Here’s a question for you. What’s the most challenging kind of car an automotive stylist can ever be called upon to design? An exotic supercar? A versatile MPV with countless seating configurations? An SUV capable of scaling Ben Nevis while also delivering the luxury of a limousine? No, none of the above. By far the most difficult thing any motor industry designer can ever be called upon to create is a simple, affordable small car.

It’s a reality that the Head of Design for Vauxhall Opel, Brit Malcolm Ward is keen to confirm when I interview him to try and find out how things us within his business since its acquisition by the French PSA Group. Pretty well as it turns out. Ward and his colleagues are going full steam ahead in making the final touches to an all-new Vauxhall Corsa supermini, which is scheduled for launch in the last quarter of 2019. It’s a car that proved to be quite a challenge.

‘Small cars are so difficult to create because you’re trying to balance so many opposing factors’, Ward observes. ‘Customers want them to be sporty, approachable and friendly-looking. Yet they also want them to be very affordable – which can be difficult when there’s also a need to build in the latest technology and safety equipment. They need them to be space-efficient. Yet you’ve got to try and combine a roomy cabin with a roadway footprint of under 4-metres. It’s not easy’.

We’ll see later on next year how successfully Ward and his colleagues have risen to those challenges. In the meantime, the existing generation Corsa model still has a lot of life in it – as we’ve been finding over the course of our recent six month long term test. It’s a car the Vauxhall stylist still feels pretty pleased with. ‘We wanted to ensure that that Corsa design had a lot of ‘spring’ in its looks – and I think it really does. The wing-shaped headlamp design does in particular, give the car quite a lot of character.’

“We wanted to ensure that that Corsa design had a lot of ‘spring’ in its looks – and I think it really does …”

‘Looking back at it, I also think the so-called ‘breakthrough C-pillars’ used on the three-door body shape work really well; that’s a really distinctive window graphic. I like what we achieved at the rear too; we wanted to give that part of the car some width, which is why we built in split tail-lamps, something quite unusual in this segment. We specified those lights to be a littler larger than normal too in order to give the car a friendlier look.’

Of course, there’s a lot more to the Corsa than just clever design. The model range has just been re-launched with a range of efficient 1.4-litre Euro 6.2-compliant petrol engines, one of which is fitted to our test ‘Limited Edition’ model. Our car has this powerplant in 75PS form, but you can also get this unit with 90PS - or with a turbo with either 100PS or (in the top GSi) with 150PS. The GSi hot hatch has just been launched and really sets itself apart with 17-inch bi-colour cut alloy wheels, a bespoke rear roof spoiler, a sports front grille and more aggressive air dam, bumper and side sill treatment than you'll find on the lesser 'SRi' model. This top Corsa’s sprint to 62mph time is 8.9s on the way to a top speed of 129mph.

An optional feature with every version of this Vauxhall supermini that we really like is its optional ‘OnStar’ concierge system. This provides ‘SOS’ automatic crash response, stolen vehicle assistance and, via a smart phone app, various vehicle diagnostic features too, allowing you to do things like remotely lock or unlock the doors, check your oil life or sound the horn or flash the lights if you’ve lost this Vauxhall in a busy carpark. Via a provided ‘OnStar’ button, you can also contact an operator 24/7 who can summon assistance if you’re stranded or help you if you’re lost. If your Corsa has full navigation fitted, the OnStar operator can even forward directions directly into the IntelliLink system.

It’s an example of the kind of technology that supermini buyers now expect. Which is a perspective that will continue to challenge designers like Malcolm Ward. Talk with him though and you get the impression that it’s a challenge that he and his colleagues thrive on. As should be obvious as the Corsa story unfolds into the future.