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2007 Frankfurt Auto Show: More on the Saturn Astra

Date: Sept 21, 2007

Source: Edmunds Inside Line

Author: Eric Tingwall

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2007 Frankfurt Auto Show: More on the Saturn Astra

For those of you looking for a quick, easy-to-read summary of my Astra review, here are some of the highlights and shortcomings of the Saturn Astra.

Initial impressions: Perfect proportions and well-drawn lines make it impossible to find a design flaw on the sheet metal. And while the design is conservative enough that it won't offend anyone, it's definitely not dull. The headlamps that were revamped to meet American safety standards add a bit of aggression. The three-door looks even better than the five-door, yet it's begging for a performance package to match the style.

Biggest European quirk: touchy brakes. Your passengers will think you've got a bowling ball for a foot as your attempts to apply light braking cause necks to whip forward.

Options to check out: dual-panel sunroof and 18-inch wheels. The largest-in-class sunroof that stretches from the front to the rear also comes with a power mesh shade. The 18-inch wheels will certainly raise your Astra's bling factor, but the best part might be the sticky summer tires that come with them.

Biggest learning curve: turn signal switch. The stalk has a total of four locations, allowing you to tap lightly for three blinks to signal a lane change, or tap fully for continuous blinker. The frustration arises from the lack of detents to let your hand know how far you've pushed it. Additionally, the too-quiet clicking makes it hard to tell if the signal has automatically canceled after you've made a turn.

Breaking out of the mold: Golden light illuminates the Astra gauges at night, a nice change from the red that everybody seems to be doing these days. Nissan offers a similar color on some models, but it's still rare in the industry.

Missing feature: an auxiliary audio input. Opel engineers say that an audio input required a line to mute the rest of the audio system. Unfortunately, the one and only mute line was given to OnStar instead of an audio input.

Feature that should be in every car: steering wheel and seat adjustments. The Astra offers a tilt and telescoping steering wheel along with a manual seat-height adjuster. While these features are increasingly common in entry-level cars, they're not everywhere yet and it's an appreciated touch.

Lost in translation: Sport button. Europe gets a neat dash button labeled Sport. Activate it and you'll get sharpened responses from the engine, transmission and suspension. We hope it finds its way to America soon.

Sign of the times: While everyone else goes big, Saturn shows up with a smaller engine, making 138 horsepower from 1.8 liters. Sure, 0-60 times won't impress anyone on paper, but the response of the engine and driving dynamics make for an entertaining drive and it should prove to be an ally when it comes to filling up. -- Eric Tingwall, Inside Line Contest Winner and Citizen Journalist


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