Opel/Vauxhall is on the point of launching the most important model offensive in its history. It will start with a sleeker, more upmarket Astra range (seen here undisguised for the first time), followed by all-new 2010 Meriva and 2012 Zafira models designed to maintain the marque’s strong MPV foothold across Europe.
Vauxhall is also set to launch a 320bhp Insignia VXR, is working hard on a hardcore Corsa VXR to challenge the Renault Clio Cup, and is clearing the decks for the 2011 launch of Ampera, the European version of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid that could be built at the Ellesmere Port Astra plant.
Since Opel and Vauxhall stand on the brink of a reorganisation that could reduce their present owner, General Motors, to the role of a minority shareholder by mid-year, bosses are desperate to keep pushing forward with new model developments.
The new Vauxhall Astra five-door’s styling is deliberately sportier than that of a Focus or Golf, aided by the longer wheelbase and wider track of the new General Motors Delta platform. Overall length grows by about 100mm, mainly because of the demands of crash legislation, and the new car is slightly roomier inside.