Goodbye Astra…

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Just a few last words on my week drive with the new Saturn Astra.

I basically really liked the car.
The only true competition in the US would be the VW Rabbit. But the Rabbit cannot be optioned as much as the Astra. Unless you get the more expensive GTI.
The Japanese competition just doesn’t feel the same.
The closest one would be the Mazda 3.

-The engine isn’t the smoothest around, but it is fine. (The Mazda’s is better) I never thought it was noisy.
And once you go past the sporty looks and realize this is not a sports car, it feels pretty peppy.

-The transmission is very smooth and pretty easy to downshift. But there is really no excuse for a 4 speed in 2008.

-I averaged 25MPG in mostly city driving. And I reached 41MPG on the highway (cruising at 65). Actually not bad for only for gears…

-The suspension is “German firm” but never too hard. The steering wheel also feels great.

-The interior is fine. But it does have that “3 or 4 year old feel” to it. Because, it is…
Everything inside is made of quality plastics and feel very solid and sturdy. Again, very German…
But you gotta like black. And if you want a sunroof, get a 5 door.

-The design is a matter of taste, but I think it is one of the best looking small cars on the market.

-Nothing is perfect, and for me, I would like to see an iPod plug, an armrest and a sunroof.
I know the dealer can install all that stuff. But first I just don’t like the idea to give more money to the dealer. And my test car was already $21000. I can’t really see adding a couple of thousands worth of “dealer installed” stuff on top of that…

Because of these things missing, I wouldn’t get one for myself.
But I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to anyone who can live without them.

I am not sure how GM can actually market this car.
I guess they can go the VW route and mention the “German engeneering”.
But this is German car sold by a brand that was created for the purpose of being a 100% small American car.
First the dent free panels are gone, now the cars are German (built in Belgium)

Most people I talked to when I had the car had a pretty negative reaction when I told them I was drivng a Saturn.
I had to explain the whole story over and over (this is really an Opel etc.. etc…)
Only then, after checking the car out, most of them actually really liked it.

Saturn has some major advertising to do. Most people looking for an American small car might put off by the very European driving dynamics of the Astra. While those looking for a small European car won’t even think of stepping into a Saturn dealership.

The Astra is a really good car, they just need to make sure people even know it exists.

Conversation 7 comments

  1. Vince, I’ve never driven the Astra, but from everything I’ve read about the version exported to the U.S., you’re right on the money. The next one will be built here I’m sure and they don’t advertise this one now, other than a few internet ads, so they don’t have tons of them to sell anyway. Saturn has one of the strongest lineups of any automaker, but no one knows it! The advertising needs to pick up for sure!

  2. I agree.
    I don’t really see any advertising for Saturn cars.
    Most people still remember their “old” cars.

    they seem to have a really good lineup now.
    I will be driving more of them soon.

  3. Some friends of mine still think the S-Series is still being made, let alone the Astra replacing the ION.

    I do find it a little sad that the “quirkyness” of Saturn is now officially gone, but it was needed to bring more people to dealership.

    I believe the pricing is outragious, but would be a great used deal, especially with all the standard features. This car is in the middle of an identity crisis because it wants to be a quirky little hatchback, while at the same time wants to be a mid-lux tourer, and trying to make an American standpoint with a European soul.

    No sunroof for the 2 door is unbelieveable however. I wouldn’t mind paying extra for an armrest….can’t live without one.

  4. Hey im bryant I used to sell saturn on up to a few weeks ago and i had that same problem when i was driving a Five Door XR to our Greer, SC home base to pic something up. The ‘Range’ (Low Fuel) came on and I think I pressed and held the ‘OK’ Button down to get rid of it.

  5. You market it as you would any other GM division that brings in cars from around the GM empire. You put your badge on it and sell it as that badge. Call attention to its quality and let that attention spill on to other models in the range. Holden do it with all the captive imports they bring to Australia. Most buyers don’t have a clue or a care where a car is made.

  6. I don’t think this will be a reliable car, look at the Cadillac Catera. I remember everyone saying, gosh why don’t they send over those great european GM cars? And guess what, they did with the Catera. Poor peformance, typical German electrics and iffy long term build quality. Maybe they just work better in Europe.

  7. I live near Dayton Ohio… we have 2 dealerships..about 20 miles apart, same owner(centerville/huber heights)..Both Have Bad Attitudes= No Sale.
    I went to Both Saturns(one on Saturday, this past weekend, the other, months back)….and the first visit, months ago, was told to wait….I waited 23 minutes for someone to take me on a test drive… and was given the brush off, basically.
    Saturday? I walked into the showroom, saw a guy maybe 60-65 years old(salesman)…hands behind his back, etc…just standing around.
    I asked him if he had 15 minutes for a quick test drive(around the block) of the Astra 3 door model.. he said” No, I don’t have 15 minutes for a test drive”(place was open for another hour, and I told him I was looking, and we have an appointment to catch in 20 minutes…a movie..and I just wanted a 1-2 mile drive, to see how the car was..if it is worth 419,800 msrp, with automatic).

    I was so ticked off..Never will I buy a Saturn.
    GM(Chevy) in my town(I live in the country, a few miles North of Dayton)… is same arrogant way..smug.
    Why? It doesn’t get them any sales.
    They act like they don’t care.
    Probably because they don’t make as much these days on the small cars like they did a few short years ago, on those overpriced SUV’s (10K profit per SUV?)…

    Only 1 good GM(Chevy) dealership, and it’s in Indiana, 30 miles away.
    It’s like they don’t care about making a sale or not, Saturn, Chevy, etc…
    it’s crazy!

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