All-New Astra Compact Sports European Touches

2008 Saturn Astra XR 5-Door

Arv Voss from the San Francisco Chronicle recently reviewed a 2008 Saturn Astra XR. "The new Astra models present themselves in a bold but contemporary way," he wrote, "with styling cues that help to differentiate them from their European Opel counterparts such as distinctive front and rear fascias, with wheels pushed to the corners and subtle fender flares wrapped snugly over the wheels and tires for an athletic stance."

The 2008 Saturn Astra brings a markedly European touch to the North American compact car marketplace, offering two different body styles in both a three-door and a five-door body configuration. The body envelops a taut Euro-bred suspension that is capable of serving up crisp, responsive handling. The interior maximizes comfort and space. Attention to detail includes a continuation of the exterior's center hood crease on to the center of the instrument panel, in addition to a V-shaped center stack theme that further complements the exterior's design language. The car's sporting character is conveyed by the thick, three-spoke steering wheel with rake and telescopic adjustments, highly supportive seats and the rounded cockpit binnacle housing a large, three-dimensional gauge cluster, which includes large speedometer and tachometer dials. The three-door Astra's seats are sportier, featuring more aggressive bolsters and lumbar support. The five-door Astra with all of the equipment featured on my test vehicle came across as a compact sport wagon, except in acceleration. It was certainly adequate in most situations, but a little extra oomph would have been appreciated when attempting to pass on a long, steep incline. The Astra offers plenty of comfort, versatility and functionality in a sporty, affordable package.

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Flashback Friday: First Saturn Sold Today in 1990

On this date in 1990, Saturn sold its first car. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the first Saturn - the blue SL2 sedan shown above - was sold just after midnight to Elaine Terry at Saturn of Clearwater. "I wanted an American-made car and decided to give it a try," Mrs. Terry told the newspaper. It was a 25th wedding anniversary present. USA Today and CNN were reportedly at the retail facility to document the event. "I kept it for 10 months and put over 5,000 miles on it. People all over the country wanted to buy the car from me. One man in Las Vegas was talking up to $100,000 for it."