New Opel Astra Wagon - In Depth

Opel Astra Wagon
Opel Astra Wagon

Design, packaging and versatility

Press Release

Page 1 - Station wagon expertise
Page 2 - Design, packaging and versatility
Page 3 - Safety
Page 4 - Equipment and extras
Page 5 - Chassis and powertrain
Page 6 - Production and quality

Station wagon expertise

Over 50 Years of Success: Station Wagon Models from Opel
  • Trend-setter: Market leader with practical and elegant cars
  • Role model: New Astra station wagon again sets the standard in its class
  • Added value: Spacious interior, clever and functional features
Opel redefined interior flexibility and fostered the development of new target groups with compact vans like the practical seven-seat Zafira (1999) or the clever Meriva (2003). But classic station wagon fans are not swayed by these successful models. Market research shows that customers who want the sportier low seating-position of a passenger car, and prefer a more dynamic driving experience, will remain true to station wagons. When it comes to station wagons, Opel is one of the front-runners and major players in the car industry. The brand with the blitz logo made station wagons popular in Europe, for example with the high-capacity versions of the Rekord and Kadett, just two of Opel's successful models. The station wagon versions of the compact class Astra are amongst the absolute top models in Opel's more than 50-year success story with station wagons. To date, around 2.4 million have been sold. This not only made them number one in their segment for years (1993 - 1999), but also in the entire European station wagon market. Just how popular Opel's compact station wagon models are with European drivers is underlined by their share of total Astra sales. In 1997, this reached a high of 44.3 percent throughout Europe and was even considerably higher in Germany at almost 58 percent. In 1996, their share of total Astra sales in Switzerland reached 57.7 percent and 46.9 percent in the Netherlands. The success story of Opel station wagon models began over 50 years ago. The world was talking about the German economic miracle, the expression "mass motorization" was making the rounds, and more and more Germans had vacation destinations such as northern Italy's Lake Garda on their agenda. It's no wonder that many dreamed of a versatile car for everyday use and commuting as well as for weekend and holiday trips with the whole family. The station wagon idea was in the air, becoming clearer every day, and in 1953 Opel was ready. The automaker presented an attractive station wagon variant of the new Olympia Rekord with a pontoon-type body and the characteristic "shark face".
Transformation: From delivery wagon to family car for work and leisure
The station wagon was quickly all the rage in Europe, a perfect synthesis of elegant, presentable sedan and practical commercial vehicle. In a brochure explaining the concept, Opel stated, "With little effort and minimal strength, the rear seats can be folded forward, turning the elegant, presentable station wagon into a commercial vehicle with high practical value and real economic efficiency." Opel's copywriters weren't exaggerating. In contrast to other customary box-section delivery vans at the time, the Rekord station wagon radiated modern elegance and had generous window area for that era. The transformation from being purely a delivery van for work to a family car with increased utility for everyday and leisure use had begun. Just a few years later, station wagon drivers were already considered smart buyers who could use their cars in a variety of ways. After this successful premiere, station wagon variants rounded off every new Rekord generation. Beginning in March 1963, Opel expanded the station wagon concept into the compact car segment with the Kadett station wagon. The predecessor of today's Astra played a big role in the fact that soon almost every second German station wagon was an Opel. When production stopped on the Kadett A in 1965, the proportion sedan/station wagon was 523.000 to 127.000 - a station wagon share of almost 20 percent.
Objective: Generous space within compact dimensions
One of the reasons the compact Opel station wagon sold so well was its spaciousness. Its generous loading area was able to compete with some of the station wagon competitors in the mid-size segment. This was mostly due to the packaging. This special Opel expertise focuses on the clever segmentation of space for technology, passengers and luggage. The objective is to offer as much usable space as possible from a given area, while offering best possible comfort, ergonomics and visibility. The station wagon models impressed not only with extraordinary space, but also with clever features. Opel offered an extra for the Kadett station wagon that already hinted at today's vans: an additional children's bench seat mounted in reboard position in the luggage area. Current examples are the sliding rear bench seat in the Astra station wagon and the patented FlexOrganizer system for the versatile and secure transport of goods. This feature, already proven in the Vectra station wagon, was further enhanced for the new Astra station wagon and is a novelty in the segment. But it's not only thanks to such ideas that Opel was and remains the front-runner in station wagons. The carmaker set milestones in 1970 when it created the new market segment "lower mid-size" with the Ascona and continued the station wagon tradition there with the new model name "Voyage" and new side panelling in a wood look. The Ascona luxury station wagon's name turned out to be an accurate forecast: in the early 70's only 20 percent of station wagon owners used their car privately, while this number increased to over 50 percent in the early 90's. Opel has always been a trend-setter in station wagons. The Commodore C Voyage (1981) was the first six-cylinder, and the Omega A station wagon 24 V, with its 204 hp 3-liter, in-line six-cylinder engine, started the trend to high-capacity, high-power station wagons in the upper price category. The Astra station wagon 16V with 150 hp followed in 1993 in the compact segment as the highest performance station wagon in its class. The new Astra station wagon goes a step further with its 150 hp 1.9 CDTI diesel and 2.0-liter turbo gasoline engine with 200 hp. With its unique combination of exceptionally generous, versatile space, high functionality and driving dynamics, it again sets standards in its class.
Source: Text & photos courtesy Adam Opel AG
Published Sep 7th, 2004 10:09am
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