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50 years of Opel compact saloons By Brian Foley

The beginnings of Opel’s success story in the compact saloon market can be traced all the way back to 1962 when the Opel Kadett was launched to give affordable mobility to millions in the pre-boom early ‘sixties.

Fifty years later, the new Opel Astra saloon is due to make its Irish debut in October. So far Opel has sold ten generations of compact vehicles, equivalent to 22 million cars. It is also an anniversary within an even bigger celebration: Opel is this year celebrating its 150th birthday as a company. There are very few other car makers that have such a long tradition.

Between 1965 and 1973, around 2.6 million Opel Kadett type B vehicles cars were built making it one of the most popular compact cars in the market and one of the first with five seats for family motoring. Whilst the Kadett was essentially an everyday car, various sporting versions offered real fun from the rear-wheel-drive Kadett GT/E to front-wheel-drive Kadett hot hatches. The Opel Kadett was voted European and Irish car of The Year 1985. the Opel Astra was Irish car of the Year 1992. The Opel Corsa supermini was Irish Car of The Year 2001. The mid-range Opel Insignia and the range-extender Opel Ampera EV were nominated European Car of The Year winners in 2009 and 2012, respectively.

The Opel Astra took over from the Kadett, and the latest model marks the fourth generation of Astra in a sporty and elegant design featuring a high level of technology and quality.

The first Opel Kadett (left) of 50 years ago and the latest Opel Astra saloon.