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2008 Saturn Astra XE 5-Door

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I got a chance to test drive the Saturn Astra at the Autoshow this year, here's my review.

2008 Saturn Astra - The compact that should've been here four years ago


XR Model Shown - Source: GM Media

For starters, this isn't a new car. It's being sold all over Europe as the Opel Astra, UK as a Vauxhall Astra. The Astra commences imports this year.

I was given an Astra XE 5-door. First impression was a big wow. Compared to the Ion, this was lightyears ahead. It's a big wonder why GM didn't think of this earlier. On a first glance, it was very roomy for a compact hatchback. I adjusted my seats, and there was still some legroom at the back.

The test vehicle was equipped with a 4-speed automatic. Power from the 1.8L ECOTEC was adequate for city driving, but I wasn't taken onto the highway, and the tuning was definitely not sporty at all. I would expect with a manual it would be a much more pleasant drive, and also look out for the upcoming Astra Redline.

Interior fit and finish was a huge leap from the Ion, but to be very honest, that wasn't saying much. I absolutely loved the full length sunroof. The wide view makes it excellent for trips out to the open for the starry sky. Criticisms include the switch controls, as well as the sound deadening. On first sight, the controls were confusing. The turn signals used electronic switches rather than traditional mechanical units, which did took some time to get used to. I guess on a long run this would be a good thing, since there's less mechanical wear. However, the same could not be said for the wipers. When you're in a storm and you want to flick your wipers all the way to full speed, you can't. You had to flick the lever 3 times before it went to full speed. Also, there's no indication on which setting you are on, which was a little confusing. Also the cabin noise was a bit too much for my taste. I would expect the noise level to be right for the Redline, but I would prefer a little more deadening on the base and family models.

Overall impression was good for the car. It would be a nice seller if it's priced right, and It's a good start for Saturn, to pave way to completely convert over to Opels. At least it's a nice leap from the North American Focus. You hear that, Ford?


(Source: GM, Unless otherwise stated)

Base Price: $17,900

As Tested: $22,630


* Heated Seats, Driver and Passenger

* Dual Panel Power Sunroof

* 16" Twin-spoke wheels

- Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel, Shifter Knob and Handbrake

- Steering Wheel Audio Controls

* Vehicle Class: 5-Door Subcompact hatchback, 5 seats

* Powertrain Layout: Front Engine FWD

* Engine: 1.8L ECOTEC I-4 with Variable Valve Timing

* Power Output: 138hp @ 6300RPM

* Torque: 125lb-ft @ 3800RPM

* Transmission: 4-speed Automatic

* Tires: P225/50R16 Touring Blackwall

* Curb Weight: 2921 lbs.

* Wheelbase: 102.9 in

* Length: 170.5 in

* Width: 69.0 in.

* Height: 55.8 in.

* Cargo Area: 345.5L / 12.2 cu. ft.

* Fuel Economy: 34 MPG City, 43 MPG Highway (Source: EnerGuide Canada)

* Warranty: 3 years / 60,000km

* Assembly: Antwerp, Belgium

Edited by ToniCipriani

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Nice. I didn't know they had Astras to drive. I got to drive a Malibu LTZ today at the show. Was very nice.

I would have loved to give the Astra a try though. :yes:

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Yeah, they had two booths, one over at MTCC upper level where the Malibu and CTS are, then another one right next to the Saturn area in MTCC South. They're giving out free gas cards for test drives.

Edited by ToniCipriani

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I got to test drive the Astra yesterday. The controls would take some getting used too, as they aren't the "normal" GM controls we have here in the States. Noise is an issue, but overall it felt fine. In some areas it's way ahead of the Cobalt (interior fit and finish, tight suspension, etc), in other areas it needs some work (noise level, balky manual trans, bad gas mileage for such a small engine).

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Say what you will about Honda, those boys build some fuel efficient cars. Would love to see the Astra do better, but it is a cool small car.

I drove one and road noise was not an issue at all, but the car I drove didn't have the sunroof. Noise seems to be more of an issue with sunroof cars, IMHO.

Manual trans in the car I drove was really slick, almost like a Miata or a Honda S2000. I wonder if it varies from car to car?


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...and the nicest thing about the car IMHO is that the two door (excuse me, three door) is really HOT in the styling department. Up close that thing is really a looker for a modern car.


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