General Motors Europe has announced a very sleek and stylish three-door hatchback version of the recently redesigned Astra.

The new version will be unveiled at the Paris motor show next month and goes on sale in spring 2005.

GME has changed little on the production model from the GTC ‘concept’ design shown at Geneva in 2003. The shape was achieved by incorporating sporty proportions with short overhangs, distinctive rear lights and a more pronounced tapering at the front and rear. In addition, the arched sloping roof and the angular rear side windows create a particularly taut profile, while the wide, sculpted shoulders accentuate the powerful shape of the body, which sits around 15 millimetres lower than the five-door.

An optional panoramic windscreen – making its debut in the three-door model –extends to the B-pillar and creates a vast sense of space.

Friedhelm Engler, Astra chief designer at GM Europe, said: “We intensified the emotion of the three-door’s looks compared to the other models. It has a sleek design and represents the most dynamic expression of the new range. That is of course not achieved by simply reducing the number of doors on an existing model.”

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GME claims the car is practical, despite the swoopy looks. It says two adults can ride comfortably in the back while a 60/40 split rear seat allows passenger/load flexibility.

At launch, the new three-door will be available with a choice of four petrol and three common-rail diesel engines with power outputs from 90 to 170 hp –all comply with the Euro 4 emissions standard.

The Vauxhall brand in England will reveal a sporty VXR model with a power output in excess of 230 hp, more extreme styling and sharper handling later this year for sale in summer 2005 – this model may be renamed for sale elsewhere as an Opel, Holden or Chevrolet.

Unlike the five-door hatchback, which is also built in the UK, the Astra three-door is manufactured only in Antwerp, Belgium, where some five-door models and the estate are also produced.

Planned annual capacity for the three-door model is around 70,000 units.