Saturn Astra 4-Door XE Hatchback

Kelley Blue Book reviewed the 2008 Saturn Astra 4-door XE hatchback and tells readers that they'll like the sporty car "if you're shopping for an affordable, fuel-efficient small car, but you also want something that's both fun to drive and style-conscious." Two of their favorite features available on the Astra were the dual-panel sunroof and sport seats. "You'll also appreciate Saturn's five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty," they wrote.

Once considered GM's best hope for fighting the Japanese small-car invasion, Saturn's cars have grown larger and more expensive while its customer base has grown older and more conservative. To get back in the groove, the company has borrowed a popular European brand to replace the aging and bland Ion. The 2008 Saturn Astra may be new to us, but this version has been a hot seller in Europe for over four years. Saturn hopes the reasonably-priced Astra will once again put it on the shopping list of today's tech-savvy youth, evidenced by the car's very own page on the popular Facebook networking site. As one would expect of a European transplant, the Astra's steering is firm with good on-center feel and the handling is sporty with excellent stability. Equipped with 18-inch wheels, 14:1 close-ratio power steering and sport suspension, this is especially true of the two-door model. Despite having a big wheel-and-tire package, the Astra returns a pretty smooth ride with very little road noise intruding into the passenger cabin. The 1.8-liter engine is a bit buzzy when pressed hard, but this is true of most small four-cylinder engines; it needs to be revved high to make the most of its power, but overall it's a good fit for this car. We found the five-speed manual easy to operate, with very little play between the gears. The optional four-speed automatic is not as much fun to drive as the five-speed manual and, as most Astras will probably feature the automatic, we wish Saturn had equipped it with some type of manual-shift mode.

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Consumer Reports Gives Astra 'Very Good' Rating

CR road tested the Volkswagen Rabbit S, Subaru Impreza Outback Sport, Toyota Matrix S, Saturn Astra XE, Mini Cooper Clubman, and Scion xD in the June 2008 issue of its magazine. According to their testers, the vehicles were ranked in the order above with the 5-door Astra coming in fourth place. Nonetheless, the compact Saturn hatchback was rated "very good" for how well it performed.