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2007 Chicago Auto Show: Saturn Astra

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.

Another Step Forward in the Buying Experience
Along with five new products at dealers, Saturn is also working to improve their already strong customer service and buying process. After testing the program for eleven months, Saturn is going forward with a 24/7 live chat program. Customers will be able to talk online with a Saturn customer representative any time of the day or night at
Enhancing the test-drive experience is next on the list, which Saturn is doing with at-home test drives (or at work if preferred). Before you get on the road, the Saturn rep will take you through a fourteen-point checklist to help you decide if the car really matches your needs. Saturn’s sales consultants will take you through a visual inspection and show how well the body fits together and the quality of overall paint job, help you figure out if the car has enough cupholders and storage bins for your life, help find the best seating position, and help with backing the vehicle into a parking space. Saturn will tailor the drive by preparing routes to match the consumer’s daily driving life, pre-selecting music based on customer preferences, and allow customers to use the test drive to complete daily errands. Do you want to know how easily the Saturn Outlook will handle picking up the kids from school? Or if the Astra is comfortable on a highway commute? Saturn will create a test drive for you to get the answer.
Elements of Saturn’s dealer experience that do not change include the no hassle, no haggle pricing, a thirty-day/1500-mile vehicle exchange program, and their regular new owner clinics and events.

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