The real people’s car successor was the 1962 Kadett A. The low maintenance costs were expressly part of the recipe for success of the two-door notchback model. The lines were matter-of-fact and modern. At the same time, the interior space was anything but typical of a small car. The advertising promised “well-formed seats, plenty of legroom. We have dispensed with overhanging metalwork and unnecessary bells and whistles. That would only have cost a lot of money.” Instead, the boot was a real luggage compartment and – the fuel filler cap was on the outside! “You never have the smell of petrol in your boot,” it said with a wink towards Wolfsburg. With its modern, water-cooled front engine, the Kadett offered a further design advantage over the Beetle. “Opel Kadett, in short: O.K.” – Opel built almost 650,000 units by 1965 alone.
The Opel Performance Center in 2011 launched a hardcore version of the Corsa OPC – Corsa OPC Nürburgring Edition. The engine is the same, 1.6 litre turbo, but it has been tuned to punch out 210 PS (154 kW; 207 hp) and 250 Nm (280 Nm with overboost function) of torque at 2,250 to 5,850 rpm. 0–100 km/h time is 6.8 seconds and top speed is 230 km/h (143 mph).
The manufacturer now offered two versions of the Kadett, designated the "Kadett KJ38 and the "Kadett K38" the latter also being sold as the "Kadett Spezial". Mechanically and in terms of published performance there was little to differentiate the two, but the "Spezial" had a chrome stripe below the window line, and extra external body trim in other areas such as on the front grill. The interior of the "Spezial" was also better equipped. To the extent that the 300 Mark saving for buyers of the car reflected reduced production costs, the major difference was that the more basic "KJ38" lost the synchromous springing with which the car had been launched, and which continued to be fitted on the "Spezial". The base car instead reverted to traditional rigid axle based suspension similar to that fitted on the old Opel P4.
More or less by fait accompli, in the absence of the tools to build the Kadett, Opel found itself in the middle-priced bracket in Germany's postwar auto market, sandwiched between Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. This position was familiar to both GM and Opel, and one in which it did amazingly well. In 1953, output rose above 100,000 units for the first time since the war, and in 1954, when the sprawling plant by the Main River was considered completely rebuilt, 24,270 were employed at Adam Opel AG and 167,650 vehicles were built, an all-time high. Opel actually fully recovered from the consequences of the postwar era.
The Kadett A (above) finally appeared in 1962, and was a classic GM/Opel effort: highly pragmatic, conventional in every respect, reasonably stylish for its time, and designed to deliver a good bang for the buck. In just about every way possible, it was the antithesis of the VW: front-engine rwd, a rather tinny but roomy body, highly tossable but with a primitive suspension and ride, a very roomy trunk, and excellent visibility as well as economy. Oh, and a proper heater even! Its little 987 cc OHV four made 40 net/46 gross hp, six more than the VW 1200. Its trim fighting weight of 1475 lbs (670 kg), some two hundred pounds less than the VW, showed in both its acceleration and body integrity.