The motoring press’s disappointment when it first saw the boxy lines of the Mk 2 Golf was turned into delight when General Motors launched the new Astra a year later, in 1984. Here was a car that looked like it was fit for 1980s, with a low, rounded nose, rising window line and high tail. The body details, such as the wing mirrors and bumpers, were carefully smoothed and integrated into the futuristic shape. Vauxhall had already built up a decent reputation for its Sri- and GTE badged sports models, and few were disappointed by the unveiling of the smartly dressed 1.8 liter GTE in the late summer. The interior was as well considered as the outside, getting heavily bolstered sports seats and an LED- display dashboard. The feeling was that the Golf GTI was just too civilized and refined to be a hot hatch; the Vauxhall was rather more brutal and torquey in its delivery. The Astra, though, trumped the hot hatch pack in 1988 with the launch of a new 2.0 liter 16 valve engine for the GTE. An advanced mass market design for the era, the engine produced 154bhp which, mounted in the relatively light shell of the GTE, allowed near supercar in gear performance.
Unlike the vast majority of the new 16 valve engines, the General Motors unit was very torquey, even at low revs. The Astra GTE 16V was about as hot as the hot hatch got in its heyday, but that didn’t guarantee sales success. It was quick, but had a rather ragged ride, a propensity to torque- steer and was difficult to drive flat out. Ultimately, the Golf’s suave image and more mature road behavior proved a more popular driving blend with buyers.