2009 Saturn Astra Test Drive: Small Car, Big Chops

2009 Saturn Astra

Jim McCraw from Popular Mechanics: It didn't start out this way, but the low-price, no-haggle Saturn division of General Motors has effectively become the American sales arm of GM's German Opel division. Saturn already sells a version of Opel's GT roadster as the Saturn Sky, and a version of the Opel Antera crossover as the Saturn Vue. The latest fruit of this collaboration is the Saturn Astra family of three-door and five-door hatchbacks. Saturn's hugely popular Astra, which sells more than 500,000 units a year markets outside the United States, is almost a direct lift of the German product: a new grille, steering wheel hub, wheel centers, tailgate graphics — that's about it. And while there's good news and bad news in that formula, the good wins out by a considerable margin.

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It's been more than three years since General Motors announced it was shuttering its "different kind of car" division. At the time, Roger Penske was attempting to purchase the brand and possibly stock it with cars sourced from plants in the US, South Korea, Mexico, or even Europe. Ultimately Mr. Penske couldn't get a deal done within GM's tight timeframes and Saturn was closed. While frantically attempting to keep up with rumors swirling around Saturn that fateful year, I made a decision to rethink the way I was collecting and reporting the news. In the midst of all the uncertainty surrounding Saturn, I began to draw up plans for new and improved version of SaturnFans.com that could not only help visitors track what Saturn news was happening, but where it was happening as it was happening.