It has been voted Britain’s happiest place to live, so we took New Corsa to Harrogate in Yorkshire to find out what they’ve got to smile about.
The residents of Harrogate are officially the most content in the country. In a survey commissioned by Rightmove to find Britain’s happiest place to live, almost 50,000 people ranked their home towns using 12 different feelgood factors, ranging from amenities to pride. Facing stiff opposition from well over 100 other towns throughout the UK, Harrogate emerged victorious, coming first for safety, neighbourliness and recreation.
It was the second time in two years that the historic spa town has scooped the coveted award. There really must be something in the water in that part of the world, so today we’re heading to North Yorkshire in the New Corsa to find out more.
If Harrogate is Britain’s happiest place to live, the Corsa is one of Britain’s best-loved cars. The agile supermini has consistently been placed high on the list of best-sellers since its launch in 1993, and stands as Vauxhall’s best-selling model, with an appeal that bridges gender, age and budgets. It’s the perfect car to put a smile on your face.
New Corsa boasts enhanced quality and equipment, while performance and fuel economy both improve and the design and driving dynamics are now sharper than ever. Both three- and five-door models are available in a selection of nine different trim levels, but all cars get an impressive list of standard equipment: heated windscreen, six airbags, a tyre-pressure monitoring system, and a City mode that gives the steering additional power assistance at the press of a button for easy urban manoeuvres.
Our sporty three-door model looks fantastic with its metallic black paintwork, 17-inch gloss-black alloy wheels, ‘eagle eye’ headlights with LED day-running lights and muscular wheel arches that emphasise the squat, compact dimensions. It has its finger right on the pulse, too, pairing the smallest-capacity engine in the range with the highest level of specification. It’s downsizing minus the compromise: the all-new 1.0-litre turbocharged engine produces a healthy 115PS, while 170Nm generated at just 1800rpm – little over idle speed – gives effortless pulling-power, whatever the gear. And yet our New Corsa can still achieve 56.5mpg on the combined cycle, and costs nothing to tax thanks to CO2 emissions of just 115g/km for three-door. You can also opt for 1.2, 1.4 and 1.4-litre turbocharged petrols, and a 1.3-litre turbodiesel that returns an incredible 88.3mpg.
Inside our car, we’re treated to all the luxuries of Limited Edition specification, including electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, sports-style front seats, USB connection with iPod control, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls for maximum convenience, sports pedals, front fogs and tinted windows. A lot of kit for a little car!
The New Corsa is an easy car to nip around Harrogate in, with light and easy steering, snappy acceleration and compact dimensions and great visibility that make it a cinch to park in the tightest spots. There’s even a Hill Start Assist function, which comes in handy as I reverse into a space on the steep hill outside Bettys Tea Rooms in the centre of Harrogate.
“Victorian architects were inspired by an eclectic range of styles, and The Turkish Baths’ blending of Moorish influence with Victorian norms is clearly apparent from the moment you set foot in the building”
We wander a short way down the hill to The Crown Hotel, to meet Michael Newby. He was born and bred in Harrogate, and mayor until recently. Newby explains that Sir William Slingsby discovered Harrogate’s first well in 1571 and declared that the waters had similar health-giving properties to those of Belgian spa towns. It’s not just the elite enjoying the healing mineral waters: anyone can enjoy a day at the excellent Turkish Baths and Health Spa from just £17. Manager Sarah Leachman gives us a guided tour of this incredible listed building. The Turkish Baths’ blending of Moorish influence with Victorian norms is clearly apparent from the moment you set foot in the building. It’s a tropically-hot, quiet and calming atmosphere, with a variety of heated chambers and a steam room to explore before you soak in the cold and invigorating plunge pool, then relax in the frigidarium; it’d be easy to stay all day.
The Tour de France visited in 2014 and Harrogate became synonymous with Le Tour’s trip to our shores; the town marked the end of the first stage of the memorable 2014 event. To put New Corsa to the test out of town, we’re retracing the riders’ tyre tracks, heading out of Harrogate over that first stage and towards the Buttertubs Pass in the nearby Yorkshire Dales – the beautiful national park providing yet another reason for residents to feel so happy.
Our New Corsa comes with the IntelliLink infotainment system, which features a seven-inch touchscreen as its centrepiece. It’s highly intuitive to use, and gives the dashboard an uncluttered and highly modern feel.
We follow Brunt Acres Road out of Hawes, and soon the gradient increases rapidly. The riders would be digging deep now, but New Corsa’s turbocharged oomph sees it pull from low down in the rev range and whoosh us up the incline as effortlessly as a car with a far larger engine. The slick gearbox is a boon, too, helping gloss between the regular changes from second to third gear and back down again. There’s a little respite as we pass a hotel and the famous Polka Dot house as the road levels out, but then, just as you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, the climb really kicks in, the road pointing to the sky like a rollercoaster inching up its initial ascent.
Our New Corsa has the sports chassis, which brings lowered and uprated suspension settings and 17-inch alloy wheels. It proves a great combination here as the road bucks and weaves over the topography, and combines with the perky turbocharged engine to give New Corsa a real sprightliness and sense of fun. It still soaks up the bumps too, giving a cushy ride over this undulating surface.
The riders would have had a lighter workload at the top of Buttertubs Pass, and there’s even a prolonged downhill section that drops towards the moorland before rising again. But after the second cattle grid, the road narrows and things get more serious. The road passes either side of the 20-metre deep limestone potholes that gave the Buttertubs Pass its name; one theory suggests traders lowered butter churns down here to keep produce cool while stopping on the way to market. Eventually the green safety barrier and the death-defying drop disappear, but still the road tumbles away downhill towards Thwaite, alternating between flat-out straight stretches and far tighter bends that force you to reel in your enthusiasm.
It’s a breathless ride, but New Corsa proves the perfect companion, thanks to its agile handling, pert dimensions, keen turn of speed and unflappable brakes.
Finally, at a broad T-junction, we’re able to turn around and repeat those amazing 5.5 miles all over again, before heading back to Harrogate to sample the excellent bars and restaurants once night falls. It’s the perfect end to a perfect day. Britain’s happiest place? I wouldn’t vote against it.