2008 Saturn Astra XR Reviewed

From AutoBlog.com: Enthusiasts here in the States have long wondered why they couldn't buy Ford and GM small cars from Europe, and at least part of the answer has been that Americans don't want to pay big bucks for premium small cars. Spiking gasoline prices have quelled that argument, and fuel economy is now towards the top of shoppers' lists when looking for a new car or truck.

GM has made the cross-Atlantic jump by importing the Opel Astra to our shores. The Astra is a hot-selling hatch in Europe with high-end amenities and very good fuel economy, and the model is shipping to the U.S. differentiated from its Euro twin by some Saturn logos and little else. Our Salsa Red five-door Saturn Astra XR came equipped with 17-inch wheels, leather seating surfaces and an enormous dual-panel sunroof. Features like ABS and traction control, keyless entry, cruise control and moisture sensitive automatic wipers are sometimes optional in midsize offerings, but you get those features standard in the Astra.

On the inside, the Astra XR is far better than any small car that GM has created in its 100-year history, at least in the U.S. Soft-touch materials; comfortable, supportive leather seats; and a terrific little steering wheel that feels like it belongs in something more expensive made us want to be inside the sporty little Astra for more than just running errands. Our favorite option was by far the monstrous panoramic moonroof that looks like it belongs in a Cadillac or Mercedes, not a $22,000 car. The retractable roof panel spans the entire length of the front seats, with the rear section reaching all the way to the back seats.

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