Going electric can still be bit of a minefield. There’s worries about compromises you might have to make, concerns about infrastructure and charging, and crucially how much it all costs.. of course we all want to do the right thing for the planet and our own conscience. But the numbers need to make sense. And then there’s the feeling that an electric car might just be a bit … weird to drive. But the Corsa e - or electric as it was renamed later - is a practical, useful electric car that you can buy used for less than half the price of a brand new one, with relatively low miles under its tyres.
Back in 2020, Vauxhall launched the Corsa e - a pure electric version of the very popular Corsa hatchback. Developed in conjunction with Peugeot, the Corsa e is actually the same car underneath as the Peugeot e-208, so there’s a 46kWH battery that powers the front wheels with 136bhp of electric power. Think of them a bit like non-identical twins.
Official WLTP range was initially 202 miles, and there was 100kW of DC charging, meaning it’d charge from 10-80% in just 26 minutes, jumping the range from 18 to 144 miles. Plus, you could upgrade the standard 7.4kW AC charging to 11kW if you felt the need. And that’s all pretty good for a car of this size. It cost from £31,130 to £34,630 and was available only in the top two trim levels, meaning that no matter which Corsa e you chose, it was well-equipped… if a bit pricey for a Corsa.
One of the big selling points of the Corsa e was the fact that it was just so … normal. It’s ‘just’ a Corsa, right? So a familiar small hatch that happens to run on electricity. To be honest, unless you clocked the little badges, it could be one of the ones with engines.
Trouble is, well over £30,000 for a Corsa felt like a lot of money for private buyers, so quite a few went to fleets, where they made more sense for tax purposes. And those fleets had three-year deals, which are now coming to an end, meaning that Corsa es are popping up quite nicely on the second-hand market.
And this is where it gets interesting. Because there are LOADS of Corsas with low miles for sale. And lots of supply means competitive prices. At the time of writing there were even a couple for half the new price with less than 2,500 miles on the clock. That’s basically new!
And you could do a lot worse. It might be a little plain, but the Corsa is a decent-sized supermini. there’s not quite as much space in the back as you’d get with a car that’s designed from outset to be pure electric, and the boot is slightly smaller than a standard Corsa because some of the batteries are under the floor, but it’s still not bad. Plus, small-car competition like the Mini E, Fiat 500 or Honda E might offer retro-cool, but they don’t offer anything like the space or range for the money.
Driving a used Corsa
It also drives very nicely. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the Corsa e is by far the best Corsa to drive of any kind. Ok, so it’s not very exciting, but 0-62mph in just over 8 seconds is nippy enough, and although this isn’t the kind of car you’d go for a blast down a country road in, there’s nothing wrong with it. It rides well, the steering is good - very light and easy - and it’s well-balanced. It’s also really easy to park - which is always a bonus.
It’s got three modes - like on most electric cars - so there’s Eco which gives you the most range but only allows for about 80bhp, the default is Normal, with 107bhp, and it’s only Sport that lets you at the full 136bhp.
And the two-stage brake-regeneration is mild but useful - you just press a little ‘B’ button and the rest of it just acts like an automatic Corsa. It’s about as simple as it gets.
Used Corsa electric problems and what to look for
There are a few things to watch out for though. 18 months ago the Corsa e was re-branded as the Corsa Electric but it’s the same car, and there have been a couple of special editions that have varying equipment, but generally you’re looking at the base cars having a small 7-inch display inside, with only the better grades getting a 10-inch system. But they all have navigation, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatibility and voice recognition though. Step up a bit and there are even big-car features like massaging seats and clever, adaptive LED headlamps.
As ever when you’re looking at buying a used car, watch out for kerbed wheels and any signs of fixing - Corsa es tend to be used in urban environments and occasionally as pool cars, so that sort of stuff can add up. But there’s good news there too; because Vauxhall has been paying attention to fleet customers, repair, insurance and servicing rates tend to be really good, some of the cheapest on the market - the Corsa e really does end up being properly cheap to run, clawing back some of the cost of purchase, which obviously tends to still be a bit higher than a petrol or diesel.
The warranty stacks up as 3 years or 60,000 miles for the car, and 8 years or 100,000 miles for the battery. So if you can find a slightly younger car in your price range, it might still have some manufacturer guarantee left for any faults, and there’ll be five-years-plus of battery backup.
It’s probably worth remembering that there is that twin-sister knocking about though. The Peugeot e-208 - to my eyes at least - is a bit sharper-looking and has a more interesting interior. But they’re not quite as cheap to buy or run. And even though the MG4 is probably better value new as a standard-range car and a bit bigger, again, there aren’t as many to choose from yet on the second-hand market. You’re probably more likely to be looking at things like the Renault Zoe or Nissan Leaf - both good cars.
But if you’re looking for a reasonably-priced, practical second-hand EV with many more years of service left in it, you could do worse that a Vauxhall Corsa e. The least-intimidating first electric car ever? We think so…