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ocnblu

Test drove Carl-Peter's baby today

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Today I went to the dealership where I bought my '03 ION Quad Coupe to check out an Astra. The same lady who sold me that car went along for the ride, in a red 3-door manual with no options, priced at $18,400 or so.

To sell for that price across town from other more-or-less Delta-based GM small cars, the Astra had to be loaded with "kit", as they say on The Continent, and it is. All of GM's latest safety equipment, including head curtains and Stabilitrak come on this car. Power equipment including central locking, mirrors and dual express-down windows are there as well. Handsome, 17" rims look good on the car, along with foglamps. This car has a lot of standard equipment.

Turning the cool, switchblade key, the first thing I notice is the 1.8L Ecotec sounds and feels a bit harsh at cold idle. The interior is awash in black, with only the silver dash trim and tiny flecks of white in the upholstery to break up the theme, until you get to the typical light-gray colored headliner. The door closes with a very satisfying thunk. It reminds me of a VW interior, in that it looks and feels very well-buttoned down, I like that.

I was a little concerned the small engine would feel anemic, especially after reading all the reviews knocking the car for power, but it did fine with the manual transmission getting up to highway speed. The transmission feels great to shift, unlike most FWD shifters, which definitely feel disconnected from the transmission (and they are, or course).

The handling is excellent from what I could tell on the test loop, which included some back roads. The car feels solid as the proverbial ROCK, and rides quietly, without the expected thump over bumps most small cars exhibit. The lowered (according to Saturn), sport-tuned suspension feels great, and it rides very well.

Since relatively few Astras will be imported, it would be harder for the dealer to find a car exactly the way a potential buyer wants. As far as the fairly mournful interior, that will be addressed, according to my saleschick, with an optional black/tan combo coming soon.

I would take this car in white or blue, and although I'd like to see the black/tan interior before buying, I could live with the black.

Next up, I went out to the Subaru dealership and hopped in a new, gray and silver Impreza Outback Sport with 5 speed. I like the look of the new Imprezas in Outback guise, with the two-tone paintjob and the goodlooking, sparkle silver rims. The taillights, however, I could do without. They look a bit cheesy with their chrome housings.

The interior is not as nice as the Astra, but it is not bad. It feels a bit flimsier than the Astra. I love to hear the boxer engine rev, I love that distinctive growl. Out on the road, the car feels "softer" than the Astra, with noticeably more body roll, yet it feels like it has tremendous grip, an advantage of the AWD. Odd, I am not sure how to describe the feeling while driving after getting out of the Astra, but the chassis felt very grippy and solid, while the body felt less well-made, flimsier somehow. The Subaru radio sounded weak, as well. The car got up to speed quickly, it seems, with that wonderful, boxer sound I mentioned.

The Subaru has a lot of endearing qualities, but some things about it make me shy away. First off, it is made in Japan, and secondly, Toyota has their filthy paws on this scrappy little company after GM got rid of their shares. Plus, although the AWD is quite an asset, it comes at a pretty good fuel economy penalty, and fuel mileage is fueling my desire (pun intended, ha) to search out a smaller vehicle that I will enjoy driving. Furthermore, the Outback Sport I drove has an MSRP of $20,900 or so.

Among these two, I have to give Carl-Peter's baby the nod. It is sporty, economical, loaded with features, and it is a GM product, even if it is Belgian-made.

Edited by ocnblu
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HHR SS is a sweet vehicle, no doubt, but it is kind of pricey v. my goal of saving money on payments, insurance and gasoline. I am still making up my mind.
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I agree that the Astra is a really nice car. I wanted one for quite sometime. However, it's nowhere near enough car to make me abandon my plans for a Camaro.

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I still need to test drive an Astra...

A 5 door XR in blue would be nice... :thumbsup:

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Mr. Jacket, darn it, why you gotta put that sweet "Camaro" word out there. I am at the age where I need to sock every available penny away toward retirement, these are supposed to be my "prime earning years", or whatever. I am trying to live well within my means, here. Plus, with all the doom and gloom out of Detroit lately, I've lowered my expectations... I am trying to promote my "needs" at the expense of my "wants", especially when it comes to a vehicle.

During the month I was driving a Taurus loaner vehicle from my job while my truck was being repaired, I don't know, it was like I was numb, I didn't actually miss driving my truck. I started to feel like the 5.3L, Flowmaster-enhanced horsepower was like an addiction, and the Taurus was rehab. It forced me to sit back and think about what I "should" be doing with my money.

I am on my own, with no one else to fall back on. I need to think about the deep, dark, mysterious future, and plan accordingly. Whether I actually will do that is a test of willpower. I love vehicles. Will this love cost me too much? Am I sacrificing my Golden Years to satisfy my lust for sheetmetal? Time will tell.

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have your cake and eat it too...the hhr ss has the balls to the wall accel. covered, yet it will still get much better mpg than the truck. payments will prob be cheaper as well.

http://www.chevrolet.com/pop/hhr/2008/sstu...interior_en.jsp

popup_interior.jpg

check out those nice seats! if no go on the SS HHR, the reg HHR's have been very incentiveized lately although i am sure the astra feels more refined.

of course, the astra is nice too. I want to try to drive one some time soon. I am pretty sure i would need more than the 1.8 to make me happy though.

camaro.......you know, a v6 camaro with stick will prob net 20+ consistently driving around......

Edited by regfootball
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First of all a great write up Mr. Blu. The only thing I noticed when I was at the Astra ride and drive event was that the first gear seemed to be long, and made it less fun. I talked to the PR lady and she said may be after people hammering it for about three months, it might have taken some beating.

It is certainly among the best FWD shifters. Makes it real fun to drive. The clutch action is just right. The body is well balanced.

Like reg said you should go for the HHR SS. Although the price difference is about $5K, which is roughly $100/month on a 5 year loan, or about $60/month on a 39 month lease. There should be a limit on what you spend, and I respect that. You need to meet you ends and goals rather than look for what you want.

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Mr. Jacket, darn it, why you gotta put that sweet "Camaro" word out there.

:smilewide:

I am at the age where I need to sock every available penny away toward retirement, these are supposed to be my "prime earning years", or whatever. I am trying to live well within my means, here. Plus, with all the doom and gloom out of Detroit lately, I've lowered my expectations... I am trying to promote my "needs" at the expense of my "wants", especially when it comes to a vehicle.

During the month I was driving a Taurus loaner vehicle from my job while my truck was being repaired, I don't know, it was like I was numb, I didn't actually miss driving my truck. I started to feel like the 5.3L, Flowmaster-enhanced horsepower was like an addiction, and the Taurus was rehab. It forced me to sit back and think about what I "should" be doing with my money.

I am on my own, with no one else to fall back on. I need to think about the deep, dark, mysterious future, and plan accordingly. Whether I actually will do that is a test of willpower. I love vehicles. Will this love cost me too much? Am I sacrificing my Golden Years to satisfy my lust for sheetmetal? Time will tell.

Our situations really aren't all that different to be honest. We both are at a point in our lives where we need to invest as much as possible in things essential to our own welfare and future; you with retirement, myself with college. However, where as the rather bleak future of Detroit has you placing your needs over your wants (speaking within the realm of vehicles here), it has me doing the opposite.

Maybe it's because I think GM, and the rest of Detroit, won't build a car like I really want ever again, which I'm probably correct in my assumption. So, as a result, I'm going to probably end up stretching myself far beyond my means to get what I want so I won't have to lower my expectations in the future. I suppose, however, I'm doing nothing more than running from the reaper, figuratively speaking; I hope the Camaro joins that elusive 1,000,000 mile club, and kicks the bucket when I do, but there is the possibility that I won't be that lucky, and I'll be forced into that Chevy Groove/clown car-sized, front-wheel drive, four-cylinder electric hybrid, "spiritual successor" to the Camaro.

I guess I'm just crazy, but I'm going to choose to run and go down in glory when I just can't run anymore.

Edited by YellowJacket894
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During the month I was driving a Taurus loaner vehicle from my job while my truck was being repaired, I don't know, it was like I was numb, I didn't actually miss driving my truck. I started to feel like the 5.3L, Flowmaster-enhanced horsepower was like an addiction, and the Taurus was rehab. It forced me to sit back and think about what I "should" be doing with my money.

YES!

The month I had the '07 Malibu 1LT 2.2L while my Fleetwood was being repaired, I missed the look and aura of my car...but really didn't miss "it" at all. The Malibu was not an eye catcher or with anything truly special, but after even the first day or so, I started looking back to when I bought the Fleetwood for my daily...and thinking why did I not actually ever look more seriously into something smaller, sportier, and even a 4-cyl, etc.?

Well...we know how that worked out. I got my car back, and still enjoy it, but still wish it wasn't my daily...and then bought mom the new '08 Malibu, based HUGELY on what I said of the '07. And in her regard, this is a person that said she could never go back to anything but an SUV because of height, size, etc...and now can't believe she waited so long.

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Hey ocn, you could get a V6 Camaro, then you can get good fuel economy, a manual, stunning beauty most cars only dream of having, and it won't break the bank since it'll come in cheaper than the V8 model.

Edited by Dodgefan
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Hey ocn, you could get a V6 Camaro, then you can get good fuel economy, a manual, stunning beauty most cars only dream of having, and it won't break the bank since it'll come in cheaper than the V8 model.

x2!

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I think some of you are still thinking too MUCH, in terms of possibilities. Kind of like us and originally thinking of going with a Lambda to replace the Suburban. Yes, cheaper, and yes, more efficient...but marginally so.

The HHR SS is a viable choice, but as ocnblu is re-thinking, potentially still right on the cusp or already over the "too MUCH" idea. Same with the Camaro, only that is even more over the mark.

For someone who previously had small, 4-cyl vehicles and seemed to enjoy them...I think going right back to that route may not be a bad idea at all. Sometimes, when you've gone big (such as the trucks), you THINK that you can only go so far in terms of smaller, but it can be best to really, honestly, sleep on it.

Just as he's doing...thinking, driving many smaller, efficient choices and mulling it over. For the time being, though, many suggestions are over the top. Maybe Astra, maybe regular LT/LS HHR, maybe a Subaru...but smaller, 4-cyl, and still fun without extra cylinders, turbos, etc.

Ah, I love acting like the mind of someone I've never officially met :AH-HA_wink:

Edited by caddycruiser
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