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Vauxhall Nova: Buying guide and review (1983-1993)

Vauxhall Nova: Buying guide and review (1983-1993) Classic and Performance Car
Vauxhall Nova SR Opel Corsa GT Opel Corsa Vauxhall Nova Sport Opel Corsa Opel Corsa Opel Corsa GSI
Small front drive hatchbacks regularly top the sales charts in the UK, but this was not always so. When the Vauxhall Nova (known as the Opel Corsa outside of the UK) arrived on the scene in 1983, most of its competitors – other than the Fiesta – were either rear-wheel drive or based on older technology.
Initially launched in poverty spec carburettor 1.0 and 1.2-litre versions, the range was continually expanded until there were turbo diesels, fuel injected 1.6 hot hatches as well as various body types to choose from. Post production, the hardy little Nova found favour with the modding community, and some outlandish creations started to prowl the streets at night thanks to the explosion of the Max Power scene. Many met an untimely demise at the hands of overly enthusiastic teenage owners, meaning that they’re relatively scarce today, but the Novas that remain can be a perfect classic runabout for those on a tight budget. 

Which Vauxhall Nova to buy?

A two and four-door saloon, as well as three and five-door hatchback was offered with the three-door hatch proving to be the most popular derivative by far. There were engine sizes spanning from a 45bhp 1.0-litre, to the 101bhp 1.6. Fuel injection was standardised on all models bar the base 1.0 by the late ‘80s. An efficient if rattly diesel was offered from 1987-on and received a turbocharger the following year – gaining a reputation as one of the quickest diesels produced at the time. 
Thanks to their very low kerb weight and short gearing, most are well-suited to city driving, keeping up with modern day traffic with ease. 
Unsurprisingly, the performance orientated GTE is the one most people want. with its 101bhp SOHC fuel-injected 1.6-litre motor, it was more than a match for the hot Fiestas of the time. Rebadged the GSI after the 1990 facelift, it remained popular right up until the last year of production. The far rarer 1.3SR introduced in 1985 to qualify for the BRC homologation requirements was a stripped out little 93bhp rocket, getting to 60mph in under 9 seconds. 500 were built in total and these are the most collectible of all.
The mid-1990s saw a resurgence in the Nova’s popularity, thanks to their low insurance bracket and good reliability. Many teenagers chose the Nova as a first car, which is also the reason that a lot were used as a basis for a highly modded ride, with 18-inch rims and huge body kits. Despite the negative press that these cars received by more traditional enthusiasts, it does mean that there was (and still is) a huge array of parts available for those looking to upgrade their cars. Engine swaps from larger Vauxhalls, turbos and massive brakes were all popular options for the intrepid Nova owner.
Although a large number of cars were built (almost half a million by the end of 1993) few have survived unscathed, and while the sporty GTE/GSI models are always the most sought after finding an unmodified one could pose a few problems. As a general guide, face lifted cars are best but don’t dismiss the less desirable models as choices are limited and even the smaller engine derivatives can prove to be great little runabouts.

Performance and specs

Vauxhall Nova 1.6 GTE
Engine 1598cc, 8 valve SOHC I4 
Power 101bhp @ 5600rpm 
Torque 99lb ft @ 3400rpm
Top speed 117mph 
0-62mph 9.5seconds 
Fuel consumption 40mpg 
Gearbox Five-speed manual

Dimensions and weight

Wheelbase 2343mm
Length 3622mm
Width 1532mm
Height 1365mm
Weight 820kg

Common problems

• Rust can be a real issue and badly corroded cars should be avoided. Repairing a sad Nova is almost always more costly than getting a good one in the first place. Rear arches, front suspension turrets and foot wells are common problem areas.

• Light weight meant nippy performance and good fuel economy, it also meant low passenger protection in the event of a collision and as quite a few were crashed take a good look at the fit and finish of the panels.

• Engines are tough but frequent oil servicing is a must and camshaft wear was common so listen out for noisy idling and check for excessive oil seepage around the head gasket. Blue exhaust smoke can indicate valve stem wear. Cambelts should be done every 40,000miles.

• Petrol gauges are unreliable on early cars and repairs can be expensive so be careful of running out of fuel as this can damage carbs and fuel lines.

• Interior quality was iffy, marginally improving on face lifted models but expect some wear and make sure the dashboard is securely attached to bulkhead. Yes really.

• Many cars have been modified; the GTE/GSI models tend to have led hard lives so check for signs of abuse. 

Model history

1983: Vauxhall Nova released in 1.0, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 engine sizes. Initially three-door hatchback and two-door saloon body styles were offered
1984: Four and five door variants become available
1985: Stripped out 1.3L sport model introduced- 500 built
1987: 1.5-litre diesel introduced along with 101bhp 1.6l fuel-injected GTE model
1988: Turbo diesel engine launched raising power to 67bhp
1990: Face lift carried out across the range including redesigned bumpers and front end. GTE rebadged as GSI following face-lift
1993: Vauxhall Nova production ends with almost 500,000 units built

Owners clubs and websites

• www.pngclub.com – Forum for Vauxhall enthusiasts
• www.vodc.co.uk - Vauxhall Drivers Club
• www.allcorsa.co.uk – Vauxhall Nova/Corsa owners site

Summary and prices

The current market for the Nova is a strange one, previously unloved base models tend to command unusually high prices, with mint 1.2-litre 1983 hatchbacks valued at up to £8000. Overlooked by the modders more of these have survived and their originality is highly valued. There are of course a few well used examples with prices as low as £500 but look at £2000 for a decent car. A 1.3 SR in good condition can be up to £10,000.
The Nova’s attrition rate in general has been extremely high, most having succumbed to rust, scrappage schemes, overly enthusiastic modifications and teenage mating ritual demonstrations gone wrong. Unsurprisingly finding one of the faster variants like the GTE or GSI requires a lot of patience and plenty of luck, but if you persevere you will be rewarded with an excellent little supermini that combines practicality with that all important grin factor.

Words: John Tallodi
Vauxhall Nova SR Opel Corsa GT Opel Corsa Vauxhall Nova Sport Opel Corsa Opel Corsa Opel Corsa GSI
Last updated: 27th Oct 2016
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Vauxhall Nova cars for sale

3 Search results
Vauxhall Nova
1995 16990 GBP
  • 1986 Vauxhall Nova 1.3 GL 4 dr saloon only 56,000 miles genuine car long mot getting hard to find a good one !

    £1,995 £1,995

    Walkround video of car here:- https://youtu.be/j1FDug7rAyA Here is our lovely little Vauxhall Nova 1.3 GL saloon in bright red with a genuine 56,000 miles from new. I've just looked back over the pictures once advert was completed and i must say it looks good in the pictures but they dont do it any justice, it looks better in person ! Its hard to capture with a camera phone how good it actually looks !Theres quite a long winded story behind this car but we break them normally and specialise in Nova Spares and a friend of mine got hold of this car from its last owner and decided he the 1300 engine and gearbox parts and a lot of interior lights etc etc i saw the car and saw how clean and original it was that i couldn't see it be stripped so i offered him a good amount for it as it was with some parts missing with a view to get it back on the road and he accepted this was December last year. Since then i have been piecing it back together with good parts i have in stock but i didn't have all of them so i have had to buy some bits myself.This would be a real good car to buy and hang on to and keep nice and show !5 - speed gearboxUnder the bonnet you could eat your dinner off it !Reason being it has sat in a private heated garage for 10 years not moved hence the good condition its in that you see now !Its first MOT since 2007 was end of last year check the mot history but it ped first time last year no problems and its never been welded and with the exception of a couple of scches along the bottom of the drivers side never been painted we did this to brighten it up and make it nice !Since i have owned it i have replaced:-New grille for the saloon models New dizzy, carb, coolant bottle, headlights, indicators, some interior trims, radiator, some coolant pipes, wiper motor, linkage heater blower motor, gear gaitor, gear knob, spare wheel, plus much more this was to just get it back to being complete again.Since then just this weekend i have fitted a set of the rare 3 spoke GTE SR Alloys, plus a set of 60mm lowering springs to make it look a little nicer but wow it looks a treat now everyone comments, how nice but subtle it is !Its having an oil and oil filter change this week, i have fitted a centre rear belt as they don't come with these models, i have fitted a new set of floor mats (brand new) plus a new cd player i have spent fortunes on it with the paint on the nearside and the bits i have done to it putting it back together, there are a couple of little chips as you would expect so its not perfect but could be perfect very easily !Underneath is solid and never been welded and doesn't need any, its all been treated and wax oiled and has lots of years left in it !I have spent so many hours on this car getting it right and fixing anything that's needed fixing and adding things to it and improving it, i replaced the steering wheel with one i liked the older style one, there is probably lots of parts and jobs i have forgotten to tell you aboutBut its now ready to be used daily i have just taxed the car and am using it daily myself i have done 100 miles in it in the last couple of days giving it a good run.I am in two minds whether to sell it or not, i have it booked in to a local clic car show in the next few weeks, and intend when i do vauxhall auto jumble shows to display it on our stand with the magnetic signs we have had made for itI have put it up for a price that reflects what i have spent on it, the condition, the time i have spent on it and a price i wouldn't want to take less than so please if you cant come up with £2000 for it then please don't ask if i'll take 1900 its £2000 firm.I have taken the car to as far as i want to now really and i have stopped it being stripped and scrapped which was my intention, it owes me a fortune the saloon grille on its own is dear to buy and hard to find !I am happy to keep it and use it to advertise our business on but i will sell for £2000 should someone want it for that price, if that is the case i want to get a NOVA Van to restore to advertise on which would look better for us but i love this car i love how it looks and i love how it drives ! Its the desirable 1300cc engine aswell. The wheels alone with the centre caps and good tyres i get £250 a set for in good nick !Its just been valeted and its had new coolant plugs cap rotor arm coil nearly everything service wise has been replaced or upgradedOnly MOT advisory was slight blow from exhaust but i have since fitted a new system so its not blowing anymore !No swaps no part ex and no offersJust remembered i have fitted new front discs this week new pads and its had new rear brake lines, cylinders and shoes recently too ive spent more on it than i thought ! Keep remembering things i have done to it !Truly a stunning looking driving car which has had a lot of moneys worth of extras fitted to and has had many hours of work done to get it looking this good !Any questions please ask !

    • Engine size: 1297
    For sale
  • VAUXHALL NOVA 1.2 Merit 1988

    £3,495 £3,495

    Supplied new to Mr Ogilvie of Buckingham this Nova has remained in his ownership until now. Totally original. Glacier white with grey cloth upholstery this stunning car has covered only 10,100 miles from new. All the Vauxhall handbooks and wallet are present complete with stamped service book and also the original invoice from the supplying dealer Camden Motors. The car drives just as Vauxhall intended it to and starts on the button and is without fault. All the panels are straight and correct and we can't find any traces of paintwork carried out. MOT'd with no advisories. The car really is lovely as you can see in the pictures and would be a great addition to any collection or to be enjoyed throughout the season. Absolutely any inspection is welcome. Viewing is highly recommended and we know you won't be disappointed. All major debit and credit cards accepted. Please contact us for any further information. Delivery can be arranged.

    • Mileage: 10500 mi
    • Engine size: 1.2
    For sale
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