Saturn Astra's Taut Design Reinforces its Fun-to-Drive Promise

When the '08 Saturn Astra arrives later this year, the first thing people will notice is its striking exterior design. It shares familial genes with its Opel cousin, while maintaining an unmistakably Saturn flair. It is a detailed design that incorporates signature styling cues, including a bold, bright grille bar with prominent Saturn logo.

"To put it simply, it is a hot-looking car," said Friedhelm Engler, Astra's chief designer. "It is both restrained looking and bold, which is due to a design package that looks tightly wrapped over the car's chassis."

That tightly wrapped appearance isn't an optical illusion; the Astra's wheels are pushed to the corners and sit on a wide, low chassis. The proportions of the car suggest a body that was shrink-wrapped over the wheels – a design attribute enhanced by prominent wheel flares at all four corners and a family of large, 16-, 17- or 18-inch wheels. Astra's bold proportions include a long, 102.9-inch wheelbase and a 69-inch overall width.

"The proportions suggest the performance that the car delivers," said Engler. "The designers were enabled by the engineers, who provided all the things we want in a great-looking car: a long wheelbase, wheels at the corners and a wide stance. Because the engineers told us early in the car’s development that they had something hot, our design team immediately felt that we had to match it – and we did it by stretching a great design over the chassis without compromising the proportions."

The Astra five-door and three-door models have a similar silhouette, but the sportier three-door model has a sleeker roofline that tapers more dramatically and has an upper rear section that is 3.5 mm lower than the five-door.

"Both body styles are sleek and lean," said Engler. "There were no compromises between them and each has a strong, sexy style that is evident from every angle."

Detailed Execution

Complementing the Astra's tightly wrapped styling are numerous elements that speak to the vehicle's attention to detail. The headlamps, for example, are rich looking, with a deep, multi-planed appearance that is a primary character trait of the car's design. Also, a subtle V-shape design element carries over the vehicle, starting at the lower lip of the front fascia, extending through the grille and onto the hood.

The V element is suggestive of the car's muscular, driver-oriented theme, which also includes the prominent wheel flares, tight wheel-to-body relationship and forward-angle profile. These elements work harmoniously to convey a sense of forward motion, even when the Astra is stationary.

"There is a lot of tension in the design that suggests the Astra is ready to pounce," said Engler. "The exterior surfaces are generally smooth, but interrelate with different elements to create surface tension and the feeling of motion."

Selected use of brightwork on the exterior, such as the grille trim bar and lighting elements, reinforces the detailed execution of the Astra's design; and the XR five-door receives bright window trim. XR five-door and three-door models also receive standard fog lamps and all models have European-style side repeater lights located on the front fenders.

Like the front end, the rear-end styling also features a bright trim bar, with large, wraparound taillamps and clear lenses. The center high-mounted stop lamp uses LED technology for fast and crisp illumination.

Astra's exterior color palette includes: Black Saphhire, Arctic White, Star Silver, Twilight Blue, Salsa Red and Sandstone.

Refined Interior

Refinement and precise execution are the new hallmarks of the Saturn Astra's interior, which envelops passengers in 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 a thick, sporty three-spoke steering wheel with tilting 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. The sporty Astra three-door receives specific seats with more aggressive bolsters and lumbar support, as well as specific gauges.

The Astra's seats are designed to reinforce the car's sporty nature and feature firmer foams and more pronounced bolsters that deliver comfort on long drives while providing excellent lateral support on twisty back roads. Other interior elements reinforce the Astra’s attention to detail and European-derived driving experience, including contemporary amber lighting, backlit switches, matte chrome finishes, tailored looking and flat-woven seat fabrics and a woven headliner.

Astra's long wheelbase and wide cabin provide exceptional roominess and generous storage capacity. The 60/40-split folding rear seat sections fold with the touch of a single, high-mounted lever. When the rear seat is folded, the Astra five-door offers 44.7 cubic feet of storage space. The Astra also comes with a removable rear cargo cover.

Fit and Finish

Inside and out, the Astra displays exemplary fit and finish. Design elements throughout feature tight gaps, close tolerances and sculpted, rounded radii that enhance the perception of fit. In most cases, exterior gaps are held to 4 mm or less, with many less than 1 mm.

More tangible examples of the Astra's precise design and build quality are the frameless windshield and rear window glass. Each is installed without a surround molding, demonstrating a high degree of precision, while also giving the car a smoother, sleeker appearance.

The interior features many gaps of 1 mm or less. Engineers and designers also worked hard to develop textures that convey quality and richness both tactilely and visually. The use of low-gloss, soft-touch materials throughout the cabin give the feel of a more expensive car and includes surfaces manufactured with a premium cast-skin method. The cast-skin surfaces have an upscale, pronounced grain and texture that is typically seen in more expensive vehicles.

Source: Saturn

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