Apr 28, 2016
Rüsselsheim. Over 24 million Opel Kadett and Opel Astra cars sold is an impressive number and a notable achievement. Lined up one behind the other, all Opel compact models built so far would surpass the magical 100,000-kilometer mark and create a column of cars that could circle the equator two and a half times. In short, one could say that Opel compact cars have successively made mobility accessible to new social classes, and not only that. The latest generations have made technologies and innovations from higher segments such as outstanding lighting technologies, AFL+ in the Astra J and IntelliLux LED® in the new Astra, accessible. Now Opel is starting a new chapter in the history of its bestseller – continuing the idea of democratizing innovations from upper classes and combining them with an expressive, dynamic design. The Astra Sports Tourer is based on an all-new lightweight vehicle architecture, is powered exclusively by newest generation engines and offers features previously only available in the upper class. Its lean design makes the Astra Sports Tourer look more athletic than ever before. In short, it combines efficiency with elegance and redefines the compact class with its top innovations. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that is was named European “Car of the Year 2016” in March.
Everything started with the Kadett A Caravan in 1963. Opel presented its first compact class station wagon and quickly became the market leader in this segment. From that day on a car with the practicality of a van – i.e. a car a van – has been part of every new Kadett and Astra generation. The Astra H (2004-2010) was the last Opel compact station wagon to carry the name Caravan. In the meantime, station wagons had completed their transformation from workhorses to lifestyle companions.
The Opel Kadett Caravan revolutionized the compact class in 1963. A large trunk and plenty of room for six people thanks to a third row of seats plus a new, lively engine and low maintenance costs made up the recipe for success for the Kadett A. Opel built nearly 650,000 up until 1965. The contours were businesslike and modern. The beltline was low down, the panoramic windows made for good visibility and a decorative strip running along the side accentuated the stretched form. Front fenders tapered off into the headlamps. The interior space deeply impressed owners of conventional small cars. The trunk was a real baggage compartment and the fuel tank cap was outside! “Opel Kadett, in brief: O.K.,” wrote Opel’s advertising team, unable to also resist a dig at their competitors in Wolfsburg. “You never have the smell of gasoline in the trunk,” they said with a wink. With its modern, water-cooled front engine, the Kadett had another major design advantage over the Beetle. The 993-cc four-cylinder unit developed a lively 40 hp.
B follows A, and already in 1965 a new series replaced the first model. The new version was more than four meters long and thus a good deal bigger than its predecessor. The caravan with its 1.57-meter long loading area is available from start of sales with a choice of two or four doors. As for its fashionable figure – their colleagues overseas inspired the designers. Not only was the length increased – so, too, was the horsepower. Opel engineers enlarged the bore of the four-cylinder unit by 3 mm. The base 1,078-cc unit developed 45 hp. Also available was a higher-compression 1.1 S engine with 55 hp. The Kadett quickly became a success, with over 2.6 million units produced from September 1965 to July 1973. And its success was certainly not limited to its country of birth. In 1966, the export quota reached 50 percent as customers from 120 countries around the globe snatched up the Kadett.
The Kadett C family had many faces: a smart family car, a chic station wagon with a practical rear tailgate, or a competitive sports coupé (GT/E) in war paint. The Caravan came first as a two-door, and then a four-door in 1976. A total of 1.7 million of them were built between 1973 and 1979. The rear-wheel drive Kadett C made its debut in August 1973 with a cleanly designed body and a new double-wishbone front axle. The most popular engine was the 1.2 with 60 hp and a modest 88 Nm of torque. Characteristic design features included a flat radiator grille, an engine hood with the brand’s signature crease, and a front apron in spoiler form. “The Kadett not only drives exceptionally well, but is also conscientiously designed and cleanly made. It requires little maintenance, is repair-friendly and economical to run,” praised the car-testing experts at “auto motor und sport” in the 20/73 edition.
The fourth generation of the post-war Kadett introduced a new compact class era at Opel. At the 1979 IAA, Opel’s first front-wheel drive model with transverse four-cylinder engine debuted as the modern-looking Kadett D. The packaging was truly convincing. The 4.20-meter long newcomer was only slightly longer its predecessor, but offered significantly more space than many of its rivals. But it was not only the powertrain layout and the chassis with a torsion-beam axle at the rear that broke with tradition: the Kadett was given a new 1.3-liter OHC engine that generated 60 or 75 hp. In addition to the spacious station wagon with a load volume of up to 1,425 liters, Opel offered only fastback versions. For families there was a very plush Caravan “Voyage Berlina”. Other technical modifications included a tighter and lower chassis, new steering dampers and internally ventilated disk brakes at the front. A total of 2.1 million Kadett D units were produced from 1979 to 1984.
The second front-wheel drive Kadett, built from 1984 to 1991, was named “Car of the Year 1984” and was an absolute winner. Selling a grand total of 3,779,289 cars in its lifetime, it was the bestselling Opel so far and a real aerodynamics world champion. Based on the engineering of its predecessor, the Kadett E was set for a stellar career. With a drag coefficient of 0.39, the Kadett D was already best in its class, but this figure paled in comparison to its successor. After spending 1,200 hours of fine-tuning in the wind tunnel, the five-door variant achieved a sensational 0.32 (Caravan 0,35). Buyers took to the new form after only a few months, paving the way for a new success story that provided the Kadett E with 625,000 new registrations across Europe in 1987. By this time, the two and four-door station wagon versions had already climbed to the top of the class. In 1987, two 54 hp Caravan diesels set out on a 30,000-kilometer trip from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego – both of them safely reach the final destination. From April 1989 onwards, all gasoline-engined Kadetts were sold with catalytic converter in Germany.
Some 4.13 million Astra Fs were built between 1991 and 1997, making it the bestselling Opel model ever. Development work focused on combining modern design with more interior space, enhanced comfort and greater emphasis on environmental protection.
The successor to the Kadett assumed the name of its British sister model (the fourth generation of the Kadett had been sold in the UK as the Vauxhall Astra since 1980). The Caravan is a popular variant from the start. Private buyers prefer the highly-equipped Caravan Club with up to 115 hp. Opel also launched a safety offensive with its new star. All Astras offered an active belt system with tensioners on the front seat belts, height-adjustable belts and seat ramps as well as side protection including double steel tube reinforcements in all the doors. For the first time, all engines came with catalytic converters.
In spring 1998, the Astra was offered from the start as a three and five-door hatchback and as a station wagon. Progressive independent design, dynamic chassis and powertrain technology as well as nearly twice the torsional and flexural rigidity of its predecessor were just some of the characteristics of the completely new, second-generation Opel Astra. The new model’s fully galvanized body played a key role in its high value retention. Active safety was enhanced with a 30 percent increase in the light output of the H7 halogen headlamps and the completely redesigned Dynamic Safety (DSA) chassis. It combined comfort with agile and safe handling, even under full load. The wheelbase was around eleven centimeters longer, enabling more interior space, in particular more rear knee room in the rear. The fastest compact station wagon ever – the Astra OPC Caravan – hit the road in 2002; the modest family wagon caused many surprises as it hurtled along the Autobahn at 240 km/h.
With 12 engines ranging from 90 to 240 hp and seven body variants, the choice of models for the Astra H that sold over 2.7 million units was exceptional. When it was launched in March 2004, the third-generation Opel Astra boasted a progressive design, high driving dynamics and plenty of technical innovations, immediately winning numerous comparison tests in specialist automotive publications. The Astra’s technological highlights included the adaptive IDSPlus chassis system with electronic Continuous Damping Control (CDC), otherwise only found in luxury class and exclusive sports cars, as well as the Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL) headlamp system with dynamic curve light. The Astra also boasted high levels of safety. The consumer protection organization Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) awarded the Astra the highest rating of five stars for adult passenger protection. With a 2.70 meter-long wheelbase the Caravan offered passengers plenty of space.
Sculptural artistry combined with German precision – the dynamic station wagon is launched one year after its five-door sibling and for the first time carries the Sports Tourer nameplate. The Opel Astra J not only embodies the brand’s new design philosophy, it also retains the clever Flex-Fold system, up to 1,550 liters of useful space, and assists drivers with a range of technologies that already made an important contribution to the success of the best-selling mid-size Insignia. The front camera recognizes traffic signs and informs the driver of speed limits or overtaking bans. It also warns drivers if they are in danger of veering out of lane. With the AFL+ headlamp system, the Astra can look around the corner and, if necessary, even automatically dim the lights or switch to high beam. With a chassis that can be enhanced by the FlexRide adaptive technology, the Astra Sports Tourer can play out its dynamic talents to the full. Astra drivers also benefit from a new generation of front seats developed according to the latest findings in safety ergonomics which have been awarded the seal of approval from the independent medical and back experts of the AGR (Campaign for Healthier Backs) organization.
Up to 190 kg lighter, significantly more spacious inside despite almost identical dimensions, and more efficient thanks to exclusive use of new-generation engines – the new Opel Astra Sports Tourer is a quantum leap in development and made its world premiere at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in September 2015. The station wagon has been at Opel dealers across Europe since April 2016. Prices for the new Astra with the 1.4-liter gasoline engine start at just €18,260 (RRP including VAT in Germany; Astra Sports Tourer 1.4 with 74 kW/100 hp, fuel consumption (combined) 5.7-5.5 l/100 km, CO2 emissions (combined): 131-127 g/km). Over half a century after the Kadett A, an engine with 1.0-liter displacement makes its return under the hood of an Opel compact model. Almost twice as powerful with a three-cylinder unit producing77 kW/105 hp thanks to Direct Injection and Turbo technologies. This engine also makes the new Astra one of the cleanest and most economical gasoline-powered model on the market in the compact class (fuel consumption combined 4.5-4.3 l/100 km, CO2 emissions (combined): 103-100 g/km).
The new Sports Tourer also stands out with its award-winning lighting technology. It is the first car to introduce the adaptive, full LED matrix technology IntelliLux LED® – so far reserved for luxury and premium models from higher classes – into the compact segment. New-generation driver assistance systems also include Traffic Sign Assist, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning along with Following Distance Indication and Forward Collision Alert with Collision Imminent Braking. In addition, the new Astra K once again delivers on wellness with newly engineered ergonomic front seats, also certified by the AGR organization, being introduced. These new front seats can even be enhanced with a ventilation and massage function. Convincing arguments that helped the latest Astra generation win the 2016 Car of the Year award in March.
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