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Could Saturn Get More Opels?


2008 Saturn Astra

2008 Saturn Astra

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The “Europeanization” of General Motors’ Saturn brand is effectively complete with Wednesday’s formal launch of the new Astra small car. Offered in both three- and five-door packages, the new Saturn is virtually identical to the extremely popular Astra offered inEurope and other parts of the world by GM’s big Opel brand.

 

The Astra may very well surprise U.S. buyers used to stripped-down econoboxes in the subcompact segment. Both models will feature stability control, traction control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and six separate airbags. Other safety features include collapsible foot pedals designed to reduce damage to a driver’s foot in the event of a serious front-end collision.

 

There were subtle changes made for Stateside drivers, including improved cupholders and tweaks meant to meet U.S. safety standards. Even in American trim, Astra will maintain Opel’s “autobahn-tuned” suspension, noted Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdzick, as well as a front crumple zone, mandated by new European rules intended to reduce injuries when a pedestrian is struck by the vehicle.

 

For the moment, all Astra models will come with a 1.8-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine. Saturn officials are still debating whether to introduce a high-performance Red Line edition. There’s a European muscle model, dubbed the Astra OPC, but that package “might not work here,” due to different driving styles on either side of the Atlantic, said Lajdzick.

 

With the launch of the Astra and the newly-redesigned Vue crossover, Saturn will complete the most dramatic product roll-out in its two-decade history. When those two products hit market, later this year, the oldest model in the Saturn lineup will be the Sky roadster, added in early 2006.

 

Long starved for product, Saturn could be in for an even bigger lineup, Lajdzick said, hinting that the U.S. automaker is looking at other Opel-derived products “to see what’s right for this market.”

Related Articles

 

Saturn Lines Up Vues: Green, Red Line by Marty Padgett (2/5/2007)
Hybrid, sports versions coming to Chicago show.

 

2008 Saturn Astra Preview

 
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