driver will tell you that Irish roads are some of the worst paved roads in the world. Leave Dublin City, find any non-primary road and you’ll be the witness to some absolute shockers. This is where the hot hatch comes into play. It’s purpose is to be a sensible family hatchback that can fit your shopping but also fill the position of being your weekend hooner. Enter, the 2018 Renault Megane R.S. Up against competitors like the Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R, the Megane RS has some pretty big shoes to fill. However, Renault Sport have produced some absolute bangers (meant in the good sense) in the past and they seemed to have knocked it out of the park this time too.Having had the argument only recently, for me a hot hatch has to be all kinds of bonkers in terms of styling. However, it needs to make sense. Yes, I’m looking at you Honda Civic Type R. The Volkswagen Golf R looks good and is a decent drive, but it’s too normal looking for me. When the regular Megane was released in 2015, I thought it looked great. It was completely different than anything on the road and it remains the same for the Megane R.S. The bulging arches makes it stand out amongst the regular Megane. Finished in Tonic Orange(€975) and with optional satin black 19-inch RS alloys (€350), this hot hatch got A LOT of attention on the road. But it would want to with the Megane RS price starting at €42,995.Instead of a massive spoiler, the Renault has a rear defuser that directs air correctly forcing the car down creating down force (that’s the extent of my tech talk…), the same job as a spoiler. Located in the centre of this defuser, is what looks like a single exhaust but beneath the fake tip are two pipes. This harks back to the previous gen Megane RS with a similar set up. Up front, the R.S retains the brand’s face as found on the likes of the Kadjar, Clio and Captur. Housed on each corner of the front bumper are fog lights in the shape of the RS logo.On the inside, the piece de resistance are the, again optional (€1,500), R.S logo-ed bucket seats. They hug you in all the right places and are surprisingly comfortable on long motorway journeys. However, Renault’s R-Link is just as annoying as ever. It’s slow, laggy and filled with unnecessary sub menus. This presser had the optional Bose sound system which, despite being a €600 option, was quite tinny. To make up for this, the 1.8 turbo’s exhaust sound is pumped throughout the cabin through the speakers. Maybe just turn off the radio and let this serenade you.Out on the country roads, the Megane really comes into its own. As found on the baby Megane GT, the RS has 4Control, which is Renault’s four wheel steering system. At speeds up to 80km/h in Sport and Race mode (60km/h in other modes), the front and rear wheels turn in the opposite direction of each other. This makes the car nimble around the tight and twisting corners. While at higher speeds, the wheels turn in the same direction. This means you can throw the R.S into a corner and keep the power on going through because the wheels are adding extra grip.The 1.8 turbo petrol has a peak of 280hp and 390Nm. Helping to get this power to the wheels is a 6-speed EDC auto (Don’t freak out, there’s 6-speed manual also available). When I look at the Volkswagen Golf R, having driven the manual, I can’t see myself owning one unless it was DSG. The same goes for the R.S. The auto lets you concentrate on handling that much power while it takes care of munching through the gears. But, rather than letting it do all the work, the large metal steering wheel mounted-paddles let you decide when you want to shift up or down.My problem with these is that Renault insist on not putting the audio controls on the steering wheel, rather on a stand alone unit mounted under the downshift paddle. This results in the paddle only going half way down the steering wheel meaning that if you wanted to downshift mid corner, you end up turning up the radio.

Five driving modes  are available at the touch of a button; Comfort, Neutral, Sport, Race and Perso. Comfort, Neutral and Perso (Personal) are all self explanatory. It’s Sport and Race mode that are worth talking about. In Race mode, the steering tightens up, the throttle response is a lot quicker and the exhaust farts are A LOOOT fartier. The main difference between Race and Sport mode is that, Race turns off traction control. For this time of year with the greasy Irish roads, Sport mode was just perfect. The 245/35 Bridgestone Potenza tyres gripped perfectly even in these greasy conditions.

While the R.S’s chassis is not the Cup Chassis option, it is still rigid. But nicely so. It’s comfortable on the terribly paved roads of South West Ireland but neat enough to negotiate these roads without body roll. However, it’s not all perfect. I noticed slight understeer when pushing it on in larger, swooping bends. The Trophy version of the R.S is on the way with an extra 20hp, bringing it up to 300hp. Knowing Renault, this will iron out some of the regular R.S’s imperfections.

As for running costs, the Renault is €570 to tax for the year. While this is reasonable, the average fuel consumption of 11.9l/100km (23.7mpg) over roughly 900km isn’t as such. The best I managed to get was 10l/100km (28.2mpg) on a motorway run. Archie‘s, my MINI Cooper S, 30mpg doesn’t seem so bad after all. I would slightly forgive it if it had a bigger tank; 50l means you become all too familiar with that green pump.The Megane RS wouldn’t be a Renault without a slight hiccup here or there. The R.S, yeah, it breaks down… While out shooting, thanks to David Olsthoorn for the insane shots, we ran into some bother. As we were leaving, a parking brake warning light started blinking and beeping. Turning off and on the car again sorted this but left some doubt in my mind. I then noticed that, at night, the blind spot warning dots in the side mirrors would blink randomly. These concerns aren’t unique to me. The car has been on and off fleet quite a bit over it’s period with it letting other driver’s down. It seems Renault do have a reputation to maintain.If the Renault’s niggles were sorted out, the 2018 Renault Megane R.S would be the near perfect hot hatch on sale today. But these concerns are big and aren’t uncommon on RenaultSport models, past and present. However, it’s just the right amount of insane to make me part with my cash over the Volkswagen Golf R and Honda Civic Type R. If I were you though, I’d definitely wait for the Trophy.