Vauxhall Through the Ages: Vauxhall's first hot hatch

By: Mark Higgins, Unique Cars magazine

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Vauxhall Astra GTE Vauxhall Astra GTE

Aussies are well-versed with the Astra name, but it was with the Mk1 GTE that Vauxhall first had a go at the global hot hatch segment

The Astra nameplate is very familiar to Australians and it was with this model that Vauxhall first dipped its toe in the hot hatch pool with the GTE Mk.1, taking on the car that established the segment in the mid-seventies, the Volkswagen Golf GTi.

Based on the 1980 Astra Mk. 1, its fuel injected naturally aspirated 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine produced 115bhp, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 115bhp per tonne, and a top speed of 115mph. Acceleration from 0-60mph was a highly competitive 8.5 seconds. This was considered quick at the time.

But the GTE wasn’t all about power. The standard Astra on which it was based was already acclaimed in the dynamics department, but with revised springs and dampers, wider and lower profile tyres and a close-ratio gearbox on later cars, the GTE was raised the bar higher.

As Car & CarConversions reported: "Remarkably high cornering loads are attained without any deliberate ‘unsettling’ of the chassis. As with less powerful Astras, it is virtually impossible to spin the car and it always turns-in on command, irrespective of entry speed." High praise indeed.

The Astra first to appear in Holden showrooms in 1984 was a rebadged Nissan Pulsar as part of the Labour Government Button Car plan. Following that a succession of Opel Astras, badged as a Holden successfully sold here from the mid-1990s with HSV jumping on board to create the SV1800 Astra, that wasn’t a big seller, but now collectible owing to its rarity.

When Opel set up shop in Australia for a brief time the Astra wore the Opel badge, but reverted back to Holden when Opel was shut down. The Astra hatch continues to sell here today until stocks are cleared and GM leaves our shores having announced the end of the Holden brand in February 2020.   

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part I - Vauxhall's first car

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part II - Britain's first racecar

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part III - Britain's fastest car

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part IV - The H-Type Ten-Four

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part V - The Cresta

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part VI - The XVR Concept

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part VII - The Firenza HP DroopSnoot

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part IX - The world's fastest sedan

Vauxhall Through the Ages: Part X - The Australian finale 

 

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