The cars we loved.
A Corsica? really, you’ve got to be kidding. That’s the response I get when I admit to actually liking the lowly Corsica. It’s one of those cars the motoring press seldom wrote about, but everyone was buying. For a few years after it’s release in 1987, it shared with the platform twin Beretta the number two sales position in America. It really was the “Heartbeat of America”, because every rental car lot and government agency seemed to have a fleet of them. In fact it was sold exclusively to rental car agencies and fleet buyers before being released to the general market.
I can’t really nail down the reasons for my enthusiasm for this car beyond the crisp lines, compact size and hatchback (89-91). The interior was the deal breaker for me, as was the case for most GM cars of the era. Nice outside, but inside the dash reminded me of a cheap kitchen counter. The Corsica missed the compact car customization wave that swept across America (thanks Fast and Furious) by a decade. It would not have mattered anyway as owners then and now seemed more interested in basic bigger than Cavalier, but smaller than Lumina transportation.
The front wheel drive Corsica was built in Wilmington, Delaware alongside the Beretta. A version of it sold by Pontaic in Canada was called Tempest. Offered initially as a four door sedan, a five door hatchback was later available from 89-91. Basically, the engines choicesin the Corsica/Beretta were the same as the Cavalier/Sunbird. Most Corsica’s were fitted with a 2 L OHV 4, then later sportier versions got the 2.8 L V6 that was in the Cavalier Z24 and Beretta GT. I think one of the most interesting of all Corsicas was the performance oriented LTZ or more specifically those with the rare XT trim option. LTZs were fitted with all the options most buyers expected including leather interior and came with 2.8L V6. Later LTZs came with GM’s more advanced 3.1 with sequential fuel injection. The special XT trim added a subtle ground effects package and many of the suspension goodies of the sportier Beretta. This was the version that came closest to it’s image of being a European inspired American touring car (done properly by Ford with the Taurus SHO). In 1997 the vaguely bland Corolla looking Malibu replaced the Corsica. While a better looking and engineered car in every way, it lacked the charm and distinctive look of the Corsica and had no real sporty to equivalent the LTZ/XT. There are still plenty of run of the mill Corsicas on the road at your local Buy Here Pay Here lots in poor sections of town across the country.