All-New 2008 Saturn Astra Brings European Style to U.S.

The all-new 2008 Saturn Astra brings a decidedly European flavor to the North American compact car market. It is packed with a wide range of standard equipment and safety features, and delivers sporty performance with very good fuel economy. The Saturn Astra is offered in three-door and five-door models, each underpinned by a taut, European-bred suspension that delivers a sharp, responsive driving experience. Power comes from a 1.8L Ecotec four-cylinder engine that is both energetic and economical, delivering 140 horsepower. The Astra goes on sale on January 2, 2007.

"In Europe, the Astra's combination of style, performance, safety technology and fuel efficiency have made it a hit with owners and auto critics alike," said Jill Lajdziak, Saturn general manager. "Now, Saturn brings the newly restyled Astra to North America and marries it with our celebrated customer experience."

Product Highlights

Saturn offers two trim levels (XE and XR) for five-door models, and a single trim (XR) in the three-door configuration, which was created with particularly enthusiastic drivers in mind.

The standard powertrain combination in all models is the 1.8L Ecotec DOHC four-cylinder engine, paired with a five-speed manual transmission. The Ecotec engine is enhanced with variable valve timing to optimize power output and fuel efficiency. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional on all models.

The Astra offers technologies to provide an agile, yet comfortable, driving experience. StabiliTrak stability control system with traction control is standard on all three-door Astras, and available on five-door models. This system works in concert with the standard four-wheel, anti-lock disc brakes to help the driver maintain control during adverse road conditions or during sudden emergency driving situations.

An electro-hydraulic, rack-and-pinion steering system is standard on all models. It provides the solid, linear feel of a hydraulic power steering system, but improves fuel efficiency by operating the power steering pump only when necessary. The system has two available configurations: the standard 15:1 ratio on five-door models and a 14:1 Sport ratio (standard on the three-door; optional on five-doors).

Five-door Astras come with standard 16-inch wheels, but can be upgraded to 17-inch aluminum wheels. Three-door models come standard with 17-inch aluminum wheels, which can be upgraded to 18-inch aluminum wheels and performance tires.

Impressive Powertrain

The Astra's standard 1.8L Ecotec DOHC engine is a sophisticated, powerful and economical power plant. It uses variable valve timing to optimize power and economy, delivering 140 horsepower and 126 lb.-ft. of torque – for an enviable 77 horsepower per liter.

A number of unique and innovative features highlight the 1.8L engine, including two continuously variable camshafts, a highly efficient oil/water heat exchanger and a map-controlled thermostat. It also has a deep-drawn exhaust manifold that incorporates the catalytic converter and a two-step intake manifold that uses a rotary sleeve instead of conventional flaps to actuate the transition between low-rpm and high-rpm airflow. This design minimizes flow loss for optimal performance and efficiency.

The 1.8L Ecotec also has a strong, lighter-weight cast iron cylinder block, thanks to a unique hollow frame design concept. It weighs only 59.5 pounds, which is comparable to many aluminum-block engines. Oil-cooling jets are incorporated in the block to ensure optimal piston cooling.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard in all models and helps the Astra delivers great fuel economy. An Aisin electronically controlled four-speed automatic is available; it is renowned for its low noise, high durability and smooth shifting. The four-speed automatic incorporates neutral idle, a feature that automatically shifts the transmission to neutral during stops and eliminates converter drag on the engine. It also is equipped with an automatic throttle kick-down feature, which actuates immediate downshifting during wide-open throttle driving for more immediate performance.

Confident Suspension

All Astra models have specifically tuned suspensions. For example, the three-door XR model receives a sport tuned suspension that includes a 15-mm-lower ride height, quicker steering calibration, a specific front axle configuration and an electronically aided sport chassis system.

The Astra uses a strut-type front suspension, with the control arms, stabilizer bar and steering rack mounted to the subframe. All of the front suspension’s bushings are designed to minimize noise and vibration.

Astra's rear suspension features a semi-independent torsion-link axle design, with an axle-beam formed to a double-U-shaped profile. This enhances strength and also serves as a stabilizer bar. The rear control arms also feature integrated wheel carriers that are made from lightweight, one-piece, hollow-cast material. These lightweight control arms reduce unsprung mass, for an increased feeling of nimbleness. The hollow control arms are connected to the high-strength rear axle beam via the Opel-developed Magnetarc welding process, which enables high axle loads and a compact package.

Design Details

The Astra has a clean, contemporary design that is infused with Saturn's signature styling cues, including a bold, bright grille bar with prominent Saturn logo. Both the three-door and five-door models are distinguished from their European relatives with unique front and rear fascias that conform to North American bumper standards.

Rear-end styling also features a bright trim bar, with large, wraparound taillamps and clear lenses. The center high-mounted stop lamp uses LED technology for fast and crisp illumination.

Proportions on both body styles suggest an enthusiastic driving experience, with the wheels pushed to the corners and subtle fender flares wrapped tightly around the tires for a tailored stance.

Interior Design and Features

Bold design, refinement and precise execution are the hallmarks of the Saturn Astra's interior, which envelops passengers in a contemporary environment that maximizes space and comfort. Details include a continuation of the exterior’s center hood crease on to the center of the instrument panel, as well as a V-shaped center stack motif that also complements the design language of the exterior.

All models convey the Astra's sporting character through firm, well-supported seats and a thick, three-spoke steering wheel with rake and telescopic adjustments. Ahead of the steering wheel is a rounded cockpit binnacle that houses a large, three-dimensional gauge cluster – including large speedometer and tachometer dials. The sporty Astra three-door receives specific seats with more aggressive bolsters and lumbar support.

Additional interior highlights include:

  • Illuminated glove box with damped door actuation
  • A large, two-panel sunroof: the largest in its class (available on five-door only)
  • Available heated seats in cloth or leather surfaces
  • Auxiliary 12-volt power outlet
  • Easy-to-remove rear cargo cover
  • Power door locks (with central locking feature) and power windows with express down feature
  • Standard six-speaker AM/FM/CD radio and available seven-speaker sound system; multi-disc and MP3-capable radios available
  • Steering-wheel mounted audio controls (on XR models)

Astra's bold proportions, including a long, 103-inch wheelbase and 69-inch width, provide exceptional roominess and generous storage capacity. The 60/40-split folding rear seat also folds flat with the touch of a convenient, high-mounted lever. When the rear seat is folded, the five-door Astra offers 44.7 cubic feet of storage space.

Occupant Protection Features

The 2008 Saturn Astra features a comprehensive list of safety systems to help protect occupants in the event of a crash. Highlights include:

  • Rigid body structure with safety cage
  • Six standard air bags, including dual-stage frontal air bags; roof rail head curtain air bags and seat-mounted thorax/pelvic air bags (for front-seat passengers)
  • Standard Advanced Passenger Air Bag Sensing (AOS, air bag occupant suppression)
  • Active head restraints
  • Pedal Release System
  • Front safety belt pretensioners and load limiters
  • OnStar with one year of Safe & Sound service
  • Standard tire pressure monitoring

Body structure: The unitized body structure is designed with a safety cage around the passenger compartment, and features optimized front and rear crush zones that absorb energy and help maintain the structural integrity of the passenger compartment. High-strength steel is used strategically throughout the body structure.

Air bags: All Astra models feature dual-stage frontal air bags, seat-mounted thorax/pelvic air bags to help protect front occupants and head curtain air bags for front- and rear-seat occupants. Also standard is an automatic passenger sensing system for the front passenger seat; it suppresses the activation of the passenger-side frontal air bag if it detects a child or smaller-stature person in that seating position.

Active head restraints and Pedal Release System: Standard active head restraints instantly move forward if a rear-end crash is detected, reducing the risk of neck injuries. Similarly, the Pedal Release System allows the pedals to detach during a crash to reduce the risk of leg or ankle injuries.

Safety belt pretensioners and load limiters: When a crash is detected, the safety belt pretensioners immediately reduce the slack in the front safety belts, helping limit the movement of passengers. The load limiters permit a small amount of movement in the front safety belts, thereby reducing peak chest loads in a more severe crash.

OnStar: Astra is equipped with the latest-generation OnStar system, including available Turn-By-Turn Navigation. The system also includes advanced automatic crash notification (AACN). With AACN, an OnStar advisor is immediately contacted by the vehicle when a crash occurs; the advisor can determine the appropriate emergency help required and assist in sending it to the scene of the crash. Astra buyers will receive one year of Safe & Sound Service provided by Saturn.

Click here for photos of the new Saturn Astra.

Source: Saturn

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