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2008 Saturn ASTRA Pros and Cons at TrueDelta: 2008 Saturn (Opel) Astra XR Four Door Hatch. by astra0112

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Introduction

The short version is that you shouldn't let the lackluster sales or Saturn badge scare you off, this is an awesome car. It is not your run of the mill crappy junky American-made car, it drives very much like the German car (Opel) it actually is. I advise owners to call their mechanic before bringing the car in and let them know to have a Torx set handy though.

ASTRA Reviews: San Diego

Freshly washed, Black Sapphire Metallic.

ASTRA Reviews: San Diego

This picture is a year older then the first, the paint still looks great.

Reviewed: 2008 Saturn ASTRA

4dr Hatch 138-horsepower 1.8L I4 5-speed manual FWD

Why the 2008 Saturn ASTRA?

Handling

The driving experience this car offers is unmatched for the price you'll pay for it. It handles and maneuvers just as well as any Audi or BMW. My Astra is the XR which has the sport suspension, which may contribute to how well it handles, however it is also the four door, which I've read doesn't handle as well as the two door. I honestly love driving this car and I find it perfect to handle rush hour traffic in San Diego, with how nimble you can jump between lanes.

Driving position & visibility

Speaking purely for the four door model, the visibility is very good in this car. The mirrors aren't very tall but extend far enough out on the ends to allow me to see all four lanes on either side of me. A quick glance down the side of the car allows you to safely change lanes with confidence.

Feature availability

My Astra has the panoramic sunroof, which I can honestly say was a large portion of the reason I chose to test drive this car in the first place. Even with the glass closed the roof let's so much light into the car it makes it seem much more "roomy" then it really is and also allowed me to get fairly dark tints, while still being able to let plenty of light into the car. I also have the six CD changer, which pumps out a decent signal and, when paired with the steering wheel controls and large center dash screen, gives the car a much more expensive feel.

Powertrain performance

The little engine in this car performs well, when paired with the 5 speed manual. You can really feel how small the engine is in the first two gears, however third and fourth really take off and get you moving. I was first worried at how high the RPMs are in overdrive when going 70-85mph, however this gives this little engine an amazing ability to accelerate from 60-80 in very little time, which when considered alongside the impressive handling, makes this car simply a blast to drive. The clutch and transmission are both very smooth and due to the hydraulic clutch make this car very hard to stall, however I find that the clutch, in very cold weather, will hesitate to disengage or when the A/C is running in very hot weather. Because of the tiny 1.8L engine this car really does drive noticeably different when running the A/C, it's nothing you can't compensate for; just make sure to give it a little more gas.

Front seat support & comfort

I have the cloth seats, which I had read didn't offer good back or thigh support. I find this to be very untrue even without adjustable lumbar support. I did switch out my stock steering wheel with a leather VXR wheel from Britain, which REALLY gave this car a premium feel. The stock seats support my back very well (6'2") and also find there to be just enough leg room with my seat almost all the way back, thigh support is a bit lacking, but for such a tiny car they really did a good job making it feel like a much bigger car. I also highly recommend buying and installing the Boomerang armrest and cup holder to maximize your Astra comfort.

Why Not the 2008 Saturn ASTRA?

Quietness

Road noise is pretty minimal in this car; however the engine noise is that of a typical four cylinder compact car. I do believe the sunroof does let a lot of road noise in even when closed, however the rest of the car does as well. Definitely room for improvement with engine noise.

Materials & workmanship

After buying this car I was very upset with how many rattles I could hear, both from just the road and also from the "premium" sound system. I had already planned to replace the stock speakers and in the process added quite a bit of Dynamat, which solved almost all of the rattle problems. This is probably the biggest complaint about this car. However this is not to say the car feels cheap, because all of the plastic has a very good feel to them and the rubberized dials give the car a quality feel, just beware the rattles and wind noise from the windows at highway speeds.

Interior storage compartments

There is pretty much no storage to speak of. I like my bass to be very loud in my car, which means I can't keep anything other than papers in the door pockets or else its all rattles. Make sure you get the Boomerang armrest, which offers a pretty good amount of storage (comparatively speaking) and a cup holder that can be helpful, however for stickshift purposes I rather use the backseat one.

Audio & nav systems

The upgraded audio system is pretty lackluster; I promptly installed a new component set a few weeks after buying the car. My main problem with this cars system is that the rear door speakers not only sound terrible and are very small, but the odd shape of the holes in the doors make it near impossible to install any after-market speakers without drilling, I gave up and faded most of the sound to the front speakers.

Front seat room

My only concern about front seat room isn't about the seats at all, but that the peddles in the 5 speed are very small and very very close together, which for me with size 13 feet can create a problem. I have caught my feet together and accidently stomped on the break when trying to push in the clutch, which upsets everyone driving behind me, but provides a good laugh for me.

Other Features of the 2008 Saturn ASTRA

Fuel economy

Everyone seems to be upset with the MPG this car gets. I average 28 MPG for 30/70 city/highway driving, which is a massive improvement for me after trading in my Taurus which got an average of 18MPG driving the same route. Should a car this size average low 30s for MPG? Yes. Am I satisfied with high 20s? Yes.

Conclusion

This is an awesome, cheap, yet quality car. If you can get it "decked" out with the CD Changer, fog lights, sunroof, and XR package, I suggest you buy it up for a low price. I would not suggest buying the base model though; the features make the few downsides of this car feel worth it. 

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