Advertisement

Generation Game: New Vauxhall Astra vs original Mk1

Over 30 years separate first and latest Vauxhall Astras - we hit the road to compare them

The all-new Astra’s mix of technology, weight-saving and driver involvement marks a new dawn for Vauxhall’s family car. But back in 1980, the launch of the original Astra was arguably even more significant.

• Win an Astra for a year: enter HERE

At the time, the brand was struggling to maintain its position as a front-runner in the sales charts. Ageing models such as the Viva and Chevette were being shown the way by a new wave of rival hatchbacks that offered more practicality and family friendly features, and Vauxhall was in desperate need of a front-wheel-drive hatch to compete.

Thankfully, sister company Opel had launched the Kadett 12 months earlier, so Vauxhall added a Griffin badge to the nose – as it had done with the larger Cavalier – and called it the Astra.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Line them up side-by-side, and the seventh-generation model towers over the Mk1, even though it’s smaller than the Mk6 it’s just replaced. There’s a stark contrast in their design, too, with the first generation almost entirely made up of geometric shapes and straight edges.

The black bumpers, rubbing strips and smattering of chrome trim are all very much of their time, while the solitary driver’s side wing mirror signifies that the car in our pictures is a lower-spec 1300 L.

The spartan spec continues inside, where you’ll find a two-spoke steering wheel ahead of the upright dash. This shows the bare minimum of information, with a speedometer, fuel and water temperature gauges, while the ‘luxuries’ start and end with the rudimentary heater and a radio that in its day received only medium and long-wave stations – this model doesn’t even have a cassette player.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

• Vauxhall Astra review

In contrast, even the entry-level version of the latest Astra is sumptuous, while climate and cruise control, and a trip computer, had barely been introduced on even the most luxurious limos of the early eighties.

And then there’s the safety kit. With six airbags and a host of electronic driver aids, including lane assist and city braking, the new Astra is miles ahead of the old car, which makes do with three-point belts and head restraints for the front seats only. Those chairs are pretty soft, and the carpet-style upholstery is extremely retro compared to the smart trim in the latest model.

• Win an Astra for a year: enter HERE

Yet at the time the Astra was a class leader, thanks to its front-wheel-drive layout, spacious cabin and powerful overhead-cam engines. Driven today it feels outdated, but there’s a great view out thanks to the slender window pillars, while the 1.3-litre motor’s rasping exhaust eggs you on.

Unassisted steering and wooden brakes mean you must plan each manoeuvre well in advance, but with no electronic assistance you feel every bit of the road underneath you.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The suspension is a little saggy – as you’d expect after 30-plus years – but driving the old Astra gives a great insight into how far the model has come over the years.

In contrast, the current version starts without fuss, is easy to drive at any speed and has every mod-con you could desire. Yet both are great examples of the brand’s 35-year commitment to delivering class-leading compact family hatches.

Vauxhall Astra Special

Which Astra do you prefer? Let us know below!

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Used Vauxhall Astra review
Vauxhall Astra

Used Vauxhall Astra review

A full used buyer’s guide on the Vauxhall Astra covering the Astra Mk7 (2015-date)
27 May 2020
Vauxhall Astra review
Vauxhall Astra 2019 facelift - front tracking
Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra review

The Vauxhall Astra performs well in a field of tough hatchback rivals
23 Mar 2020
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to get coupe look and VXR model
New Vauxhall Astra - front (watermarked)
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to get coupe look and VXR model

Our exclusive images preview how the next-generation Vauxhall Astra could look, which will sit on a new PSA platform
12 Dec 2019
Vauxhall Astra vs Ford Focus vs SEAT Leon
Vauxhall Astra triple test
Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra vs Ford Focus vs SEAT Leon

The Vauxhall Astra has beaten the Ford Focus and SEAT Leon before, can it do it again?
12 Oct 2019

Most Popular

New Ferrari Roma 2020 review
Ferrari Roma

New Ferrari Roma 2020 review

The new Ferrari Roma GT is the iconic Italian brand’s latest offering – and it’s a big improvement
4 Aug 2020
Mitsubishi's UK exit: full details and what it means for owners
News

Mitsubishi's UK exit: full details and what it means for owners

Mitsubishi is leaving the UK and Europe. We look at the warranty, servicing and dealership issues facing existing owners of the brand's cars.
31 Jul 2020
"Many car dealerships just don’t try hard enough"
Opinion

"Many car dealerships just don’t try hard enough"

Mike Rutherford thinks the latest Driver Power survey confirms that some car dealerships aren't trying their hardest to sell cars
2 Aug 2020