Edmunds First-Drives & Video - Saturn Astra

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jun 14, 2007.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,594
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    Coming Soon as the 2008 Saturn Astra

    [​IMG]
    European style and urban practicality have shaped the Opel Astra, a version of the 2007 Opel GTC concept car.

    By Andy Enright, Contributor
    Date posted: 06-12-2007

    140-hp, 1.8-liter engine - Front-wheel drive - Three-door or five-door hatchback - Built in Antwerp, Belgium

    When the news came to us that the 2008 Saturn Astra will be a rebadged version of our Opel Astra 1.8, our monstrously primped European superiority complex shifted into overdrive. We figured the Astra would do a number on the lackluster U.S. opposition when the first cars make landfall in November 2007.

    After all, those of us in Europe have been laughing ever since 2006 sales figures confirmed that Cadillac sold less than a third of the number it had so bullishly predicted at the beginning of the year. Here in the United Kingdom, Cadillac was outsold in 2006 even by Lamborghini.

    But the truth is, a 2008 Saturn Astra might have a hard time. The Chevrolet Cobalt hasn't exactly set the world on fire, despite its last-generation Opel Astra hardware, and no one wants to remember the Daewoo-built version of the Opel Astra that was sold as the Pontiac Le Mans from 1988-'93.

    It's all about the driving. And now that we've spent some time at the wheel of the Astra, we think you Yanks will like the new Saturn version.

    Twin Peaks

    [​IMG]
    When the Astra arrives at Saturn dealerships this fall, you'll never think about the Ion again.

    General Motors knows that the Astra will have to look right to make it in America. Two key criteria were identified early on in the program.

    First the car has to pass what GM executives refer to as the "shop window test." That is, an owner must be so enamored of the Astra's lines that he can't help but sneak a look at its reflection in a plate-glass window. (It's hard to see the Saturn Ion being subjected to such a thing, as potential buyers would recoil in horror at the car's panel fit.) The other design exam is called the "100-yard test." Since much of the buying decision is made within the first 100 yards of a test-drive, a potential buyer has to feel instantly impressed with the Astra's intuitive, easy-to-use controls.

    No matter what the design criteria might be, the Astra three-door hatch is handsome enough to snap the elastic band of your drawers at 100 yards. Opel had a huge degree of liberty in its styling of the Astra because the success of its Meriva and Zafira minivans allowed this practical hatchback to be about more than just schlepping the family about. The five-door Astra is a slick piece of design penmanship, yet the three-door Sport Hatch model knocks it into next week.

    Built at GM's plant in Antwerp, Belgium, the three-door hatch and the five-door share a platform, with the same 102.9-inch wheelbase, but the three-door is actually 1.5 inches longer and 0.6 inch lower, and it resembles the GTC concept car shown at the 2007 Geneva Auto Show.

    A TwinTop convertible with a folding hardtop is also sold in Europe, and it might be a possibility for the U.S. A stronger possibility is the Astra Panoramic, a three-door hatch with a windshield that stretches way back past the driver's head in one dizzying sweep, like the canopy of an F-16 fighter plane.

    Mild at Heart

    [​IMG]
    In Europe, the Astra represents part of Opel's sales resurgence thanks to a more dramatic sense of style.

    Saturn picked a 1.8-liter Ecotec inline-4 out of Opel's portfolio of Astra engines, a 140-horsepower design introduced in 2006 to coincide with the European Astra's first styling face-lift. Peak torque of 129 pound-feet arrives at 3,800 rpm, and variable valve timing delivers 90 percent of this from 2,200-6,200 rpm. It's even possible to detect a VTEC-like step change at around 4,500 rpm.

    It's not a particularly melodious power plant, but it makes some decent speed, as 60 mph comes up in 9.5 seconds and top whack is 129 mph. In European trim, the Ecotec's fuel economy is rated at 38.7 mpg on the combined cycle, and city driving is pegged at 28.5 mpg. Once this car arrives in America, your mileage may vary, as they say.

    Perhaps in time the 178-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter will get the green light for the Saturn Astra Red Line, or possibly the gutsy, 237-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter slugger fitted to the Vauxhall VXR and Opel OPC versions of the Astra.

    A Torsionary Tail

    [​IMG]
    European practicality is a fine thing, but this might be the Euro tuning you had in mind.

    There's nothing particularly remarkable about the specification of the Astra's suspension, as there's a MacPherson strut up front and a torsion beam at the back. When it comes to the way the Astra handles the road, though, this car is only a few percent shy of a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Rabbit. When the Astra is driven hard, you can detect a sense of reluctant inertia at the back of the car, but otherwise the Opel is composed and neat. The electrically assisted power steering doesn't deliver faithful feedback, though. Body control is acceptable and the rear suspension thumps only over bigger ruts and expansion joints. The brakes are beyond reproach.

    Find the Quality Inside

    [​IMG]
    Soft-touch materials help to make the Astra's interior inviting, although the navigation controls are fearfully fiddly.

    The cabin is the Astra's strongest point. In Europe the Astra often runs $2,000 cheaper than a comparable Volkswagen Golf, but no compromises have been made in this car's interior. The slam of the driver door alone feels more substantial than that of some Mercedes midrange models. It's worth remembering that the Astra has been spawned from a long line of fleet specials, and its transformation into something more prestigious has massively impressed Europeans.

    The interior details both look and feel expensive. The audio controls in the steering wheel and the combination of soft plastics, piano-black finishes and chrome-ringed dials give the cockpit a feel a long way removed from the average shopping hatch.

    On the other hand, the control system for the trip computer, stereo and satellite navigation is, to be frank, hideously complex and looks cheap to boot. The ergonomics aren't brilliant either, notably the gear lever that's set a couple of inches too far back. Saturn freely admits that not a whole lot will be changed from the European car, although three smallish cupholders have been added for the U.S. market.

    With a more generous equipment level and bigger 18-inch alloy wheels, the three-door car appeals to a younger audience that probably doesn't care about the generous headroom in the back of the five-door. Saturn will offer two trim levels (XE and XR) for five-door models, and a single trim (XR) in the three-door body style.

    When it comes to safety equipment, the Astra has electronic stability control with traction control, and its standard four-wheel disc brakes come with ABS. There are also front-seat airbags, front-seat side airbags, curtain-type airbags for front and rear-seat passengers, active head restraints and collapsible pedals, all of which have helped the Astra earn a five-star crash-test rating from European New Car Assessment Program.

    Lost in Translation?

    [​IMG]
    The European-only Astra Panoramic features a windshield that sweeps overhead like a fighter-plane canopy.

    Perhaps fearing that this European star performer will also suffer something lost in the translation, Saturn seems intent on playing down the Astra's chances in the U.S., insisting that it won't sell as well as the Ion. Perhaps the senior suits are just sandbagging.

    From here, the Astra has everything a Saturn should have. It looks right, drives with an intuitive feel and a dynamic composure that everyone can appreciate, and it's both spacious and safe.

    With all of our European superiority complex on this side of the Atlantic, we think the Astra shows that we know all the right things about small cars.

    [​IMG]
    The three-door hatchback has the taste of style and sport that Saturn is seeking in the U.S.

    First Impressions: The small car that made General Motors profitable in Europe could well turn the same trick for Saturn.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,594
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
  3. gdubb

    gdubb Crockett & Tubbs

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2003
    Messages:
    3,132
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Houston
    I really like the looks, but man its a slow poke.
     
  4. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Messages:
    19,712
    Likes Received:
    0
    Wow. Two hits for Saturn. I can't believe GM has actually introduced two cars in a row that I would actually consider buying, if I weren't $12000 deep in my Passat restoration project.

    Swap the stock 18's for a set of BBS or Borbet 17's and the car would look better and accelerate noticeably faster -- 18's have no business on a car that small.
     
  5. pdb574

    pdb574 New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2004
    Messages:
    127
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    New England
    Not bad!
     
  6. N D S

    N D S you're like salsa, thick and chunky

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2003
    Messages:
    2,832
    Likes Received:
    0
    do you think there'd be any possibility that GM would but the 2.4 from the Cobalt Ss (nonsupercharged version) into it as an option? :eek3:
     
  7. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,594
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    No, a turbo Red Line model is likely if the car takes off though.
     
  8. spooney

    spooney WTF Sony?

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2002
    Messages:
    5,987
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Montana
    Whats the price going to look like on these things?
     
  9. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Messages:
    19,712
    Likes Received:
    0
    Screw that. Transplant a VW 1.8t into that bad boy. Lighten it up a bit, and it will haul ass.
     
  10. Ocho Holto

    Ocho Holto Guest

    that windshield looks kinda cool:dunno:
    too bad it's euro only
     
  11. Chase

    Chase Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you're cool, fuck yo

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2002
    Messages:
    6,006
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    at home
    who the hell restores a passat?
     
  12. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Messages:
    19,712
    Likes Received:
    0
    Someone who realizes that it's an Audi A6 with different body panels and half the price tag?

    If you think I'm alone, check out www.passatworld.com
     
  13. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,594
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    Edmunds First-Drive & Video - 2008 Saturn Astra

    GM's World Car Seeks To Conquer America

    [​IMG]
    The three-door is the same length and width but is almost 2 inches lower to give it a more sinister squatted stance.

    By Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief
    Date posted: 09-26-2007

    138 hp, 1.8-liter DOHC 4-cylinder - 5-speed manual transmission - 18-inch wheels - Standard StabiliTrak stability control system

    One letter. On paper, only one letter separates Frankfort, Ohio from Frankfurt, Germany. In reality, the two cities could not be more different. One is a small town with a blue-collar population of 1,045; the other is a true international city of 650,000 with industries ranging from biotechnology to banking.

    Regardless, General Motors is betting the same small car will play in both places. The car is the Astra, and history supports the theory. "We sell the Astra everywhere," says Michael Harder of Opel, GM's German subsidiary. "From Iceland to South Africa, from New Zealand to Moscow." And it does so with great success.

    Still, we can't help but think the little hatchback is about to embark on its toughest challenge: America, the land of the free and the home of the slow-selling hatchback.
    On top of that, the 2008 Saturn Astra needs to make people forget the horrible Saturn Ion, the very worst car ever sold in America. This won't be easy, even for the best selling three-door compact in Europe.

    But after a day behind the wheel we're confident the Saturn Astra has a shot.

    We Drove the Three-Door

    [​IMG]
    When the Astra hits Main Street this December, it'll conclude a two-year-long product onslaught by Saturn.

    Flat-out on the autobahn just west of Frankfurt, the Saturn's speedometer needle is creeping past 110 mph. Jon J. Lauckner, GM's vice president of global program management, told us we would be impressed with the Astra's high-speed stability, and we are. The road is smoother than I-70 just outside Frankfort, but the Astra is undeniably locked in.

    We knew it would be. In the past six months we've taken advantage of the Astra's world car status and have driven the 2007 Opel Astra 1.8, which is sold throughout Europe and Russia, and the 2007 Holden HSV Astra VXR, which is a regular down in Kangaroo land.

    This time we're in the three-door Saturn Astra XR, the hottest version Americans will be offered. It rides on standard 18-inch Dunlop SP Sport summer tires, which give the Astra plenty of road-holding. A quicker 14:1 steering ratio (optional on five-doors) is also standard, along with sportier suspension tuning and a 15mm lower ride height.

    Under the hood, however, is the same 1.8-liter DOHC Ecotec four-cylinder that'll power every other Astra. It packs variable valve timing, a 6,500-rpm redline and an iron block. The compression ratio is 10.5:1 and it runs on regular. With ratings of 138 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 126 pound-feet of torque at 3,800 rpm, it's strong for the class, especially for its size. The 1.8-liter in the Versa delivers just 122 hp.

    Still, it's far from the class state of the art. The 2.5-liter in the VW Rabbit makes 170 hp and it's backed by a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. The Astra's standard manual also packs five gears, but its optional automatic offers just four.

    No Turbo, No Drop Top

    [​IMG]
    Although this four-cylinder engine is similar to the one used in the Saturn Ion, notice it's turned around 180 degrees. This places the exhaust in the front and the intake in the rear, which allows the engine to be pushed closer to the firewall to give the car better weight balance.

    Although the Holden HSV Astra VXR is powered by a turbocharged 240-hp version of the Saturn Astra's engine, that engine is not U.S. bound. We had hopes it would morph into the Saturn Astra Red Line, but Lutz tells us it's not happening. "Too much emissions work," he said.

    The wagon version will also be left in Europe because Americans buy even fewer wagons than they do hatchbacks. Sadly, the Twin-Top convertible Astra, which has a retractable hardtop, won't make it because of the investment needed to make it meet U.S. crash test standards.

    Instead just two body styles, both hatchbacks, will be offered: three-door and five-door. Trim levels? Also two. The five-door is offered in XE or XR trim, while the three-door is XR only.

    Pricing starts at $15,995 (including destination) for the five-door XE, $17,545 for the five-door XR and $18,495 for the XR three-door. That may sound like a lot for a car in this class, but the standard equipment list is long. Even the XE comes with a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, ABS, 16-inch wheels, OnStar, six airbags, stability control and a CD player.

    Every three-door XR, like our five-speed test car, gets steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, power door locks, power windows and height-adjustable sport seats.

    Nicely Finished but Noisy

    [​IMG]
    Interior is nicely finished, but there's only one cupholder and it's located where the missing center armrest should be.

    Car snobs will check the Astra's chassis hardware and mock it for not having an independent rear suspension. And they might have a point, but the front-wheel-drive Astra XR is far more fun to throw around than its hardware and 63 percent front weight bias would suggest. Although understeer is definitely its preferred cornering attitude, on a snaking mountain road it should outrun and out-fun most cars that cost under $20,000.

    We also like the tight shift linkage and easy clutch take-up, but had a hard time with the Astra's pedal placement. Heel-and-toe downshifting is easier in a Peterbilt. Praising the Astra's electrohydraulic steering is easy. It's a touch dead on-center, but it's weighted nicely and properly quick, and the leather-wrapped three-spoke wheel feels substantial.

    Actually, everything about the Astra feels substantial. Unlike the Ion, which had a bucket-of-bolts quality, nothing about the Astra is tinny or cheap. From its overall structure down to its interior trim, the Astra has a tight, well-assembled, upscale finish.

    Still, things aren't perfect. There's only one cupholder, for instance, and it's located where the missing center armrest should be. Rear visibility is compromised by the low roof line, small backlight and standard rear headrests and the 160 mph speedo writes a check the car can't cash. Top speed is about 130 mph. We also wonder why there's no engine temperature gauge.

    Dynamically our wish list is limited to a 6th gear. The five-speed manual is geared too short. It gives the car a spunky feeling around town, but on the highway the engine is working for it. Eighty mph in top gear equals 4,000 rpm on the tach. That's too high and it causes quite a bit of engine boom to find its way into the Astra's cabin. If you're road tripping in an Astra, bring aspirin.

    Rabbit Size

    [​IMG]
    Although understeer is definitely its preferred cornering attitude, on a snaking mountain road the Astra should outrun and out-fun most cars that cost under $20,000.

    At 170.5 inches long, 69 inches wide and 57.4 inches tall, the Astra five-door is dimensionally very similar to the Rabbit. The three-door is the same length and width but is almost 2 inches lower to give it a more sinister squatted stance. The cost, of course, is some rear-seat headroom.

    Cargo volume also takes a small hit. The five-door offers a maximum of 44.7 cubic feet with its rear seats folded (a Nissan Versa offers 50 cubic feet), while the three-door offers 37.8 cubic feet.

    GM says that's OK because the three-door is more about style and driving fun than practicality. "The three-door shows the essence of the Astra design family," says Uwe Muller, the car's designer. He points out the car's wedge shape, dominant shoulders and arching greenhouse as its highlights. And there's no denying it's quite butch compared to the Versa or the Rabbit.

    Exterior differences between an Opel Astra and a Saturn Astra are nearly impossible to spot, although Saturn says the front and rear bumpers are different, as well as the grille.

    Christmas Present

    [​IMG]
    Exterior differences between an Opel Astra and a Saturn Astra are nearly impossible to spot, although Saturn says the front and rear bumpers are different, as well as the grille.

    When the Astra hits Main Street this December, it'll conclude a two-year-long product onslaught by Saturn, and it'll make the still-fresh Saturn Sky the oldest car in the brand's lineup.

    Trouble is, the Astra isn't really a new car. This version of the hatchback debuted in Europe way back in January 2004, which means it's fast approaching another redesign. Rumor is there's a sedan in those plans that will find its way to America's 440 Saturn dealers around 2010.

    In the meantime, the 2008 Saturn Astra is a real alternative to the popular Honda Civic, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla and VW Rabbit. Is it perfect? Nope, it isn't even the best car in its class, but it is the best small car GM has ever sold in the United States, and it's worth a look.

    [​IMG]

    First Impressions: It isn't perfect. But it is the best small car GM has ever sold in the United States.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  14. DOBERMAN

    DOBERMAN New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2006
    Messages:
    21,338
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    West Hills - SoCal
    Looks very asian for an American car that uses European designs
     
  15. NorKoastal

    NorKoastal New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2004
    Messages:
    3,541
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Obamanation
    Should sell.. Saturn is on the come up lately.. This is the 4th decent release in the last year.
     
  16. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

    WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2003
    Messages:
    19,991
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    White Stig - Check
    GM spouting about cars - Check

    Must be Trishield

    hi!
     

Share This Page