1983 in motoring

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This article 1983 in motoring deals with developments in the automotive industry throughout the year 1983 by various automobile manufacturers, grouped by country. The automotive industry designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and sells motor vehicles, and is one of the Earth's most important economic sectors by revenue.

The first practical automobile with a petrol engine was built by Karl Benz in 1885 in Mannheim, Germany.

1983 saw a great number of new model launches in Europe, with the popularity of the hatchback bodystyle continuing to gather pace and now being the most popular bodystyle in many countries.

United Kingdom[edit]

British Leyland has had another busy year. The Austin Allegro has finally ended its production life after 10 years, following the launch of its successor - the Maestro. The new car is built at the Cowley plant in Oxford, and is sold as a five-door hatchback with an exceptionally spacious interior. It is hardly the best looking car in the world, but features many novel "extras" including a bonded laminated windscreen, body-coloured plastic bumpers, an electric engine management system and a standard five-speed gearbox - features which are still rare on comparable modern day family cars. Power comes from 1.3 and 1.6 petrol engines, and there is also a more powerful MG version (the MG Maestro 1600) which uses the 1.6 R-Series engine and is capable of 110 mph. Interior space, asking price and running costs are the car's strongest points, and a saloon version is expected next year to give British Leyland an up-to-date rival for the Ford Sierra.

The big news for Vauxhall in 1983 was the introduction of an all-new mini-car - the Nova, which replaces the Chevette. It is built in Spain and sold on the continent as the Opel Corsa since the autumn of 1982. 1.0, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 petrol engines provide power, but these power units are more biased towards fuel economy. The Nova will be sold as a hatchback (three or five doors) and a saloon (two and four doors), an almost unique record number of bodystyles for such a small car.

Ford maintained its position as Britain's most popular brand of car, and this was helped by two significant changes to the model line-up. The seven-year-old Fiesta receives a major restyle - and the addition of an impressively stylish and fast XR2 "hot hatch". In addition to the Fiesta, the company range is expanded with the launch of a brand new 4 door saloon. With the expensive range-topping Granada being Ford's only saloon after the demise of the Cortina, the Orion - as it will be badged - is one of the largest cars in its mid-range class. Its upmarket image is also helped by the inclusion of only "GL" and "Ghia" trim levels, with the entry-level 1.1 engine being the only power unit from the Escort on which it is based not to feature in the Orion as well.


General Motors have added a substantial new upmarket car to the Opel range in the shape of the Senator. Similar in size to the Opel Rekord, the Senator was previously seen in Britain as the Vauxhall Royale, but with that model's demise the Senator will be imported for approximately one year until the Vauxhall-badged version is launched. It is powered by an impressive 3.0 V6 engine and has a spacious, luxurious and comfortable interior. With the Rekord competing against the likes of the Ford Granada, Rover SD1 and Audi 100, the Senator could be Opel's long-awaited answer to the BMW 5 Series.

Volkswagen has called time on the first generation Golf after nine years and an estimated 10,000,000 sales. It has been the world's best selling car of the last decade, a position that has been achieved by solid build quality, cast iron reliability, a smooth ride, strong handling, high levels of practicality and a comfortable interior. The 1.6 GTI kicked off a worldwide demand for "hot hatchbacks" which is getting higher all the time. The MK2 Golf has power units ranging from an economical 1.3 to the impressively fast 1.8 GTI. It carries on all the virtues that made the original Golf such a success. And for traditionalists who prefer saloons over hatchbacks, there is the Jetta - a comfortable four-door sedan which has all the Golf's hallmarks plus the advantage of having the largest boot of any current production car.


The regeneration of Fiat begins with the launch of an impressive all-new mini-car - the Uno, a product of Giugiaro's ItalDesign studio. It replaces the veteran 127, and is the most innovative small hatchback ever seen in Europe. Its interior space and fuel economy are first rate, with visual appeal also high on the agenda. Power comes from 900cc, 1.1 and 1.3 petrol engines, with three- and five-door hatchback bodystyles making it a practical choice for those who place function above power. It so impressed Europe's motoring press that they voted it European Car of the Year.

Fiat has also given its five-year-old Ritmo/Strada a major facelift which sheds some of the original design's quirks that put so many potential buyers off. The new look is more restrained, and gives Fiat hope of continuing already strong sales for its entrant in Europe's most competitive sector.

Alfa Romeo has produced the Arna as part of a joint venture with Japanese manufacturer Nissan. The new range of three- and five-door hatchbacks are built in Naples on the same production line as the Nissan Cherry Europe - the first "Japanese" car to be built in Europe. With Alfa Romeo customers suspicious of Nissan handling and Nissan customers even more so of Alfa Romeo build quality, the idea is a risky one which might not succeed. For buyers seeking the traditional Alfa Romeo virtues of flair and fun, the new 33 has gone on sale as successor to the long-running Alfasud and Alfetta ranges.


The long-awaited hatchback version of the R9 has finally arrived - two years after the launch of the saloon upon which it is based. The new Renault 11 is a range of three and five-door hatchbacks which are direct competitors for the new Volkswagen Golf. It uses the same engines and suspension as the R9, but is a shade more practical thanks to it being a hatchback. The new model will also be sold in the USA as the Renault Encore, where it will join the R9's American twin - the Alliance - in Renault's bid to gain popularity on the far side of the Atlantic.

After a succession of technically sound but visually dull the models, the new Peugeot 205 has arrived like a whirlwind. Stylish, ultra-modern Pininfarina-styled body, supple ride, and excellent ride and handling are the key elements in the excitement which has arisen from the launch of this promising new mini-car. It is designed as an eventual replacement for the ageing 104, though that model is still being produced for the home market. The 205, meanwhile, has a wide range of engines from an ecomical 954cc unit to a blistering 1.9 powerplant that fits under the bonnet of the range-topping GTI. There is also a smooth and economical 1.8 diesel unit for customers looking for a frugal oil burner.

Citroën has expanded its range in the UK by importing the LNA three-door entry-level hatchback, which has been sold in its homeland since 1978. There are no plans, however, for the base LN model to be imported across the channel. August 1983 also saw the arrival in the UK of the BX family hatchback, which was launched on the contintent the previous autumn.


Nissan has confirmed that the Datsun badge is to be withdrawn from the entire model range after this year, and that the Nissan badge will be universal. The first car to wear this badge is the all-new Micra, a small three- and five-door hatchback powered by economical 1.0 and 1.2 petrol engines. It is aimed directly at the likes of the Austin Metro and Ford Fiesta, promising class-leading levels of quality and economy. It is expected to be an eventual replacement for the Cherry, which is slightly larger.

Toyota has announced a new version of its Starlet mini-car, which will go on sale in early 1984. The new Starlet is one of the last small cars to switch from rear-drive to front-drive, carrying over the previous model's 1.0 and 1.3 petrol engines though dropping the 1.2 unit. It will be the latest of many Japanese challengers to the Fiesta/Metro/Nova dominance of the British mini-car market, arriving shortly after another highly competent Oriental car in the shape of Nissan's Micra.

Honda has updated its Civic range for the second time in four years. The new model has a longer wheelbase and a wider range, this time including the "Shuttle" high-roof estate car and the "CRX" coupe. Also new to the range is a 1.5 12-valve petrol engine which is also set to debut in the next generation Honda Ballade, which is set to be produced in Britain as the latest product of a Honda-British Leyland venture.

See also[edit]