Fresh Saturn Astra Gets Minor Tweaks for 2009

2009 Saturn Astra XR3

Still fresh from its 2008 model year debut, when it challenged the North American compact car market with sporty looks, European driving performance and a long list of standard equipment, the 2009 Saturn Astra delivers targeted enhancements that make it an even stronger contender in the segment. In addition to cabin enhancements such as new cloth seats and door inserts, an advanced audio system is available on XE models.

The Saturn Astra is offered in three-door and five-door models, each featuring a taut, European-proven suspension that delivers a sharp, responsive driving experience. Power comes from a 1.8L, 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine that is both energetic and fuel-efficient. Highway fuel economy for the manual transmission-equipped Astra is excellent against its competitors at 32 mpg, and 30 mpg for Astras with the available automatic.

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

Powertrain with Punch

The Astra's standard 1.8L DOHC engine is a sophisticated, powerful and economical power plant. It uses variable valve timing to optimize power and economy, delivering 138 horsepower and 125 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 1.8L engine includes 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 engine also has a strong, lighter-weight cast iron cylinder block. It weighs only 59.5 pounds (27 kg), comparable to many aluminum-block engines. Oil-spray 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 deliver its great fuel economy. An Aisin electronically controlled four-speed automatic is available. 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.

For 2009, customers in colder climates can order an oil pan heater for both XE and XR models.

Fuel Economy

The Saturn Astra is as fuel-efficient as it is fun to drive. EPA fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway for manual transmission-equipped models and 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway for automatic transmission-equipped models.

Ride and Handling

GM's StabiliTrak electronic 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 quick ratio (standard on the three-door; optional on five-door models).

Five-door Astras feature standard 16-inch wheels (XE wheel covers will be renewed during the course of the model year). Three-door models are equipped with 17-inch aluminum wheels, which can be upgraded to 18-inch aluminum wheels and summer, performance-rated tires. For 2009, the 18-inch wheels will carry Dunlop tires.

Confident suspension

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 a 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 provide an increased feeling of nimbleness.

The hollow control arms are connected to the high-strength rear axle beam via the Magnetarc welding process developed by Opel, which enables high axle loads and a compact package.

Exterior Details

The Astra's clean, contemporary design is infused with Saturn's signature styling cues, including a prominent Saturn logo that moves from the bright rear bar to the painted decklid. Three-door and five-door models sport unique front and rear fascias that conform to North American bumper standards. Large, wraparound taillamps and clear lenses convey the vehicle's dynamic spirit. 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.

During the course of the model year, Saturn will make two exterior finish changes on the Astra. Polar White replaces Olympic White and Quicksilver replaces Star Silver.

Interior Details

Bold design, refinement and precise execution characterize the Saturn Astra's interior, which provides passengers with 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. Seats in the sporty Astra three-door feature aggressive bolsters and lumbar support.

For 2009, Astra XE and XR customers can choose tan cloth seat and door inserts. Other enhancements include a new 12-hour clock; and a revised date display (month/day/year instead of day/month/year).

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

Audio Systems

Saturn Astra models are equipped with a standard six-speaker AM/FM/CD radio and available seven-speaker sound system. For 2009, a seven-speaker advanced auto package is available on the five-door XE model; previously it was available only on the XR. Steering-wheel mounted audio controls are included on XR models.

Storage Galore

Astra's bold proportions, including a long, 103-inch (2,614 mm) wheelbase and 69-inch (1,753 mm) 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 33.4 cubic feet (946 L) of storage space.

Safety and Security

The 2009 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 that uses high-strength steel in strategic locations
  • 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 air bag occupant suppression technology for front passenger seat
  • Active head restraints instantly move forward in rear impact to reduce risk of neck injury
  • Pedal Release System allows pedals to detach in a crash to minimize risk of foot and ankle injury
  • Front safety belt pretensioners and load limiters
  • OnStar with one year of Safe & Sound service
  • Standard tire pressure monitoring system

Source: Saturn

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