Which one is this? Veeru or Jai?

Imagine two friends, let’s call them Veeru and Jai. In every regard they’re very closely matched in their abilities and skills and you know that when the chips are down, either would have your back and get you through a tough gig. The difference is in how.

Veeru is flamboyant, loud, wears his hat at a jaunty angle and is given to bouts of amateur dramatics and misplaced theatrics. He’s fun though.

Jai is more serious, to-the-point, no-frills, get-the-job done. Quieter, more thoughtful, perhaps even nobler. Jai would take the most direct and efficient route from A to Z whereas Veeru might choose the more scenic journey.

In the context of this review, Veeru is the Peugeot 208 and Jai is this new Vauxhall Corsa. And if you’re confused as to why the link between what you perceive to be French and British cars, know this: Vauxhall was bought by the PSA group (Peugeot and Citroen)three years ago. The new Corsa is an offspring of that marriage, which means that it’s basically a redressed version of the Peugeot 208, previously reviewed in these pages.

However where the Pug has fangs at the front, bling at the back and a phat road presence, the Vauxhall is more modest, stealthy and conventional. It does feel a bit bigger than Corsas of the past, but it remains a small city car with, in the case of the top-of-the-range Ultimate Nav version tested, 360-degree surround camera plus massage function for the powered driver’s seat. And leather upholstery.

In fact this version is very well equipped, but not cheap at £27k. Fret not, the Corsa remains a sensible offering with starting prices from £16k for a 75bhp 1.2-litre (one of twopetrol engines) base model. There’s also a 102bhp 1.5-litre diesel variant from just under £19k and a 136bhp full electric version from £27k.

The car tested featured the 100bhp 1.2 petrol endowing this Corsa with a 0-62mph acceleration time of 10.2 seconds and a top speed of 119mph. The claimed fuel economy is 48.7mpg – and I saw over 45mpg in the real world – with emissions at 134g/km CO2.

Interior space and overall comfort closely match the 208 with decent cargo capacity for a small car, though a tight rear cabin for anyone greater than averaged sized. At over 6-foot, sitting behind myself would be a struggle, but fine for regular humanoids.

At the front is where you get a sense of its grown-up status. The Pug’s chop-top steering wheel and holographic instrument panel are gone, but the interfaces, infotainment, controls and modes would be familiar if you’d just stepped out of a 208. The digital instrument display feelspuny, barely filling out the binnacle. All the information you need is clearly visible though.

If you’re tall though, particularly with long legs, you might prefer the conventional human-to-car coupling of the Corsa over the unusual 208 setup, it just feels like you have more room, particularly for your knees and thighs.

On the go, the Corsa is also typically afflicted with a prosaic dedication to carrying out duties with efficiency. It goes, it stops, it turns and drives exactly as you’d expect. That is to say, it’s very easy at the helm with obedient response, handy agility, good grip, reasonably responsive handling, and a big car sense of stability and serenity when it comes to cruising long-distances on the motorway. The ride is generally good, if a little firm, and real-world performance feels sufficiently swift despite the average sounding figures quoted above.

Switch it into Sports mode and it tightensup a little, though imperceptible compared to the personality change the Pug seems to undergo under the same instruction – so much so I drove the 208 in Sports the whole time (though fuel economy suffered), whereas I left the Corsa in Normal, as there was little to be gained.

Never have the same ingredients created such different textures and tastes. So which is it to be? Both are brilliant, great value propositions. Veera is a laugh, but could his big personality end up a little wearing at times? If so, Jai is the class act you’ll be wanting.

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