The Vauxhall Astra is a small family car that was first launched in 1979 and the same nameplate was used for the right-hand drive versions of the Open Kadett in the UK market. Since 1991 though, the Opel has used the Astra nameplate for its B/C platform vehicles. This origin of this vehicle’s name can be traced back to the 1980 Vauxhall model, though it was launched the year before as the Opel Kaddet D, replacing the Vauxhall Viva in the UK as well as other versions of the Vauxhall Chevette. The Astra was this company’s very first model to offer front-wheel drive and not all of its trim levels are available with all body styles.
Production of the Astra started at Opel’s West German plant in Bochum in August of 1979 and delivery of it started in February of 1980. One of the most significant things about the Astra is the overhead-camshaft engine it used. This engine was a great departure and a major step forward from some of the earlier and smaller engines used in Vauxhall and Opel cars with regards to both power and economy. This engine was originally made available in 1300 and 1600 forms as well as an 1800 fuel-injected version which was added later on, introduced in 1983.
The Astra provided Vauxhall with the ammunition they needed to content with the Volkswagen Golf on a number of levels. This vehicle used a new engine with a unified design which included an all-aluminum head as well as hydraulic valve lifters and an overhead camshaft. It didn’t take very long for the Astra to become popular with consumers after it initially launched, due in large part to its innovative design, power, and fuel economy.
There were a total of three different body styles available for the Astra in its first generation, including the hatchback, saloon, and estate, all of which were available with two or four side doors. The saloon models were styles very similarly to the hatchbacks, but they had a different rear window above a bootlid. The white 1800GTE was the very first vehicle in the UK to be color coded with body trim that perfectly matched the base color. There were also wheel arch extensions as well as front side and rear lower skirts and allow wheels which were painted white.
A van version of this vehicle was also released and called the Bedford Astravan. The Bedford brand was used primarily for General Motors commercials in Britain, and it did not have a Coupe version like the Opel T-Car. The Mark 1 Astra entered into production in November of 1981 and it was manufactured in West Germany but moved to Ellesmere Port in Britain a couple years later. Sales for the Mark 1 were high at first, but Vauxhall felt the need to give it an extra push to ensure its success. This vehicle eventually overtook the Austin Allegro as the second most popular small family car in Britain.
The sixth and most recent generation of the Vauxhall Astra was first introduced to the public in 2009 at the Frankfurt Motor Show and went on sale in late 2009. The primary manufacturing plant that was responsible for assembling the latest model of this vehicle was Ellesmere Port. Even though this most recent model is more expensive than the Astra H, the Astra J has experienced extremely strong sales across the board. There is also an Estate version of this vehicle, called the Sports Tourer, and it was first unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in 2010. Overall, this vehicle is a primary example of Vauxhall’s innovative designing and continues to be wildly popular with consumers in Europe.