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 the Opel Kadett, and since 1991, Opel also uses the Astra nameplate on its B/C-platform, so Vauxhall and Opel Astras are essentially identical vehicles. General Motors' Saturn division in America also offered the Astra as a captive import since late 2007 through until that marque's dissolution in 2010 following the GM bankruptcy. The Astra name originated with Vauxhall's 1980 model, though the car was launched almost a year earlier as the Opel Kadett D. This model replaced the Vauxhall Viva in the UK, along with some versions of the Vauxhall Chevette. However, the Chevette (itself based on the previous generation Kadett C) 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. Confusingly in the British market, both the Kadett D and the Astra were sold alongside each other until the consolidation of Opel and Vauxhall dealerships in the early 1980s, when the Opel badged versions were dropped.
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 overhead-camshaft engine (not 1200) 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 appeared to have 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 body styles for the first generation 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. The saloon version was replaced by the Belmont saloon based on the Astra MK2 in early 1986.
The white 1800GTE was the first UK car to be 'colour coded' with body trim that matched the base colour of the car, this included wheel arch extensions, front side and rear lower skirts, mirror covers, bumpers and even the alloy wheels were painted white. The black and red versions of the GTE also had colour coding but had the more conventional black bumpers and silver painted alloy wheels. 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 Mark 1 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.
The Mark 2 Astra first appeared in the autumn of 1984. It used the same range of engines and running gear as the Mark 1, but with a completely restyled body with better aerodynamics. It was voted 1985 European Car of the Year. 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 in September 1993. Just under 7000 cabriolets were built by Bertone in Italy from 1987 to 1993. These came in 1.6 and 2-litre GTE variants, the latter being available with powered roofs and electric windows. These cars are praised for their shake-free shells and their looks.
Just under 7000 cabriolets were built by Bertone in Italy from 1987 to 1993. These came in 1.6 and 2-litre GTE variants, the latter being available with powered roofs and electric windows. These cars are praised for their shake-free shells and their looks. A new GTE using a 2 L 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 156 hp (116 kW) in standard form, giving sprightly performance, though a common criticism is that the handling was never good enough for the engine. 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. With the picture on the right, showing a SRi 5 door as 5 door GTE's are very rare indeed. 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 Mark 2 Astra 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. In 2005, a survey found the two most stolen cars in Britain to be the Vauxhall Belmont and the Vauxhall Astra Mark 2, with more than 1 in 13 Belmonts stolen.
This generation was the first to be called Astra by Opel as well as Vauxhall (in Opel's case succeeding the Kadett E), and the first to also be sold by Holden. It was offered as a three or five-door hatchback, a saloon, and an estate, known as the Caravan. A cabriolet was also offered, designed and built by Bertone. 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 centilitres, so the Astra and Kadett ranges featured 140, 160i, 180i and 200i models.
The Astra also became available in Australasia badged as a Holden, first in New Zealand in 1995, and then in 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 - featuring Vauxhall's new corporate 'V' front grille first seen on the '94 Omega, a smoked grey trim panel on the rear tailgate to smooth over the protruding rear lamp clusters, and availability of new specification models.
The Vauxhall Astra J/D was officially unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. The car has been available to purchase since Friday December 11, 2009. The principal manufacturing plant for the latest Astra (though not for its Zafira sibling) is at Ellesmere Port enabling the manufacturer to benefit from sterling depreciation with this model. Design has been a major consideration in the development of new Vauxhall Astra and the car is heavily influenced by the Vauxhall Insignia. The new Vauxhall Astra has all the design features of a saloon car but in a much more compact model. As well as incorporating a more luxurious design, the 6th generation Astra includes a variety of innovative storage solutions. Vauxhall designers identified the 20 most commonly carried items in a car and developed storage solutions for each one. They have developed a patented the ‘Flexfloor’ adjustable boot space system as well as a ‘Flexfix’ bike carrier.
Available with a powerful 1.3 diesel engine, the astra will reach 62 miles an hour in 7.2 seconds while yielding 60 mpg. Despite being more expensive than the old Astra, the new Astra has been a strong sales success in the UK, where it was the best selling car in June 2010 with well over 10,000 sales - outselling its crucial rival the Ford Focus by nearly 50%. This however is mainly because production of the current Focus is being scaled back prior to the launch of a new MK3 model in early 2011. The Estate version of the Astra - dubbed the 'Sports Tourer' by Opel/Vauxhall, debuted at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, and went on sale shortly afterwards, with a starting price of £16,575 for the ES version, then Exclusiv, SRI and SE versions, with the SE costing from £20,345. This is cheaper than the previous estate, but has more kit.
In the UK the MK4 Astra was available with a range of 16v Ecotec engines as well some 8v units, with some 16v 1.4l car actually gaining better performance than the 8v 1.6 SXI engine in the next tier. The 8v unit was refined during the model's life however, with the Z16SE offering good all round performance compared with its higher insurance 16v equivalent. In addition to the standard hatchback, the MK4 also had a popular choice of the coupe. This was available in 4 engine types. The 1.6 [Akbar Customs Edition]Produced |175|bhp|kW PS|0|abbr=on}}. The 1.8 produced 125 bhp (93 kW; 127 PS). The 2.2 produced 147 bhp (110 kW; 149 PS). The 2.0 Turbocharged produced 189 bhp (141 kW; 192 PS) SRI Turbo and 197 bhp (147 kW; 200 PS) GSI Turbo Variant. In 2004 the design was bought by the Mahmood's and developed into the GM-AvtoVAZ Chevrolet Viva. It is actually the 4-door saloon variant of this Astra.