THEN AND NOW | Does the 2019 Opel Corsa GSi live up to its 'Boss' of a forebear
For fans of Opel, 2019 has brought a sight not seen for many years – a product wearing the Grand Sport Injection (GSi) acronym.
In South Africa, the mention of these three letters would likely bring to mind images of the Kadett (E) from yesteryear. In addition to the following hierarchy: “Baby Boss”, “Boss”, “Big Boss” and “Superboss”.
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Back then in the mid 1980s to early 1990s, the range started off with the 1.8-litre GSi – the “Baby Boss”. It was followed by the 2.0-litre, eight-valve GSi, the “Boss”.
Then you had the 2.0-litre, 16-valve version, which was the “Big Boss”. And occupying the corner office on the top floor was the 2.0-litre, 16-valve GSi S – the “Superboss” – with its stout 125kW output.
Around 500 units of the "Superboss" were built for Group N racing homologation. As you know, it was regarded as a real menace both on the streets and on track, where gentlemen like Mike Briggs and Grant McLeery held court with competitors fielding the rival BMW 325iS.
These duels immortalised the reputations of both drivers and machines in the local landscape.
The 1990s got into swing and the heyday of the GSi waned – in title, perhaps, but not in spirit, because Opel continued to offer fearsome mutations of the subsequent Kadett (F), including the 200is and 200ts, the latter proving its mettle as a pursuit car in the hands of the South African Police Service. In 1997 the Opel Performance Centre (OPC) was established, signalling more officialised process in developing of the faster stuff. So GSi as a designation accepted a demotion of sorts.
In 1999 we received the Corsa (B) GSi, the tag appeared on the Astra (G) of 2003, the Corsa (C) of 2004 and the follow-up D-generation too. But then it took a break in 2012 and now, seven years later, here we are with the Corsa (E) GSi. It has the same engine as the five-door, 1.4 Sport model which was recently axed from the local line-up, ostensibly to give this GSi a better chance at success. It has the same power output of 110kW and a 220Nm torque figure.
It gains an exterior package with a more sculpted bonnet, a honeycomb grille and side mirrors finished in faux carbon fibre. At the rear, a roof spoiler promises additional downforce.
Certain bits are borrowed from the mightier Corsa OPC, not sold in our market, including 18-inch lightweight alloy wheels, in addition to the brakes and suspension, which were purportedly honed on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
That makes for a ride quality that is downright unforgiving. Couple that with pews hewn from cement, courtesy of Recaro, and the result is an experience that strains the gluteus muscles over any distance greater than 5km.
Yes, sure, these are expected trade-offs – this was intended to deliver a thrill-a-minute character after all. But the GSi is relatively pedestrian in performance. It feels much less enthusiastic than the claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.9 seconds suggests. The notchy, borderline obstinate first-to-second shift is also a culprit in the sapping of mirth.
Admittedly, on the right surface and with the right layout before you, the OPC-derived chassis does bring an inkling of amusement to things… Which makes you think: What kind of exhilaration would we be having now in the full-cream Corsa OPC?
To punt its GSi more effectively, Opel partnered up with Bathu, a footwear company started by talented young entrepreneur Theo Baloyi. The call-to-action prompted consumers to pay R365,900 for a pair of shoes – and receive a free Corsa GSi as part of the deal.
But I think you’re better off buying some of his sneakers (upwards of R900) in isolation instead and doing something more meaningful with your change.
You could, for example, make a deposit on a more accomplished B-segment hot hatchback in the form of the Volkswagen Polo GTI, starting at R398,400.
Alternatively it is worth remembering that the new Suzuki Swift Sport, a more direct rival to Corsa GSi with its similar outputs, is arriving later this month.
*A SPECIAL THANKS TO RICHARD MILLAR FOR AVAILING HIS IMMACULATE SUPERBOSS TO US.