Brand's Revival Continues with Astra Hatchback

Nitish Rele, Automotive columnist at the Tampa Tribune, profiled the 2008 Saturn Astra in the paper last weekend. "The Astra is mated to a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission," the paper said, "which conserves fuel when the car shifts into neutral while idle."

Say adieu to the Saturn Ion and welcome the Astra, which has been a big hit in Europe as the Opel Astra. The European inspiration is evident in the front-wheel-drive car's exterior and interior. The car offers decent acceleration and smooth shifts that result in a comfortable ride and secure handling. A 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine develops 138 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 125 pounds-feet of torque at 3800 rpm. A variable-valve timing boosts fuel efficiency and the engine's power output. Also helping save gas is the electro-hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering system. Up front is an independent strut-type suspension with stabilizer bar while the rear is taken up by a semi-independent torsion beam with an integral roll control. The Astra is mated to a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission, which conserves fuel when the car shifts into neutral while idle. A 12.2-inch front vented disc and a 10.4-inch solid rear disc take care of the vehicle's stopping abilities. The Saturn revitalization that began with the Sky roadster, Aura sedan, Vue and Outlook SUVs has trickled down to its entry-level ride, the Astra. Admitted, the car isn't a powerhouse but it does perform adequately with a first-rate interior, ample cargo capacity and affordable price. Welcome to the Saturn gang, Astra.

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