Vauxhall’s heritage as the Corsa is named the UK’s most popular car
Vauxhall finally took the top spot this week as its sixth-generation Corsa hatchback was confirmed to be the UK’s biggest selling car in 2021, with more than 40,000 sold.
The announcement marks an end to Ford’s 50-year run in pole position.
The Corsa has been in the UK for 40 years since 1982 (it was originally sold in Britain as the Nova but as Corsa on the Continent) and through six generations has clocked up 2.8 million sales out of around 14 million across Europe.
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To celebrate, Vauxhall is to launch a special 40th anniversary edition of the Corsa this summer.
It’s a landmark moment for Vauxhall, which is actually the UK’s oldest surviving car manufacturer, with a history stretching back to 1903.
The Corsa contributed to nearly 126,000 Vauxhall vehicles sold here across 2021, accounting for 5.55 per cent of the new car market. That was against total car sales in 2021 of 1.65 million.
Following the Corsa’s success, Vauxhall’s all-new Astra, Astra Sports Tourer and Grandland SUV will arrive in showrooms this year.
A fully electric Astra-e follows in 2023. Priced from £15,750, the new Corsa was also this week named Small Car Of The Year in the 2022 Company Car and Van Awards.
The all-electric Corsa-e with a range of 222 miles now starts from £25,805 after the Government’s reduced £1,500 plug-in car grant prompted a price-cut by Vauxhall.
More the merrier
The new eighth generation Astra hatchback is already on sale — priced from £23,275 with deliveries imminent.
Order books with exact pricings open in February for a new Astra Sports Tourer available at launch with a 225 horsepower plug-in hybrid version.
It is expected to combine a 1.6 litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a 12.kW battery set-up with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
It’s priced from around £34,000. First deliveries are in early summer and a pure electric version is expected to follow.
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Vauxhall is also the UK’s best-selling electric van manufacturer, with the Vivaro-e the most popular.
By 2024, all Vauxhall cars and vans will be available with an electrified version. And by 2028, Vauxhall has committed to only selling fully electric vehicles — seven years ahead of the UK Government deadline.
Six of Vauxhall’s best
Over the generations, Vauxhall has rarely been the hippest of brands, but has been held in much affection by UK motorists. It’s even been immortalised in song, most notably by Billy Bragg in From A Vauxhall Velox.
With two factories in the UK — in Ellesmere Port in Cheshire and Luton, Bedfordshire — Vauxhall is now enjoying a new lease of life under the stewardship of the Stellantis conglomerate, the world’s fourth biggest car-maker, which was created in January 2021 from the merger of France’s Groupe PSA and the Italian-American FCA Group.
In July, Stellantis announced a £100 million investment in Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port manufacturing plant, which will become the first Stellantis plant to produce solely battery-electric models, in both commercial and passenger versions, including the Vauxhall Combo-e and Combo-e Life (plus the Peugeot e-Rifter and Citroen e-Berlingo), for both domestic and export markets.
Vauxhall is also adding the Vivaro-e Hydrogen to its all-electric van range from early 2023.
The Luton plant continues to build the Vivaro and Vivaro Life vans for Vauxhall, as well as vehicles for its Stellantis sister brands.
As part of the shake-up, the Astra — previously built at Ellesmere Port — is now manufactured in Russelsheim, Germany, home of its partner brand Opel.
Although Vauxhall is now a mainstream car-maker, in the early days it was considered a rival to the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley, used by Edwardian aristocracy and royalty.
The Vauxhall name has its origins in the Middle Ages and goes back to Fulk Le Breant, who married into property near Lambeth in London which became Fulk’s Hall, later corrupted to Fawkes Hall, and finally Vauxhall.
His heraldic symbol was a griffin — a mythical half-lion, half-eagle — which endures to this day as Vauxhall’s badge.
Vauxhall started making cars at its original factory in South London in 1903, beginning with a five-horsepower single-cylinder model priced from 130 guineas or £136.50, and with top speed governed at 18mph.
To expand, the firm moved in 1905 to a seven-acre site in Luton’s Kimpton Road. On March 29, 1905, the first Luton-built car rolled off the line — a 9HP vehicle costing £375 with a top speed of 30mph.
Vauxhall also produced military vehicles during the First World War and between 1912 and 1918 had delivered nearly 2,000 D-Type Staff Cars to Britain’s military.
In 1925, American car-giant General Motors bought Vauxhall for $2.5 million, the US car-firm’s first overseas acquisition.
They saw Vauxhall’s future in the mainstream models for the middle classes and expanded to take on bus and truck production.
During World War II, Vauxhall’s production lines built thousands of Bedford military trucks and until 1944 the Churchill tank.