The 120Y model celebrates the German brand’s 120th birthday.
The 120Y model celebrates the German brand’s 120th birthday.
Image: Denis Droppa

The local importers of Opel have injected some life into the four-and-a-half-year old Corsa range by introducing a higher-spec, value-for-money model called the 120Y.

For those wondering why it’s named after a 1970s Datsun, the badge actually refers to 120 years as commemoration of Opel’s founding as an automobile manufacturer in 1899.

Based on the Corsa 1.0T Enjoy, this special edition model gains a number of extra styling and specification features including a rear-view camera with front and rear park assist, upgraded interior cloth trim, unique door sill plates, and velour floor mats with embroidered 120Y logo.

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The package is also supposed to include 16-inch gun metal alloy wheels, but for some reason the test car was fitted with regular silver-coloured 16-inchers.

The 120Y is priced at R259,900, a R10,000 premium over the Corsa 1.0 Enjoy model which is already quite well stocked with standard kit including six airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability control, and an 18cm IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system.

This birthday Corsa represents good value against rivals like the Ford Fiesta 1.0T Trend (R273,700), Hyundai i20 1.4 Fluid (R279,900), Nissan Micra Acenta (R268,500), and it’s identically priced to the Renault Clio Dynamique (R259,900).

A rear-view camera with front and rear park assist is now part of the package.
A rear-view camera with front and rear park assist is now part of the package.
Image: Denis Droppa

I’d last driven the Corsa a couple of years ago and my revisit showed the compact hatchback to have aged fairly gracefully in terms of its trim and technology.

The neat cabin stands up reasonably well to newer rivals like the Fiesta and Micra that were launched in 2018, even if it doesn’t have the Micra’s styling flair.

The Opel’s ventilation controls are somewhat dated in style, but they’re large and simple to use and therefore cause minimal driver distraction. The same goes for the various controls operated via the large touchscreen and the multifunction steering wheel, making for a user-friendly experience all round.

The car has all the connectivity demanded by today’s consumers, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The only feature I missed was that the headlights don’t switch on and off automatically, although there is a buzzer to warn if you’ve left them on.

Opel’s press release states that the Corsa is suited to families, which sounded like hyperbole until I had occasion to fit five adults into the car and was pleasantly surprised by its abilities.

Elbow room in the back seat was predictably tight, but there was enough leg- and head-room to prevent excessive claustrophobia.

The boot is compact but the single-piece rear-seat backrest flips down to expand it. The good news is that the Corsa now has a full-sized spare wheel, rather than just the puncture repair kit it came with when it was introduced here in 2015.

The real revelation was how well the car pulled when fully laden, and I have nothing but admiration for that little Jack Russell of a 1.0l three-cylinder turbo engine. Instead of being weak and wheezy, the 66kW/170Nm Corsa felt plucky even with five people aboard, happily cruising up freeway hills at the national speed limit.

It’s a fairly charismatic sounding engine too with that three-cylinder thrum, a noise that stays neatly in the background rather than being overwhelming.

The car averaged a frugal 6.3l/100km during the week-long test period, not quite the 4.6l promised by Opel but still reasonably economical.

Its compact size makes the Corsa scoot around with endearing agility, and the six-speed manual gearbox shifts slick and easy.

A special-edition Corsa seems like a rather humble way to commemorate a brand’s 120th birthday, but leave the dodgy marketing aside and the 120Y makes good rands and sense as a decently stocked, well-priced package.

It’s sold with a three-year/120,000km warranty and three-year/60,000km service plan.