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MyerShift

2008 Saturn Astra XR

64 posts in this topic

Last Friday I had set up an appointment for my 10,000 mile service update on my Volkswagen Golf (Rabbit)

Having made the appointment at Vordermann Volkswagen in Ft. Wayne, I decided to finally taste one of GM's German delights; the new for the U.S. Saturn (Opel) Astra.

The staff at Saturn of Ft. Wayne were very courteous and personal to work with.

Having explained my situation of why I ended up with a VW instead of the Astra and wanting to finally experience one, they gladly agreed to offer a test drive.

A few short minutes later, a silver Astra XR 3-door pulled up in front of my Volkswagen. Talk about nice looking but subtle versus hot looking and great visual pizazz concerning the Golf against the Astra!

This XR had (naturally) the manual transmission and also the available leather seating, and the optional stereo system.

In no time I was pulling away with the lovely Heather riding shotgun and onto the Avenue of Autos off from Illinois Road in Ft Wayne.

At the turnaround point, I cranked the steering to attain a sense of the steering and general chassis response even though it was at a very sedate 20 mph. The optional 18" wheel and tire setup feels phenomenal with minimal roll, and a very taut; poised sense of control.

The steering is sublime.

Perhaps a wee bit devoid of actual feel against my VW but it feels stiff and meaty. My idea of perfect assist. More effort is needed than in my VW's rack.

As we gently accelerated down the Avenue of Autos to Illinois road, I noticed only two obvious "faults". One regarding the manual gearbox which felt a little more vague and rubbery as opposed to the VW's. However, once one has adapted to the car, this becomes a nonissue.

My biggest issue regarded something sort of silly but important. The rear view mirror quivered at idle and low speeds like a bowl of Jell-O hooked up to a paint mixer. It's rather disconcerting especially in regard to the lack of actual vibration penetrating the Astra's cabin.

Also, the windows are only one touch down, not up and I don't know about pinch protection and wouldn't want to find out the hard way that's for sure!

I loved the fact that the car allows you to have the headlamps "OFF", on AUTO, P, O, and have the foglamps on in any of those settings. The high beams are interesting to turn on and off as there is no real tactile correlation between the lamps changing their setting and any noted "switch" in the signal lever. There is also a small delay as the electronics do their thing to switch between high and low beam. (I observed this in someone's bumper while sitting a one of the looong lights in Ft. Wayne)

For anyone concerned about the 138hp output of the Astra's 1.8L ECOTEC, it is acceptable. Initially, yes, it feels (and I'm sure is) more sluggish than my Golf with its 2.5L I-5 and 170hp but it is *just* enough power to ensure safe acceleration onto interstates (some blonde dingbat was actually holding us up in her HHR during the acceleration up the onramp to I-69 North. The trade off for this reduced power is undoubtedly in improved efficiency, but we really need to see the new 1.6L turbo ECOTEC offered here in the states with the manual. More power, better efficiency. More than likely, those who choose the automatic aren't enthusiasts and won't appreciate this car's level of capability. So it could remain the only transmission with the 1.8 in my eyes.

The Astra's air conditioning also performed admirably in the 90* F heat and humidity without damping the engines fun, revvy nature/

The stereo setup would take some getting used to and would probably be much easier with the owner's manual, but I managed to toggle through several different computer settings and adjusted the stereo's sound and speaker output location with relative ease. It's not that bad, I promise you.

Once underway upon the Interstate, the Astra is more refined and quiet than the Volkswagen Golf with less road and wind noise.

The ride is incredible. Very firm but never harsh or uncomfortable and always willing to play.

Changing lanes is an adventure though if one is not used to the pinched sightlines induced by that rakish greenhouse, but made easier through the one-touch-for-three blinks and auto-returning signal lever.

One item I was not able to figure out while underway was the electronic speed control. I would have to check the owner's manual for that one.

My verdict overall?

This is the BEST small car currently available for the money no question.

All it needs is a bit more power. Bring the CDTi's!

I am very glad that I was able to experience the Astra and its class leading attributes.

It truly is an amazing car and should actually be the hottest seller on the market.

I loved it!

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The Astra has always been a great car and one of the best in class. Glad you enjoyed it!

Oh yes I did very much. It's a shame GM waited so long to bring it. It is so incredible.

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i was blown away as much as you were when i tested the XR 5 door with 17" sport package.

I must say you basically are echoing a lot of the exact things i thought at the time.

And to top it off, i drove a Jetta 5 cylinder manual right after that that same day so i even get an idea of comparing it to the VW.

The VW feels larger and more stout, but not as sprite and energetic as the astra. The Astra really blew me away. handling and ride were perfect and power was fine although I would wish for about 20-40 more hp. I would not let the lack of power deter me from buying the car. the cupholder and armrest debacle do, however.

Why the Astra only comes in 4th in C/D's comparo and loses to a corolla shows nasty journalism. Did they test the manual? I thought the shifter felt fine, actually.

I got to revisit the astra feeling when i tested a 9-3 2.0T manual this weekend. Same type of thing. Light and nimble car, great ride handling and shifter.

If my budget does not allow a larger car, the Astra is almost a no brainer choice to me now, as long as Saturn drops the price a bit.

I would have a hard time deciding between the 3 door and the 5 door with twin panel S/R.

Edmunds users give Astra a 9.5. Might be the highest rating I've seen on that site. Go read the reviews. Civics and Accords and Camrys are not getting that rating even.

Edited by regfootball
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spent some more time in an Astra XR today, about 25 miles or so.

i have to say i like the car, the exceptions being the gearbox is sometimes reluctant. the -deal breaker- (this is a price thing) is the engine. 4000 rpm at 80+ mph where most traffic goes on the freeway is not acceptable. too much booming. its not coarse, but it just is too much. give me the saab 2.0 t motor with a 6 speed manual in this car and i would be giddy.

the astra really needs the extra gear, and also i blew the upshift to 2 3 times, i could not guide the shifter into 2 without really having to think about it.

the rest of the car? Love it. needs an armrest badly :). love the interior, badly! roll stiffness could be better in turns. BRAKES ARE PHENOMENAL.

cupholders? weird radio? i could get used to it.

bottom line, love the packaging and the manners, if its cheap enough its worth putting up with the engine. its a quiet honey in intown driving. get past 60-65 and its not enough. needs more grunt off the line too but for an econocar its ok, so at the right price this car is a wonder.

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I am amzed that GM has a 300+ day supply of these...I've seen exactly ONE Astra and ONE Aura on the road in the last 7-8 weeks.

Saturn is building some amazing cars and no one seems to notice/care.

I would love to have a Saturn Astra as my next car. Alas we just upgraded in the Miata department, replacing the former 91 with a 2002 so I've got to wait until I've got the Miata paid off...

But I really am still thinking of getting an Astra. Amazing, Amazing car, and I love the way they drive.

The Golf/Rabbit/GTI/Jetta et al are amazing cars also, and I'd love to have a TDI Jetta also...or a GTI.

So many cool cars, so little time to enjoy them.

Chris

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Also, the windows are only one touch down, not up and I don't know about pinch protection and wouldn't want to find out the hard way that's for sure!

Our Aura XR... that you saw at Derek's grad party... has one touch up but not down. Not sure why it can't be both ways? Been to the dealer there on Illinois road a couple times with the Aura for some minor bulliten stuff.

I sure like the Astra's exterior but the interior could use some revamping, of course it is a few year old design. It's deffinatly one of the few good looking small cars in this country.

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I wonder why the hell this thing isn't catching on here in the states. It is one hell of a sexy car!

Last I knew, dealers had like a 300 day supply...

Chris

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cupholders

sunroof

mp3 player connection / control, none

radio wasnt made idiot proof for AMURCHANS

6 speed trannies

paddle shifters

high MSRP

no bluetooth

only 140 hp / no turbo option

4000 rpm at freeway speeds

no sport seats or 18" wheels for the 5 door

no sedan

18" tires are not all season

only black interior

tell ya what though, i am waiting to see what this months incentives are, at the right price i could totally be ok with one for awhile.

Edited by regfootball
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True on its shortcomings, but for what it is a damn fine car.

Chris

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drove an xr coupe again today. yup, the engine is the dealbreaker. can't take the drone on the highway. too bad, the rest of the car is pretty sweet. especially when you drive the aura 4 cyl right after. i think its really making an impact on the aura sales.

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Ride height is too high, especially from the back. For some reason cars without independent rear suspension look that way. The 18" wheels don't help with the 4x4 stance.

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I thought about this, and most of us that have driven the car and liked it have driven the manual. I bet the auto isn't so slick, and is turning buyers off.

That and the interior is indeed a little dark...but I actually liked that about the car.

Chris

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cupholders

sunroof

mp3 player connection / control, none

radio wasnt made idiot proof for AMURCHANS

6 speed trannies

paddle shifters

high MSRP

no bluetooth

only 140 hp / no turbo option

4000 rpm at freeway speeds

no sport seats or 18" wheels for the 5 door

no sedan

18" tires are not all season

only black interior

tell ya what though, i am waiting to see what this months incentives are, at the right price i could totally be ok with one for awhile.

If they could have built the 3-door, 5-door, and sedan in the U.S. with cupholders, a sunroof, an improved mp3 accessible stereo, a front center armrest, and the Cobalt's engine choices, then I think they would have had quite a successful compact product. The sedan is a slick looking little car (except for the somewhat boxy rear, which still looks much more attractive than the Cobalt sedan's design). Although I generally hate rebadging, I would have given Pontiac the 3-door and 5-door (which would have been much better for them than the rebadged Cobalt clone G5 coupe) and Saturn would have received the sedan. Oh well, another missed opportunitiy for GM.

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If they could have built the 3-door, 5-door, and sedan in the U.S. with cupholders, a sunroof, an improved mp3 accessible stereo, a front center armrest, and the Cobalt's engine choices, then I think they would have had quite a successful compact product. The sedan is a slick looking little car (except for the somewhat boxy rear, which still looks much more attractive than the Cobalt sedan's design). Although I generally hate rebadging, I would have given Pontiac the 3-door and 5-door (which would have been much better for them than the rebadged Cobalt clone G5 coupe) and Saturn would have received the sedan. Oh well, another missed opportunitiy for GM.

bing!

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needs an armrest badly :)

When I took my AURA XE in for service in the middle of July, the ASTRA XE 5-door in the showroom had a dealer-installed armrest. I don't know if this is a Saturn Parts item or an aftermarket item, I didn't feel like talking to my salesman that day so I didn't ask him. It looked like it belonged in there and the installation was very professional. Maybe ask the parts department at your Saturn dealer about this item?

Our Aura XR... that you saw at Derek's grad party... has one touch up but not down. Not sure why it can't be both ways? Been to the dealer there on Illinois road a couple times with the Aura for some minor bulliten stuff.

As I mentioned in the other AURA thread, you need to get this checked out by your dealer (I think you may have a defective switch). My 2007 AURA XE has both AUTO DOWN and AUTO UP and both work perfectly!

I wish more GM vehicles offered the dual auto down and up feature on the power windows :yes:

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When I took my AURA XE in for service in the middle of July, the ASTRA XE 5-door in the showroom had a dealer-installed armrest. I don't know if this is a Saturn Parts item or an aftermarket item, I didn't feel like talking to my salesman that day so I didn't ask him. It looked like it belonged in there and the installation was very professional. Maybe ask the parts department at your Saturn dealer about this item?

Saturn Astra Armrest

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I really like this car, but the lack of some of the minor niceties will turn off a lot of people. This car is supposed to be an upscale compact product, but you still have to buy an aftermarket center armrest (that only offers one cupholder) for it. I also think it looks bad when the Chevrolet Cobalt (which is supposed to be the affordable, mainstream compact for GM) has more powerful engines than this car. I just hope GM gets the details right in the next generation car without diluting the great ride/handling that this generation offers.

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Yup, that's the one I saw. I didn't realize that it had a slide-out cup holder though!

a slide out cupholder that happens to get in the way of your working the stickshift to the manual tranny.

to be honest, the cupholder behind the brake lever does not bother me. having to have an armrest added, does. the lack of audio input is unforgivable in the 7-8 years since the ipod was introduced, but as i mentioned before, the real deal breaker is the high engine rpm and drone at freeway speeds. the lack of attention on the armrest and cupholder is a prime example of GM not caring enough about detail though. Another example of how they will not go the distance, only part way.

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They need to study other premium small cars harder perhaps.

Chris

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They need to study other premium small cars harder perhaps.

Chris

The basic building blocks seem to be there, it's the weak engine and attention to details (at least those that are valued by the U.S. buying public) that stand in the way of a successful run for this generation of the Astra. It's really sad because this car looks great; it just lacks some of the necessities (again for the U.S. buying public) to justify its price tag.

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IMO you all need to understand the Astra is a car due to be replaced soon. The NG cars have been caught testing already. The current Astra provided GM with another small car entry in NA, one that is actually different from the Cobalt/G5 twins.

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