Review: '08 Saturn Astra 5-Door XR

2008 Saturn Astra XR 5-Door Headlamp

Drew Johnson from LeftlaneNews.com spent some time with the new Saturn Astra and he was impressed with its "responsive and capable handling," as well as its styling. "The Astra's lines are taught and its sloping roofline gives the hatchback just a hint of coupe in its silhouette," he wrote. "The Astra's wheels nicely fill its wheel wells – a subtle touch not found on many American cars. While the Astra definitely has a sporty demeanor, it doesn’t cry boy racer."

With gas prices now hovering right around $4 a gallon, the Saturn Astra couldn't be coming at a better time. Although the sport compact is nothing new to the world – it has been on sale in Europe under the Vauxhall/Opel nameplates for nearly two decades – we're sure quite a few American will be glad General Motors decided to send the Astra on holiday to the Colonies. What is it? A sports compact that has attended finishing school on the winding roads of Europe. In keeping with Saturn's latest theme, the Astra is an entry level car that comes with some premium features. What's it up against? The competitors for the Astra include the Mazda3, Volkswagen Rabbit, Honda Fit, Toyota Matrix and GM's own Pontiac Vibe. Other than a few minor tweaks, the U.S.-spec Astra is identical to the one sold in Europe. If you're in the market for a small, economical ride but don't want to compromise on back road handling. The Astra may not win many red light showdowns, but its roomy interior and reasonably high fuel economy should attract plenty of buyers.

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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."