It was the Vauxhall Astra Mk1 which marked the transition of the marque from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive. The model was seated between the top Chevette and the lowest-priced Cavalier, inheriting the overhead cam and diesel engines from the Opel Kadett.
The performance or so-called “hot hatch” version of the Astra was dubbed the GTE and emerged in 1983. It was GM's answer to Volkswagen's Golf GTI, Ford's XR3 and Peugeot's 205 GTI.
The Astra Mk1 was an impressive package with lots of room, keen handling and sharp styling. Initially a warmed over SR version with the 1.6litre 90bhp Cavalier engine but it really looked like a serious contender when it acquired the 115bhp 1.8litre fuel-injected unit and finally became the GTE. With 1800cc its performance made it one of the fastest of the hot hatches.
The GTE also had flared arches, an aggressive skirt and a spoiler giving it a beefed-up appearance in tune with the aspirations of its buyers. It was similar inside too with a Recaro seat, full instrumentation and various GTE badges dotted around to never let you forget what you were driving.