Rüsselsheim. In the beginning there was the Opel Kadett. Introduced by Opel in 1936, it was a fully-fledged car at an affordable price, and was designed to bring mobility to more people at a time when driving a car was still real luxury. The Opel brand then really took off in the era of Germany’s ‘economic miracle’ during the 1960s and early 1970s with the arrival of the Kadett A and B. In the process, customers quickly became more discerning as their prosperity increased and the small Kadett became larger and more powerful, moving closer to the mid-size class with the arrival of each version. This created a slot below what had become Rüsselsheim’s classic entry-level model. So the time was right to fill the gap with a new, genuine small car – enter the Opel Corsa.
Act One: 1982 to 1993
The Corsa A featured close-coupled proportions within a short length of just 3.62 meters. It had bold, flared wheel-arches like a rallye car and an exceptionally low 0.36 drag coefficient which was possibly record-breaking for its class. Chief designer Erhard Schnell had created a sporty small car with crisp, chiseled lines, intended to particularly appeal to ‘the man of the house’. The highlight was the 100 hp Corsa GSi, and diesel power was also introduced. The two-door hatch- and notchback line-up was expanded in 1985 with the addition of the popular five-door model. The Corsa A became a highly-acclaimed, top seller with 3.1 million units built.
Act Two: 1993 to 2000
Despite the success of Corsa Nr. 1, the decision was taken in Rüsselsheim to position its successor as a real ‘ladies’ darling’. Opel design legend Hideo Kodama set to work and created a much rounder, softer Corsa, with appealing ‘saucer-eye’ headlamps which perfectly fit with cute, child-like looks. The Corsa B was ten centimeter longer and much more spacious inside. It also introduced higher safety standards to its segment, including ABS cadence braking, side-impact protection and front airbags. For special markets, next to the hatchback Opel again offered a notchback as well as station wagon and pick-up variants. Gasoline engines already had fuel-injection technology and catalytic converters, while the GSi featured 16 valves and diesel power was now turbo-charged. The second Corsa was successful around the world, and sales topped the four million mark.
Act Three: 2000 to 2006
In the spirit of never changing a winning team, Hideo Kodama was again asked to design the shape of the Corsa C. The styling was consciously oriented towards its successful predecessor. The new Corsa grew again by ten centimeter in length and had a wide stance with a longer wheelbase, which greatly increased interior space. For the first time, the body was fully galvanized. Sophisticated four-valve ECOTEC gasoline and new direct-injection turbo diesel engines ensured strong power, low fuel consumption and lowest emission values – all variants already complied to the stringent Euro 4 emission standards. The Corsa C also became a star performer and sold 2.5 million units.
Act Four: 2006 to 2014
From now on, the three and five-door versions go their separate ways: the three-door Corsa has unique, coupé-like styling aimed at sporty customers, just like the original Corsa A. The five-door variant becomes a spacious, fully-fledged family car. The current Corsa D is still less than four meters in length, having grown to exactly 3.999 meters. With Opel’s ecoFLEX technology, the Corsa has fuel-saving Start/Stop systems and highly efficient engines. The 1.3 CDTI ecoFLEX version consumes just 3.3 l/100 km over the combined cycle and emits only 88 g/km CO2. The fourth generation Corsa is now coming to the end of its production run, having sold 2.8 million units to date. Through four model generations, a total of 12.3 million Opel Corsas have been sold, with 11.7 million of them in Europe alone.
Act Five: From 2014
Before the end of the year, customers will be enjoying the new Corsa E. The fifth generation will also be built in the Opel plant in Zaragoza and in Eisenach as three-door and five-door variants. Eisenach is also home to production of the Opel ADAM, which is now the Corsa’s little brother – just like the Corsa once was to the Kadett. So time passes by for cars, just like for people, and children grow up to be adults.