1992 ad for the 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 3
Released in 1991, 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 (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.
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 124 bhp (92 kW) 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 Watchdog 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.
Info gleaned from Wikipedia