General Motors Astra

The Astra is a General Motors (GM) small family car, badged as an Opel in continental Europe, a Vauxhall in the United Kingdom, a Holden in Australasia, and a Chevrolet in Latin America. In Russia, it carries Opel and Chevrolet badges.

The Astra is now built in Germany , Belgium, the UK, Brazil, South Africa, India, Poland and Russia, as well as being assembled in completely knocked-down (CKD) kits in other countries. It competes against the Ford Focus and VW Golf. In the mid- to late-1980s, it was badged as a Pontiac in the United States of America.


Astra history

There have been five main versions of the Astra:


The Astra name originated with Vauxhall's 1979 model, though the car was designed and built a year earlier in Germany as an Opel Kadett. This model replaced the Vauxhall Viva in the UK, along with some versions of the Vauxhall Chevette. However, the Chevette remained on the price list for several years afterwards until the Vauxhall Nova was launched. The Astra was Vauxhall's first model to have front-wheel drive.

The car featured a new unified engine for Vauxhall/Opel, featuring an all-aluminium head, overhead camshaft and hydraulic valve lifters. The engine was a huge leap forward from the earlier generation of small engines used in Vauxhall and Opel cars in terms of power, economy and refinement. It was initially available in 1300 and 1600 forms, and later an 1800 fuel-injected version was added, used in the Mk 1 Astra GTE model, introduced in 1981. Vauxhall now had a serious rival for the Volkswagen Golf, and it quickly became popular with buyers.

There were two bodystyles for the first generation Vauxhall Astra, hatchback and estate, both available with three or five doors. There was also a van version which was badged the Bedford Astravan.


Missing image
1989 Vauxhall Astra SRi Mk 2 five-door.

The Mk 2 Astra used the same range of engines and running gear as the Mk 1, but with a completely restyled body with much better aerodynamics. A new GTE using a 2-litre fuel injected model was also introduced, and early models of these featured an all electronic dash with digital speedometer. This was largely received as a gimmick, and later models reverted to traditional analogue instrumentation. A special twin-camshaft version of the engine was also developed and a high performance version of the GTE was created around it. This engine developed 156 bhp in standard form, giving spritely performance. The Mk 2 was long-lived, and was available in estate, hatchback, saloon (sedan) and cabriolet versions. The Mk 3 model was essentially an evolution of the Mk 2, rather than a redesign.

This model formed the basis of the Daewoo Cielo, Racer, Nexia and LeMans, and its export versions, the Passport Optima (Canada) and Pontiac LeMans (USA and New Zealand).

The second generation Vauxhall Astra, sold in the rest of Europe as the Opel Kadett, was elected European Car of the Year for 1985. It fought off stiff competition from the Lancia Thema and Renault 25.


The world car version of the Astra (model A, though some claim this is the model F, continuing the Kadett lineage) was released in 1991. It was offered as a three- or five-door hatchback, a sedan (saloon), and station wagon (estate), known as Caravan. A cabriolet was also offered, designed and built by Bertone in Italy.

In South Africa, the Kadett name was retained for the Astra hatchback range until 1999, which included a two-litre turbo called the 200T, unique to that market. Sedan and station wagon models were offered under the Astra name. Controversially, the Kadett and Astra in South Africa won the title of 'Car of the Year' in two consecutive years (1992 and 1993) even though they were versions of the same car.

South African nomenclature was denoted in decilitres, so the Astra and Kadett ranges featured 140, 160i, 180i and 200i models.

This model also became available in Australasia badged as a Holden, first in New Zealand in 1995, and then Australia in 1996. The first models were imported from the UK, but the current model is imported from Belgium. The original Holden Astra was in fact a rebadged Nissan Pulsar, sold in Australia in the mid-1980s.


2000 Vauxhall Astra Mk 4 five-door, in the UK, in the 1.6i 16v Sport specification, in Star Silver.
2000 Vauxhall Astra Mk 4 five-door, in the UK, in the 1.6i 16v Sport specification, in Star Silver.

The Astra B (or Astra G) was launched in Europe in 1998, again including coupé (2000) and cabriolet (2002) models designed and built by Bertone. The biggest innovation is the introduction of a natural-gas powered engine. Its chassis was tuned by Lotus and formed the base of a compact seven-seater MPV badged the Zafira.

In some markets, such as Australia and New Zealand, the Polish-built Astra B is sold as the Astra Classic alongside the Astra C, as a rival to Korean imports. It currently continues as the Chevrolet Astra in Brazil.

In 2004, GM-AvtoVAZ, GM's joint venture with VAZ, launched the Chevrolet Viva, a four-door version of the Astra B.


GM Europe launched Astra C/H (Mk 5 in Vauxhall terms and AH series in Holden terms) at the end of 2003. Based on the platform of the outgoing model, its size has been increased, the engines improved and the styling and interior made distinctly more dynamic. Handling has been further improved with each engine provided with its own Lotus tuned suspension settings. It is so far available as a five-door hatchback, a five-door Caravan station wagon and a sporty three-door hatchback, designated the GTC for European markets.

The GTC has the option of a Panorama windscreen (unique for a production car at the time of its launch) which extends into the roof area.

A first for any major European car is the availablity of digital radio on some versions of the new Astra, while for the Astra product class first are the electronic Continuous Damping Control (CDC) and the AFL (Adaptive Forward Lighting).

Preceded by:
Vauxhall Chevette
Succeeded by:
(still in production)

de:Opel Astra simple:Vauxhall Astra sv:Opel Astra


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