Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra

Astra is a model-name which has been used by Vauxhall, the British subsidiary of General Motors (GM), on their small family car ranges since 1979. Astras are technically essentially identical with similar vehicles offered by GM's German subsidiary Opel in most other European countries. For the first two generations, the nameplate was applied to UK spec right-hand drive versions of Opel Kadett (which it was sold as in the Republic of Ireland in right-hand drive), and since 1991, Opel also uses the Astra nameplate, so Vauxhall and Opel Astras are essentially identical vehicles. General Motors' Saturn division in America also offers the Astra since late 2007.

Vauxhall Astra Mark 1

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 available for several years afterwards until the Vauxhall Nova was launched. The Astra was Vauxhall's first model to have [front wheel drive. Not all trim levels were available with all body styles

Production began at Opel's West German plant at Bochum in August 1979, and the first British customers took delivery of their cars in February 1980.

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 1983. This version of the Astra was a quick and stylish alternative to the Ford Escort XR3, Volkswagen Golf GTI and Fiat Strada 105TC.

Vauxhall now had a serious rival for the Volkswagen Golf at just about every level The car featured a new unified engine for Vauxhall/Opel, featuring an all-aluminium head, overhead camshaft and hydraulic valve lifters., and it quickly became popular with buyers. A 1200 cc version which used the older Opel OHV engine was also available.

There were three bodystyles for the first generation Vauxhall Astra, hatchback, so-called "saloon", and estate, all available with two or four side doors. The saloons were styled exactly like the hatchbacks,except for a different rear window above a bootlid; from the side they looked almost indistinguishable from the hatchback, with no protruding notch at the rear. . There was also a van version which was badged the Bedford Astravan — the Bedford brand at that time being used for GM's commercial vehicles in Britain. Unlike the previous Opel T-Car, no Coupé was offered.

Production of the MK1 Astra took place in West Germany initially, with production moving to Vauxahll's Ellesmere Port plant in Britain some two years later, on 16 November 1981.

Sales of this first Astra were strong, and gave Vauxhall a much-needed boost in the small family car sector after several years of declining sales with the Viva HC. It soon overtook the Austin Allegro as Britain's second most popular small family car, although it was still a long way behind the Ford Escort in terms of sales success.


Versions available were:
* 1200 E (2/4-door saloon, 3/5-door hatchback, 3/5-door estate)
* 1200 L (3/5-door hatchback, 3/5-door estate)
* 1300 E (as 1200 E)
* 1300 L (as 1200 L)
* 1300 GL (5-door hatchback, 5-door estate)
* 1600 L (5-door hatchback, 5-door estate)
* 1600 GL (5-door hatchback, 5-door estate)
* 1600 SR (3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback)
* 1800 SRi (5-door hatchback)
* 1600 L Diesel (5-door hatchback, 5-door estate)
* 1800 GTE (3-door hatchback)
* 1900 SR (3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback GDO)
* 1700 SRi (5-door hatchback GDO)
* 1900 L Diesel (5-door hatchback, 5-door estate GDO)
* 1700 GTE (3-door hatchback GDO)

Vauxhall Astra Mark 2

The Mark 2 Astra used the same range of engines and running gear as the Mark 1, but with a completely restyled body with better aerodynamics.

Long-lived, the Mark 2 was available in estate, hatchback, saloon and cabriolet versions. The saloon was launched in January 1986 and sold as the Vauxhall Belmont; this trend to brand saloon models independently of the hatchback was also used by other manufacturers of the period, with examples including the Ford Orion and the Volkswagen Jetta. However, this strategy was mostly unsuccessful, as this was Vauxhall's only attempt at badging its hatchback-based saloon as a separate model, and Ford had rebadged its Orion range as Escorts by 1994.

Just under 7000 [6764, according to cite book | first = Martin | last = Lewis | title = A-Z of Cars of the 1980s | publisher = MotorBooks/MBI | isbn = 1-901-432-106 | year = 1998 | pages = p. 146] cabriolets were built by Bertone from 1987 to 1992. These came in 1.6 and 2-litre GTE variants, the latter being available with powered roofs and electric windows. [Lewis 1998, p. 146. The 1.6- and 2-litre variants had convert|82|bhp|abbr=on and convert|115|bhp|abbr=on, respectively.] These cars are praised for their shake-free shells and their looks. [Lewis 1998, p. 146, describes the Astra's "rigid, shake-free shell" and calls it " [o] ne of the best-looking soft-tops."]

A new GTE using a 2 L [Early models were fitted with 1.8-litre engines; according to Lewis 1998, these were phased out for the 2-litre engine in Spring 1987.] fuel injected engine 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. Vauxhall's twin-camshaft version of the engine, the C20XE, had a high performance version of the GTE created around it. This engine developed convert|156|hp|abbr=on in standard form, giving sprightly performance, though a common criticism is that the handling was never good enough for the engine. [Lewis 1998. " [B] oth handling and ride were never in the same class as the performance."] The limited-edition "Champion" Astras from 1990 were fitted with the same C20XE "redtop" engines (so called because of their red spark plug cover), along with Connolly Leather interiors. [cite web | url = | title = The History of the Vauxhall Sports Car | author = Vauxhall Sports Car Club | accessdate = 2007-04-24] Towards the end of its production run, sporty models were not designated as "GTE" but were instead designated "GSI".

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

The second generation Vauxhall Astra It sold well in the UK, and although it was never able to outsell the Ford Escort, it came closer than any other similar-sized car to achieving this.

The two most stolen cars in Britain in 2005 were the Vauxhall Belmont and the Vauxhall Astra Mark 2. More than 1 in 13 Belmonts were stolen. [cite web | url = | title = Top ten stolen cars | year = 2006 | month = December | author = Home Office | quote = Of the 5729 Belmonts on the road, 25 million were stolen in 2005.]

Vauxhall Astra Mark 3

The Mark 3 model was essentially an evolution of the Mark 2, rather than a redesign.

This generation was the first to be called Astra by Opel as well as Vauxhall, and the first to also be sold by Holden. The Astra F was released in 1991. With the Kadett E's successor, Opel adopted the Astra nameplate, which was already used by Vauxhall for the Kadett D and E (see Vauxhall Astra). It was offered as a three or five-door hatchback, a saloon (sedan), and an estate (wagon), known as the Caravan. A cabriolet was also offered, designed and built by Bertone in Italy.

The model was launched in South Africa in 1992, where it was produced under licence by Delta Motor Corporation. However, the Kadett name was retained for the Astra hatchback until 1999, which included a variant with a 2.0 L turbocharged engine called the 200TS, unique to that market. Saloon and estate 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.

The Astra also became available in Australasia badged as a Holden, sold in the rest of Europe as the Opel Kadett, was voted European Car of the Year for 1985. 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 originally a rebadged Nissan Pulsar, first sold in Australia in the mid-1980s.

The Astra F consisted of two main revisions and was revised in 1995, with the launch of Opel's new Ecotec engine. For a short period, a submodel which consisted of parts from both revisions was produced. The submodel used all the new Ecotec running gear, but many parts from the previous revision were used in order to use up leftover parts. Other main changes included mildly-altered exterior styling, and availability of new specification models.

Aside from the South Africa-only 200TS, the lead model was the GSi - a petrol model powered by a 147bhp 2.0 16v engine (C20XE, also named 'Redtop', because the red L-shaped spark plug cover), or 1.8l 16v petrol injected model with convert|124|bhp|abbr=on available as a 3-door only. It also featured sports bodykit and interior. The GSi ceased production in 94 but was then too updated in 1997, with the engine being replaced for a lower-powered but more modern 'Ecotec' version (2.0l 16v with 134bhp)the bodykit was slightly altered on these models - a longer rear spoiler with integrated brake light, fluted side skirts, a bonnet without vents, and removal of the GSi16v badging from the bumper and tailgate (replaced by the later chrome effect Vauxhall Astra 2.0 16v badging).

In common with other car manufacturers, the early 1990s saw Opel/Vauxhall begin featuring safety as a selling point, and beginning to incorporate many new safety features into cheaper family cars that were previously only found on expensive luxury saloons. The Mark 3 Astra was one of the first such cars, being introduced ahead of the Golf and Mondeo, two other cars with a similar new-found focus on safety. So, the Mark 3 saw the introduction of twin side impact bars, a toughened safety cage, a safely-designed steering wheel and 'body-lock' mechanical front seat-belt pretensioners. After the first face-lift full-size drivers air bags became optional or standard (depending on the model). Crash tests by consumers association (as featured by BBC's Watch Dog show in 1992) and also by ADAC and Auto Express showed that the MK3 Astra protected better in crashes than most rivals of its time.

The Astra F was phased out in the spring of 1998 - 2002 later replaced by the Astra Classic 2. The Mk3 was the first of the "Astra Classic's" This means the Astra Mk3 holds a mighty production span of 11 years; more than any other Astra.

In the UK, Vauxhall offered the following trim levels (and in some cases, engine size):
*MERIT (1.4i, 1.7 diesel)
*L (1.4i)
*LS (1.4i, 1.7 diesel, 1.7 turbodiesel)
*GLS (1.4i, 1.6i, 1.7 diesel 1.7 turbodiesel)
*DUO (1.6)
*CD (1.4i, 1.6i, 1.7 turbodiesel, 1.8i, 2.0i)
*CDX (1.6i 1.7 turbodiesel, 2.0i)
*Si (1.4i, 1.6i)
*SRi (2.0i)
*GSi (2.0i)

The car also had 'special edition' badging, which indicated special trim:
*MontanaIn later Sport and GSI models (from 1995 onwards) Lotus Sprung Suspension was used to give better ride.

Vauxhall Astra Mark 4

Vauxhall Astra Mark 5

Police use of the Astra

Many British police forces use the Astra as a workhorse, used for simple duties and sometimes for pursuits, if the high powered divisional area car is unable to respond as rapidly as they can be dispatched. The Metropolitan Police Service use a collection of the MK IV and MK V Astras, mostly as of 2007, the mark in popular use is the Mark V, these are used as Incident Response Vehicles (IRVs) and are commonly seen on the roads of London.


The MK1 Astra was a strong seller in the UK and quickly established itself as Britain's second most popular small family car, but was never able to match the runaway sales success of the Ford Escort.

The MK2 Astra was a bigger seller than its predecessor, though again it failed to match the Ford Escort in terms of sales success. It further widened the gap between Vauxhall and rival products from Austin Rover, although the combined sales of ARG's Rover 200 and Austin Maestro ranges were often at least a match for the Astra's total sales.

The MK3 Astra took Vauxhall from strength to strength in the small family car market, after almost seven years on sale. However in Hungary, the Opel Astra Classic 1 was produced from 1998 - and further narrowed the gap with the Ford Escort.

The MK4 Astra was also a huge success, and by 2001 it was the second best selling car in Britain overall.

The MK5 has so far been the most successful version of the Astra. It was Britain's second-best selling car in 2005, 2006 and 2007, further narrowing the gap between itself and the market-leading Ford Focus. []


ee also

* Opel Astra
* Holden Astra
* Saturn Astra (late 2007)

External links

* [ 360 Degree Spherical Panorama of the interior of a MK3 Vauxhall Astra]
* [ Astra Owners Club Forums - Designed for all Astra drivers.]
* [ Astra MK3 Owners Club]
* [ Astra MK2 Owners Club]
* [ Official Vauxhall Astra website]
* []
* [ Astra Owners Network Forum]
* [ Dedicated site for the Vauxhall Astra Twintop]

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