Tirekicker Reviews the Saturn Astra XR

Michael Hagerty is the self-proclaimed "Tirekicker," and he recently took at look at the Saturn 3- and 5-door Saturn Astra XR. "They both feel like they're carved out of solid blocks of steel," he wrote. "GM deserves to be rewarded for leaving well enough alone with the Astra."

GM should be applauded for what it's done with the Saturn Astra. It has taken the car known as the Opel Astra in Germany, put it on a boat and shipped it to the States. Period. Yes, that means you actually have to read the owner's manual to find out what the symbols on the controls represent. But it also means that the controls haven't been switched out for cheaper plastics, that the suspension pieces haven't been traded for ones giving a softer ride at the expense of control and that stuff the Europeans get standard can't be made optional. The Astra is exceptionally well-equipped. The 5-door XR comes with a 1.8 liter 16-valve four cylinder engine and a 5-speed manual, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitor, a theft deterrent system, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, a seven-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system and 16 inch alloy wheels. The 3-door comes with all that, but with 17 inch alloy wheels.

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Saturn Astra Set for 2007 Debut

Bob Lutz, General Motors' vice chairman for global product development, has high hopes for Saturn. The GM executive told Automotive News in a recent interview that was published this week that Saturn will be his company's hottest brand this year. Even though Chevrolet will experience the more growth in terms on the number of vehicles sold, Lutz told the magazine that among GM's eight brands, Saturn will have the largest "rapid overall percentage expansion."