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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The Virginia Pilot came away really impressed with the new Saturn Vue after driving it. The paper wrote that, "vehicles that are rewarding to drive, such as the Sky roadster, Aura sedan, and Outlook crossover SUV, have transformed the brand over the past year-and-a-half. And surprisingly, the 2008 Vue trumps them all."