General Motors' compact hatchback finally adopted front-wheel drive in this version, sold as the Vauxhall Astra in British markets from 1980. It had 1.0-1.8-liter engines. Visually, the Kadett dwas a soft revolution. Technically, it was a different story. At the 1979 IAA, Opel's first front-wheel drive model debuted as the modern-looking Kadett D.
The packaging was truly convincing. Although the newcomer was 126 mm shorter than its predecessor at 3,998 mm, it sported a longer interior and offered ignificantly more space than many of its rivals. But it was not only the powertrain layout and the chassis with a torsion-beam axle at the rear that broke with tradition: The Kadett was given a new 1.3-liter OHC engine that generated 60 or 75 hp. The revolution continued with the body variants. In addition to the spacious station wagon with a load volume of up to 1,425 liters, Opel offered only fastback versions. The range of engines grew successively: In spring 1980, the 1.2 swith 60 hp was added to the list of options, and in August 1981, the 90 hp 1.6 S joined the new engine family. The swirl-chamber diesel unit introduced by Opel in 1982 with the same capacity was also based on this gasoline engine. That 1.6 doffered 54 hp.
Power-hungry Kadett drivers needed to be patient a little longer. The SR versions, which were only available as three-door models, made a sporty impression with their spoilers, swish exterior mirrors, black foil on the sills and Recaro seats. Under the hood they initially had the familiar 1.3 sand 1.6 S engines with 75 and 90 hp respectively. But in January 1983 things changed: "As the youngest offshoot of the opel family, the Kadett GTE is a member of that happy generation of cars that accelerates like a bullet, sticks to the road like bubblegum at high noon and signals joie de vivre," gushed Jürgen Reinke in "Start" magazine. The GTE had a top speed of 187 km/h and was equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that developed 115 hp. Other technical modifications included a tighter and lower chassis, new steering dampers and ventilated disk brakes at the front.