The 2008 Saturn Astra compact hatchback is available in a 3 or 5 door version and is new to the American marketplace, where both Saturn and General Motors are hoping it will earn them a more highly regarded position in the compact car category. This well equipped, sharply designed and fuel efficient vehicle seems to be on the right track as a viable alternative to the comparably sized Volkswagen Rabbit and Honda Civic.
All Astra models are front wheel drive and powered by the same 1.8 liter inline 4 cylinder engine that is capable of 140 horsepower. The standard transmission is a smooth shifting 5 speed manual, though a 4 speed automatic is also available. Acceleration is good and a finely tuned suspension system contributes to the responsive handling, stability at high speeds and fun to drive factor.
The 5 door hatchback is available in either the base model XE trim or a sportier XR trim. The XE is well equipped with 16 inch steel wheels, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, trip computer, power windows and door locks, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel and a basic stereo system with CD player. The XR adds a little more with 16 inch alloy wheels, an upgraded stereo system with steering wheel mounted audio controls and air conditioning. Most of the XR's features can be purchased as separate options for the XE.
The more performance oriented 3 door Astra is available in only one trims-the XR. In addition to the features found on the 5 door XR, the 3 door XR includes 17 inch alloy wheels, a sport tuned suspension system, more responsive steering, and bolstered sport seats. Additional options include heated leather seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel, an oversized sun roof, and a Premium Trim Options package.
The sharp European look of the 2008 Saturn Astra with its prominent chrome grille with the Saturn logo and the large wrap around head lights and tail lights is much more attractive most prior contributions from General Motors and Saturn in the small car category. All models have a 60/40 split folding rear seat to increase the cargo space up to about 45 cubic feet making the Astra a very versatile as well as enjoyable and affordable car to drive.