General Motors’ German Division Helps Out Their Domestic Import-Fighter
Saturn has been working with Opel to develop its latest products. This collaboration is helping to revive the Saturn brand with fresh styling and provide products with a strong, sophisticated personality. The Vue Crossover SUV, which was introduced at the 2007 Detroit show, is an Opel Antara wearing a Saturn badge. And Saturn’s replacement for the much-maligned Ion is an Opel Astra with a Saturn badge. Saturn’s Astra takes different front and rear bumpers, to meet North American bumper standards, but there is little else different between the two cars.
Partly because of this collaboration and the launch of the large Saturn Crossover SUV the Outlook, Saturn has one of the strongest growth prospects among “American” brands for the latter half of the decade.
The Saturn Astra launches late in 2007, by which time the oldest vehicle in Saturn’s lineup will be the Sky. In a mere twenty months, Saturn will have revamped its entire range, all for the better. The division that had long been starved for product finally has a competitive, modern stable.
Saturn is taking a bit of a risk with Astra, however, in that it is offered in only three- and five-door hatchback versions. There will be no sedan or quad coupe this time around, but as U.S. consumers have become more accepting of hatchbacks over the past couple of years the danger is less than it would have been earlier this century. The five-door will be offered in two trim levels, XE and XR, with the three-door only in XR trim and geared toward a more “enthusiastic” driver. Astra’s launch powertrain is a 140HP 1.8L four-cylinder, which gets a standard five-speed manual transmission and optional four-speed automatic. This powertrain is nothing special, but should hold its own among other compact cars.
The Astra gets a terrific interior to go along with its stylish exterior. We got the chance to quickly get in and check out the car immediately after the reveal, and the feel and finish of the switchgear is very satisfying and a clear cut above Astra’s segment. As we’ve noted in other reviews, GM’s interior work and development is finally reaching customers. Saturn’s Astra looks, from our view, poised to be a star.