The Opel Kadett D was also built in South Africa by General Motors South African (Pty) Ltd. The South African range was made up of four-door fastback sedans, five-door hatchbacks, and a five-door estate model called the Voyage. The engines used are Opel's 1.2 litre overhead valve inline-four (L models only), or the OHC 1.3 liter (GL, GLS, and Voyage). Power is 60 PS (44 kW) and 75 PS (55 kW) respectively. Later a 1.6 liter was added and also a 1.8 in the GTE performance model.
Technologically, the Kadett D was a departure, as it was Opel and Vauxhall's first front-wheel-drive car. It was also the first application of the Family II engine design, with a single overhead camshaft, aluminium-alloy cylinder head, hydraulic valve lifters, with capacities of 1297 cc (producing 60 PS and 75 PS) and had a transaxle design that allowed the clutch to be replaced without removing the transmission unit. A carry-over 1196 cc Opel OHV engine from previous generations of the Kadett producing 53 hp and a top speed of 87 mph was also offered on entry level models from launch, and a new 1600 cc engine was offered after Frankfurt 1981, followed by an 1800 cc version introduced for the Kadett GSE/Astra GTE model. The Kadett D was also equipped with a 1600 cc diesel engine, an option which was first presented at the Brussels Motor Show in 1982. Another frugal model, mostly sold in Italy, was the 1.0 liter model with 50 PS (37 kW).
Using a gear-driven system, power was taken from the 6-speed sequential gearbox forward to the half-shafts, which appeared to embrace the raucous 54 degree V6. By doing this Opel had cleverly avoided a nose-heavy car, giving them a significant handling advantage. Weighing in at 1040 kg (2292 lbs)m the car looked like a serious challenger for Alfa Romeo.
Opel campaigned the car extensively in motorsport too. The rally version was uncompetitive, but Opel eagerly waded into the 160mph traffic jam that was the International Touring Car Championship. The ITCC was created from the German DTM series, in which Opel had struggled. A rule change allowed Opel to use a new 480bhp V6 derived from the road car. The resultant four-wheel-drive monster carried Manuel Reuter to the 1996 ITCC driver's crown and Opel won the manufacturers' gong, beating Alfa Romeo and Mercedes-Benz. It was the Calibra's finest hour.
The GSi's engine mapping had been carried out by Opel tuning specialists Irmscher. A model with the 82 PS (60 kW) 1.4 L multi point fuel injected engine, which was otherwise mechanically identical to the GSi, also became available as the Nova SRi in the United Kingdom. In January 1988, a turbocharged version of the Isuzu diesel engine was introduced, with power increased to 67 PS (49 kW).