RAY MASSEY: Vauxhall Corsa is now the most popular car in the country

Vauxhall finally took the top spot this week as its sixth-generation Corsa hatchback was confirmed to be the UK’s biggest selling car in 2021, with more than 40,000 sold.

The announcement marks an end to Ford’s 50-year run in pole position. 

The Corsa has been in the UK for 40 years since 1982 (it was originally sold in Britain as the Nova but as Corsa on the Continent) and through six generations has clocked up 2.8 million sales out of around 14 million across Europe. 

In demand: Vauxhall?s Corsa hatchback sold more than 40,000 in 2021 - making it Britain's best selling car (C) Provided by This Is Money In demand: Vauxhall?s Corsa hatchback sold more than 40,000 in 2021 – making it Britain’s best selling car

To celebrate, Vauxhall is to launch a special 40th anniversary edition of the Corsa this summer.

It’s a landmark moment for Vauxhall, which is actually the UK’s oldest surviving car manufacturer, with a history stretching back to 1903. 

The Corsa contributed to nearly 126,000 Vauxhall vehicles sold here across 2021, accounting for 5.55 per cent of the new car market. That was against total car sales in 2021 of 1.65 million.

Following the Corsa’s success, Vauxhall’s all-new Astra, Astra Sports Tourer and Grandland SUV will arrive in showrooms this year. 

A fully electric Astra-e follows in 2023. Priced from GBP15,750, the new Corsa was also this week named Small Car Of The Year in the 2022 Company Car and Van Awards.

The all-electric Corsa-e with a range of 222 miles now starts from GBP25,805 after the Government’s reduced GBP1,500 plug-in car grant prompted a price-cut by Vauxhall.

Hit: The Corsa has been in the UK for 40 years since 1982 and through six generations has clocked up 2.8 million sales out of around 14 million across Europe (C) Provided by This Is Money Hit: The Corsa has been in the UK for 40 years since 1982 and through six generations has clocked up 2.8 million sales out of around 14 million across Europe Award: Priced from GBP15,750, the new Corsa was also this week named ?Small Car of the Year? in the 2022 Company Car & Van Awards (C) Provided by This Is Money Award: Priced from GBP15,750, the new Corsa was also this week named ?Small Car of the Year? in the 2022 Company Car & Van Awards

More the merrier 

The new eighth generation Astra hatchback is already on sale — priced from GBP23,275 with deliveries imminent.

Order books with exact pricings open in February for a new Astra Sports Tourer available at launch with a 225 horsepower plug-in hybrid version. 

It is expected to combine a 1.6 litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a 12.kW battery set-up with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

It’s priced from around GBP34,000.

First deliveries are in early summer and a pure electric version is expected to follow. 

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Vauxhall is also the UK’s best-selling electric van manufacturer, with the Vivaro-e the most popular.

By 2024, all Vauxhall cars and vans will be available with an electrified version. And by 2028, Vauxhall has committed to only selling fully electric vehicles — seven years ahead of the UK Government deadline.

Six of Vauxhall’s best

Prince Henry: Hitting speeds of up to 65mph, the 1910 Prince Henry was the first sports car ? as well as an aristocratic favourite ? in Edwardian BritainVelox: With post-war Vauxhall American styling, the Velox ran to the early 1960s and is immortalised in a Billy Bragg songViva: A family favourite of the 1960s and ’70s and once essential hand-me-down wheels for this writerNew Corsa: The award-winning sixth generation Corsa, priced from GBP15,750, is Britain’s biggest selling car in 2021 with more than 40,000 soldNew Astra: The eighth generation Astra, priced from GBP23,275, is on sale now with first hatchback deliveries imminentCombo-e Life: The electric Vauxhall Combo-e Life from GBP29,619 plus the Combo-e van are being built this year at Ellesmere Port alongside Peugeot and Citroen battery-powered vehicles6/6 SLIDES

Firm favourite

Over the generations, Vauxhall has rarely been the hippest of brands, but has been held in much affection by UK motorists.

It’s even been immortalised in song, most notably by Billy Bragg in From A Vauxhall Velox.

With two factories in the UK — in Ellesmere Port in Cheshire and Luton, Bedfordshire — Vauxhall is now enjoying a new lease of life under the stewardship of the Stellantis conglomerate, the world’s fourth biggest car-maker, which was created in January 2021 from the merger of France’s Groupe PSA and the Italian-American FCA Group.

In July, Stellantis announced a GBP100 million investment in Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port manufacturing plant, which will become the first Stellantis plant to produce solely battery-electric models, in both commercial and passenger versions, including the Vauxhall Combo-e and Combo-e Life (plus the Peugeot e-Rifter and Citroen e-Berlingo), for both domestic and export markets. 

Vauxhall is enjoying a new lease of life under the stewardship of the Stellantis conglomerate, which was created from the merger of France's PSA and the Italian-American FCA Group (C) Provided by This Is Money Vauxhall is enjoying a new lease of life under the stewardship of the Stellantis conglomerate, which was created from the merger of France’s PSA and the Italian-American FCA Group

Vauxhall is also adding the Vivaro-e Hydrogen to its all-electric van range from early 2023.

The Luton plant continues to build the Vivaro and Vivaro Life vans for Vauxhall, as well as vehicles for its Stellantis sister brands.

As part of the shake-up, the Astra — previously built at Ellesmere Port — is now manufactured in Russelsheim, Germany, home of its partner brand Opel.

Strong start

Although Vauxhall is now a mainstream car-maker, in the early days it was considered a rival to the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley, used by Edwardian aristocracy and royalty.

The Vauxhall name has its origins in the Middle Ages and goes back to Fulk Le Breant, who married into property near Lambeth in London which became Fulk’s Hall, later corrupted to Fawkes Hall, and finally Vauxhall. 

His heraldic symbol was a griffin — a mythical half-lion, half-eagle — which endures to this day as Vauxhall’s badge.

Vauxhall started making cars at its original factory in South London in 1903, beginning with a five-horsepower single-cylinder model priced from 130 guineas or GBP136.50, and with top speed governed at 18mph.

To expand, the firm moved in 1905 to a seven-acre site in Luton’s Kimpton Road.

On March 29, 1905, the first Luton-built car rolled off the line — a 9HP vehicle costing GBP375 with a top speed of 30mph.

Vauxhall also produced military vehicles during the First World War and between 1912 and 1918 had delivered nearly 2,000 D-Type Staff Cars to Britain’s military.

Now mainstream 

In 1925, American car-giant General Motors bought Vauxhall for £2.5 million, the US car-firm’s first overseas acquisition. 

They saw Vauxhall’s future in the mainstream models for the middle classes and expanded to take on bus and truck production.

During World War II, Vauxhall’s production lines built thousands of Bedford military trucks and until 1944 the Churchill tank.

Mercedes plans to go the distance 

Mercedes-Benz has found the cure to electric car ‘range anxiety’ after unveiling a new sports-saloon prototype called Vision EQXX — with a claimed range of more than 620 miles.

Designed to give Tesla a run for its money, the car can drive the length of Britain or make a return 300-mile each way trip from London to Newcastle on a single charge.

Mercedes' new sports-saloon prototype, the Vision EQXX has a claimed range of more than 620 miles (C) Provided by This Is Money Mercedes’ new sports-saloon prototype, the Vision EQXX has a claimed range of more than 620 miles

For now, the green zero-emissions four-seater ‘halo car’ (expect five in any production version) is a one-off concept and ‘road legal research prototype’.

Even the Mercedes three-pointed star logo is stencilled on to the bonnet to save the weight of a traditional badge. 

The 620-mile range is 167 more than the German car-giant’s current luxury flagship EQS electric limousine, which achieves a maximum 453 miles.

Mercedes-Benz claims that 95 per cent of the battery energy is used to drive the car’s 20-inch magnesium alloy wheels. 

The battery is 50 per cent of the size of that in the EQS, is 35 per cent lighter and has been developed in conjunction with the Mercedes-AMG F1 team in the UK.

It has a minimalist hi-tech ‘vegan’ interior that makes extensive use of recycled waste materials including textiles and components created from recycled waste, plastic bottles, mushroom and bamboo fibres, ground up cacti and food scraps, garden waste, ‘and even baby nappies’.

Chief technology officer Markus Schaefer said they will test-drive the prototype on a variety of roads and terrain this year.