Astra Shows that Change is Good for Saturn

Jim Kerr from Canada's Star Phoenix newspaper enjoyed his time behind the wheel of the new Saturn Astra. He road tested the 5-door XR model and thought the car followed in the footsteps of other vehicles from the new, revitalized Saturn brand. Kerr liked how the Astra features "more precise handling with a European influence, quieter ride, smoother powertrains and fresh styling" than previous Saturn small cars. "Sporty, economical, good interior room and attractive exterior styling are reasons to check out Saturn's Astra," he said." The automaker has definitely changed for the better."

The stability control alone is worth the price just for the safety factor it provides on slippery road surfaces, but the tires, steering and suspension really gave this compact car a precise, sporty feel. Move the steering wheel slightly and the car instantly responds to the input, but even though the steering was quick, it didn't feel twitchy when cruising down the street or highway. In fact, the car was relaxing to drive, with a natural feel to the steering control. The lower sport suspension and larger wheels make the car look better while providing a stable platform even when cranked into a corner. There was very little body roll and the ride was fairly comfortable for a compact sedan, although rough roads did transmit some shock into the interior. Power comes from a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing, four valves per cylinder, dual stage intake manifold and dual overhead camshafts. It only puts out 138 horsepower, but it revs quickly and moves the 1,325-kilogram Astra along quite nicely. Previous-generation Saturn engines sometimes sounded a little buzzy as r.p.m. went up, but this engine operates smoothly throughout the r.p.m. range.

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