General Motors Europe (GME) on Wednesday released the first details of its fifth generation Astra range which will eventually be sold around the world with Opel, Vauxhall, Holden and Chevrolet badges.


The new model goes on sale across Europe next spring and will first be seen in public at the Frankfurt motor show in September.


The technological highlights of the fifth generation Astra include adaptive suspension called IDSPlus (Interactive Driving System) with Continuous Damping Control (CDC).


GME’s’s new AFL (Adaptive Forward Lighting) headlamp system is offered for the first time in the Astra-size segment. Other new features include automatic headlamp activation and new Twinport petrol and common rail turbo-diesel engines.


The redesigned Astra offers more passenger space than its predecessor, thanks to its slightly increased overall dimensions (around 5.5 in/14 cm longer, 1 inch/2 cm wider and 4 cm/1.6 in higher).


Initially five petrol and three turbo-diesel engines – 1.4 to 2.0 litres with power outputs in the 80-200 hp range – will be available. All are Ecotec four-valve units that meet the Euro 4 exhaust emission standard.


New are the 1.9-litre CDTI diesel (150 hp) and the 170 hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines (alongside the 200 hp version due to go into the Astra in 2005), coupled as standard to a new six-speed manual transmission. Gmw is also offering a five-speed manual gearbox, an automatic and its Easytronic automated manual transmission.


Externally a high shoulder-line, strong wedge shape, pronounced wheel arches and “clear-cut window graphics” are all said to be part of GME’s new design cues. The bold face features a wide grille and three-dimensional, clear-glass headlamps.


The large rear lamps have a special light-scattering, “translucent” technology. The low curved roof-line, combined with the tapering front and rear overhangs, the long wheelbase (103 in/2.61 metres) and the wide track, all work together to give the new Astra a sleek and stylish appearance sure to give Volkswagen’s upcoming Mark Five Golf a run for its money. For the new Astra, GME is offering 18-inch light-alloy wheels as a factory option for the first time.


The suspension features MacPherson struts and a subframe at the front, and a torsion beam with double-walled, U-shaped profile at the rear. The design retains all the advantages of a conventional torsion beam axle – such as minimal space requirements, low weight and high camber control – and can also be precisely tuned to the specific requirements of different variants within the model range.


A major option is the adaptive IDSPlus suspension system with Continuous Damping Control (CDC). The basis is a new electronic architecture with three CANBUS systems (Controller Area Network).


Thanks to CDC, the dampers react in real time to variations in the road surface or driving style and adjust themselves automatically to the prevailing conditions. With the IDSPlus system, the Astra’s driver can switch to a sport mode that regulates the damping characteristics as well as the response of the accelerator pedal and the power assistance of the electro-hydraulic steering. With the automatic and Easytronic transmissions, the gears are also selected at higher engine speeds.


The five-door hatchback model will be followed later by an estate (station wagon) and sporty three-door hatchback but there is no mention yet of a replacement for the current, rarely-seen four-door saloon variants, more popular in southern Europe and developing markets such as China and India.