A Brief History Of Opel’s Compact Station Wagons

If we were to take all 24 million Opel Kadett and Astra cars ever sold and line them up one behind the other, the column would circle around the equator two and a half times.

Needless to say, Opel compact cars have a very rich history. But the German automaker also has is an impressive tradition when it comes to compact class station wagons.

It all started with the Kadett A Caravan back in 1963. By the way, [Car] [A] [Van] stood for a car with the practicality of a van – which is a neat play-on-words that oftentimes escapes people.

Sure enough, the Caravan moniker was abandoned in 2010 when Opel’s compact station wagon started being called the ‘Sports Tourer’, but that doesn’t stop us from fondly remembering each of the past 10 generations, so here goes:

1963-1965 – Opel Kadett A

Ask anybody at Opel and they’ll tell you that the Kadett A was the first car to revolutionize the compact class in 1963. It not only came with a very large trunk but also offered room for six people thanks to a third row of seats.

In terms of looks, the Kadett A Caravan featured a low beltline, panoramic windows for good visibility and a decorative strip running along the side, accentuating its dimensions. The trunk was surprisingly spacious for a compact car and the fuel tank cap was positioned outside – “You never have the smell of gasoline in the trunk,” is something Opel’s advertising team used to point out back then.

As for performance, its 993-cc four-cylinder unit was good for 40 HP, which may not sound like a lot now, but for a compact car in the 60s it was a whole different story.

1965-1973 – Opel Kadett B Caravan

This new-series model replaced its original counterpart after a very short 2-year run. The new model was more than four meters long, thus making it considerably bigger than its predecessor.

Opel engineers made sure that the extra size also came with extra horsepower by enlarging the bore of the four-cylinder unit by 3mm. The entry-level 1,078 cc engine developed 45 HP while the higher-compression 1.1 S engine was good for 55 HP. Over 2.6 million units were sold from September 1965 to July 1973, and they weren’t all just in Germany, as customers from 120 countries ended up ordering themselves a Kadett.

1973-1978 – Opel Kadett C

The Kadett C family was quite numerous with multiple body configurations. Opel built approximately 1.7 million units from 1973 to 1978, though the most popular models were powered by a 1.2-liter engine with 60 HP and 88 Nm (64 lb-ft) of torque.

Some of the 3rd-generation Kadett’s most notable design features included the flat radiator grille, the brand signature crease on the hood and a front apron in spoiler form.

1979-1984 – Opel Kadett D Caravan

The Kadett D was Opel’s first front-wheel drive model with a transverse four-cylinder engine and it made its debut at the 1979 IAA. It measured 4.2 meters long, making it larger not than just its predecessors, but also its more modern rivals. In terms of performance, the Kadett D was given a new 1.3-liter OHC engine with 60 HP and 75 HP, though people looking for practicality were more impressed by the station wagon’s 1,425 liters of load volume.

Approximately 2.1 million Kadett D models were produced in its 5 year lifespan, all featuring the same technical modifications such as the tighter and lower chassis, the new steering dampers and the internally ventilated disk brakes at the front.

1984-1991 – Opel Kadett E Caravan

Winner of ‘Car of the Year 1984’, the Kadett E was the second front-wheel drive Kadett model ever built. Opel sold a grand total of 3,779,289 cars within a 7 year period and the Caravan version was right in the middle of things.

In 1987, two 54 HP Caravan diesels made the 30,000 km (18,641) trip from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, with both of them successfully arriving at their destinations. Also worth noting is that from April 1989 onwards, all petrol-powered Kadetts were sold with a catalytic converter in Germany.

1991-1997 – Opel Astra F Caravan

As you all know, the uber-successful Kadett became the Astra in the late 90s, which also became the best-selling Opel model ever.

The Caravan version became a popular choice as soon as the cars started rolling out, with private buyers actually preferring highly-equipped Caravan Club models which had up to 115 HP.

Also, all Astras came with an active belt safety system with tensioners on the front seat belts, height-adjustable belts and seat ramps, as well as side protection (with double steel tube reinforcements in all doors). For the first time, all engines came with catalytic converters.

1998-2004 – Opel Astra G Caravan

The Astra G is undoubtedly one of the most popular compact Opel models ever built, if not the most beloved one.

The German automaker offered it as a three and five-door hatchback and a station wagon from the get-go, while safety standards eclipsed those of the previous generation model by up to 30%. The wheelbase of the Astra G was around 11 cm (4.3 in) longer than that of the F, resulting in more interior space and more knee room in the rear.

The Astra G Caravan also happened to be the fastest compact station wagon ever in OPC form, which hit the road in 2002 and pulled off speeds of 240 km/h (149 mph) on the Autobahn.

2004-2010 – Opel Astra H Caravan

The third-generation Opel Astra definitely had the most progressive design as well as highest driving dynamics in Opel compact car history at the time. The IDS Plus chassis caused quite a stir when fans first got wind of it, and so did the electronic Continuous Damping Control function – which was otherwise only found in luxury cars and exclusive sports cars.

As for the Caravan, passengers were treated to plenty of space inside thanks to the 2.70 meter-long (8.8 ft) wheelbase.

2010-2015 – Opel Astra J Sports Tourer

Out with the Caravan and in with the Sports Tourer! This new generation Astra station wagon not only featured a brand new design philosophy, but also retained the clever Flex-Fold system allowing for up to 1,550 liters of useful space.

The Astra J featured clever new-gen safety features such as the front camera and the AFL+ headlights, but media members present during its launch probably remember getting an earful about the front seats and how they were developed with the help of independent medical and back experts.

2016-Present – Opel Astra K Sports Tourer

This modern-day station wagon has been available at Opel dealers across Europe since earlier this month, with prices starting at just €18,260 in Germany.

The reasons why this car stands out have been thoroughly documented in recent past – adaptive full LED matrix technology, Traffic Sign Assist, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning along with Following Distance Indication and Forward Collision Alert with Collision Imminent Braking. This is the safest and most advanced Opel Astra in history and winning the 2016 Car of the Year award speaks volumes about its sales potential.


  • fabri99

    I still love the look of the Astra G… It probably has to do with the Extreme version.

  • KF

    The Astra G is one of the very best! We had one for 160 000 km, not one single issue.

  • Bring back two (three) door wagons!

    On a side note, I did not know they made G OPC caravan… damn!

  • Deckard_Cain

    I still daily drive an Astra G caravan and it is extremely reliable. Barely gave me any problems.

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