Monday, January 11, 2021

Opel Corsa B, the unsung hero

Even though it's now seem as outdated even in the regions where it soldiered on for longer than its first run from '93 to '00 in Western Europe, the Opel Corsa B was one of the greatest GM cars of the '90s in a worldwide basis. Despite its absence in the United States and Canada where it was simpler to keep the strategy of selling a rebadged Suzuki within its size class, the first vehicle to challenge the Volkswagen Beetle in the Mexican market as a serious contender was the Opel Corsa B, rebadged there as Chevrolet Chevy and initially sourced from Spain before CKD assembly from Brazilian parts and ultimately made with an increased local content. Nobody will ever know exactly what prevented the Corsa to become an option for American customers too, but most likely the cost of certification while the rebadged Suzukis were already there.

A very dependable model, even though its appearance could suggest otherwise, the Opel Corsa B was also rebadged as a Chevrolet in South America where it used to be made in Brazil and Argentina, with CKD kits having been supplied from Brazil even in RHD format to South Africa where it retained the Opel branding while being fitted with more rugged engines than its European counterparts and received the Brazilian facelift from '00 to '09. Simple mechanics made it very dumbproof, even though electronic fuel injection had been a first-in-class in some markets such as Brazil where the Chevrolet Corsa was introduced in '94. The relatively modern European styling matched to some degree of ruggedness which remains as a desirable feature in Latin America, Africa and Middle East rendered the Corsa B closer to a Beetle replacement than much of Volkswagen's offering.

A sedan version had even been developed in Brazil catering to developing markets where this bodystyle is often seen as preferable over the hatchbacks which were more prevalent in Europe. To a certain point, the availability of a sedan/saloon seriously impacted the market share for the 4-door hatchback, while the 2-door hatchback remained quite competitive in a more budget-oriented approach which helped it to become a contender to the Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico. This very same bodystyle had been also made in China and assembled from CKD kits in India and South Africa.

With fewer changes and a budget-oriented approach, the sedan has soldiered on in South America until 2016, already rebadged as Chevrolet Classic and fitted only with a flexfuel 1.0L engine according to the Brazilian "people's car" program, while Argentina had a 1.4L gasoline-only engine. Still easy to spot on most Latin American medium and big cities, the Opel Corsa B is certainly an unsung hero from those times when GM was greater than any other automaker on earth. Even though the original Opel design may lead a few stubborn rednecks to not consider it Chevrolet-ish enough, the Corsa B was certainly among the greatest responses to both developed and developing markets and their needs.

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