REVIEW | The 2019 Opel Corsa 120Y is a birthday spoiled

Confusing special edition leaves Brenwin Naidu scratching his head

30 May 2019 - 14:16 By Brenwin Naidu
The 2019 Opel Corsa 120Y
The 2019 Opel Corsa 120Y
Image: Opel

Notice how Frank Sinatra never mentioned a single birthday in the poignant, reflective and iconic 1969 My Way. Looking back on a lifetime, the out-of-key chanting, sponge cakes impaled with immolated wax sticks and other perfunctory rituals would blend into a smoky haze.

He decided to quit celebrating at some point, as evidenced in It Was a Very Good Year — not recorded by him first, but why let that get in the way of a good punchline? At 17, things were great, at 35, they were too. After that, not so much.

The people at Opel might have a similar sentiment regarding the advancement of age, if their Corsa 120Y is anything to go by. As far as celebratory activities go, this one is down there with that one time you turned 10 and nobody attended the pool party, because your special day falls towards the end of December, when everybody is on holiday and celebrating the life of someone way more important.

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Firstly, you ask, why did they name it after a Datsun from 1977? The Corsa 120Y commemorates 120 years of the Opel brand as a carmaker. But if you want to get technical, Opel was founded 157 years ago, initially as a producer of sewing machines and then, penny-farthing bicycles.

So what does this R259,900 ode to the legacy of Adam Opel bring you? It is based on the middle-range Enjoy specification. On the front fenders you will spot subtle 120Y decals.

And according to the press release, the 16-inch alloy wheels are finished in gun-metal silver — though the ones on our unit appeared to be silver in the purest sense, without any influence from a firearm. The floor mats also feature 120Y branding, and the upholstery has purportedly been upgraded. If that is indeed the case, one loathes to think what comes standard in the starter Corsa these days, which costs about R19,210 less.

You could save R10,000 and just get the Enjoy model on which the 120Y is based. And the only glaring omissions will be a reverse camera and the sprinkling of badges, of course. Two items one could probably live without. But then, should you consider a Corsa in the first place? The B-segment hatchback arena has moved along considerably since the product was launched here in 2015. It feels rather outmoded, soldiering on with sub-par materials and a driving character that is mostly unremarkable versus the accomplishment offered by certain, newer peers.

But some praise can still be placed upon the sprightly nature of the 1.0-litre, turbocharged, three-cylinder unit. Its 66kW and 170Nm gets the Corsa on the go with a characterful thrum via a six-speed manual. Our tester was plagued by a glitchy tyre pressure monitor. And the intrusive nature of the stop-start system had us deactivating it immediately upon each entry.

The Corsa 120Y is the automotive equivalent of wishing someone a happy birthday on their Facebook timeline by writing “HBD” accompanied by the confetti emoji.