General Motors (GM) might be short of cash, but Opels are worth a look. A recent takeover bid by Canadian car parts maker Magna International looks set to secure the future of GM's European wing and Fiat last Friday said it was still interested in the German marque. But then Opel makes fine cars such as the Astra, and this three-door Corsa could be all you need for quick flits around Hong Kong.
Distinctively designed with strong lines, subtle contours and a coup?-like roofline, the fourth-generation Corsa seems as sporty as the larger Astra, and as fun, with three interior colour choices, sporty handling and a 'grinning' front grille. The Hong Kong-spec Corsa is generously optioned, too. The marque's standard 'enjoy' package combines some smart interior touches - a two-tone vinyl dash with body coloured door, a matt-chromed central console and translucent switchgear - with top-spec toys such as a one-touch panoramic sunroof and an integrated seven-speaker MP3 audio system with iPod input.
More gadgetry comes as standard with Opel's 'electric comfort' package, which includes power door mirrors, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a tilt-and-telescopic adjustable steering wheel with remote audio and a foldable ignition key with remote locking.
Other practical features in the new three-door include dual side and curtain airbags, 15-inch steel wheels, a 60/40 splitting rear bench with two-tier load space in the boot and additional storage space under the front passenger's seat, doors and centre console.
A HK$10,000 'sports' package gives you front and rear spoilers, side skirts, a leather steering wheel, front fog lamps and 16-inch alloys. Another option is a great carrier for two bikes (HK$8,000) that stows away under the rear bumper.
The Corsa offers a firm-yet-pliant ride and handles sharply, largely because the 'enjoy' model shares its chassis with the Corsa OPC - the top-of-the-range sports version of the compact.
Opel has also improved the stiffness of the passenger cell and sub-frame which sharpens the handling and helps ensure the Corsa receives the maximum Euro NCAP five-star rating. Other safety features include dual front and side airbags, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, cornering brake control and straight line stability control.
Acceleration is perky through the low gears, but the Corsa feels laboured when pushed hard beyond 60km/h, and, despite its sporty flavour, the Opel didn't seem any faster than the larger 100-brake horsepower Honda Jazz at the top end of highway speeds. And while the Corsa's trim and specs surpass those of the Jazz, the absence of rear disc brakes and alloys as standard could have some buyers scratching their heads.
That said, the Corsa is an excellent all-round deal for HK$143,800 and is more likely to appeal to younger buyers than the Jazz - especially with a five-year warranty.
AT A GLANCE: Opel Corsa
What drives it?
A 1,346cc in-line four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engine linked to a four-speed auto gearbox.
How fast is it?
The Corsa makes 0-100km/h in 14.8 seconds, with a top speed of 166km/h, the dealer says.
How safe is it?
A Euro NCAP five-star rating, dual front and side airbags, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, straight line stability control are standard.
How thirsty is it?
The Corsa is said to use 6.5 litres per 100km on a combined cycle.
Hong Kong friendly?
The Corsa is said to emit 154g/km of carbon dioxide. Availability HK$143,800 from Metro Motors (tel: 2760 8668)