Saturn Goes International with the Affordable Astra

From The Vail Trail: New to Saturn's lineup is the Astra, a small three- or five-door entry-level automobile which has a very international history, is imminently affordable and, while not a screamer in the power department, provides a positive replacement to the completely forgettable Ion.

Manufactured in Belgium with a Hungarian-made engine and an Austrian transmission, the Astra is simply an American re-badge of the European GM Opel brand. Astra has kicked around in various global variations since 1991, but it's new for us. That's resulted in clean, contemporary design, decent handling, slightly unusual controls (perhaps not if you're used to Belgian automobiles, but a little weird for us) and - blessedly - up to 32 miles per gallon on the highway. Best of all, tricked out, the car retails for a few bucks over $19,000.

Looks are pure European, kind of like a shortened and stretched-out Ford Focus, with very large headlamps, a bright and angular grill and truly contemporary interior details.

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