Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful

The 1983 Opel Junior concept marked a new, friendlier frontier in small car design. Its impact was to be lasting. 


The 1983 (is it really that old?) Opel Junior was one of the stars of that year’s IAA at Frankfurt, where it debuted. Small and really rather perfectly formed, the little Opel was the work of a team of designers at Opel’s Rüsselsheim styling centre, under the direction of Hideo Kodama. Alongside Kodama was Gert Hildebrand and neophyte, Chris Bangle, who it’s said, was responsible for the concept’s modular interior. 

Junior was a thought experiment for a more compact Opel model, to slot below the recently launched Corsa. So it was compact, some 210mm shorter than a Corsa, if taller and wider. The exterior styling was a masterclass in less being more – Kodama later saying; “We made a car that was ‘huggable”. Its lack of ornamentation and soft form language was something of a revelation at the time – especially given the fact that the small car state of the art was the taller and more angular Fiat Uno and Panda from the acknowledged hand of maestro Giugiaro.


But if the outside was well received, the interior was where true madness resided. Chris Bangle’s interior was designed with more than a nod to the Issigonis Mini and Giugiaro’s aforementioned Panda. Everything was removable, including the clock which could double as an alarm. The instrument modules could be added to, according to the owner’s budget and the interior vents were attached to rubber hoses, so they could be moved in any direction. Even the seat covers had a dual use – they could be removed and used as sleeping bags. So even if it did look a bit of an unholy mess, there certainly was no shortage of ideas – (and potentially – rattles one assumes). But lets face it, the Junior was really all about the exterior.

opel junior 14

And it was the exterior that provided the most lasting testament, beginning a move towards friendlier (cuter) forms, prefiguring the second generation Corsa B and even influencing Giugiaro’s Fiat Punto and Nissan’s second generation Micra, to name just two. Kodama went on to be responsible for the Tigra and the third generation Corsa C, both of which took cues from the Junior concept.

Looking at the clean uncluttered lines of Junior today, it is difficult to see how small car design has improved in the thirty-odd years since the concept was first shown. Certainly, today’s smallest Opel – the frantically overstyled Adam – advances little. Unless vacuity is your raison d’être.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

10 thoughts on “Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful”

  1. So that’s one good concept in every decade since the 1980’s and all we end up with is the Adam? GM really has a lot to answer for.

  2. Correct, Sam, the Trixx was a good one to remind us off. Can I return with the 1999 Opel G90 which was good enough to be a good Citroen concept? But unlike some showcars it seems to have presaged an actual theme in styling without being a fake-concept car? You can see how it gave rise to the Astra H in some ways. I really wish they´d done more with the aerodynamics.

  3. Given the Opel Junior was based on the same platform that underpinned 3 generations of the Vauxhall Corsa from 1983-2006 as well as the Vauxhall Meriva from 2003-2010 (with derivatives said to be continuing production outside of Europe to this day), did GM Europe really need the Suzuki-based Agila to enter the city car segment?

    Even the original Ford Ka was based on the mk3/4 Ford Fiesta platform.

    Regarding the 1995 Opel Maxx concepts, is it known what the dimensions for the Opel Maxx as well as whether the engine was mounted conventionally at the front or mounted at the rear like on the Smart?

    1. My guess is that the Agila could take smaller engines than the Corsa and could do more of what customers in that price range wanted. The Agila A was lighter than the Corsa so the smaller engines were not so overworked. The Corsa seems to be more suited to slightly bigger engines and had performance and handling characteristics that made it a heavier, wider car. So, with this in mind, I think the Agila better suited to its city car role than even the chopped down Corsa could manage.

    2. That did not prevent the Corsa B/C from using the same engines as the Agila though, also the Opel Junior was significantly lighter then the Agila by almost 350kg and the lightest Corsa A/B/C models in the range by 85-280kg (or heaviest models by 215-505kg) as well as slightly smaller then the Agila.

      Yet concede future iterations of the Opel Junior would have inevitably grown to similar proportions as the Agila though perhaps not quite in terms of weight, roughly in line with how the Corsa A eventually grew into the Corsa B and Corsa C.

      Have read elsewhere that the 1.0 3-cylinder Family 0 engine was said to have been originally developed sometime in the late-70s or early-80s, however am as yet unable to verify how accurate that piece of information is.

    3. I’ll have to look into that. I’m comparing the post-2002 Corsa with the Agila “A”.
      Remember that weights for the concept cars were probably estimates and hopes.

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