2008 Saturn VUE Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 5, 2008

The 2008 Saturn Vue isn't as large as competing models on the inside and isn't the best choice for growing families, but in all other respects, it's a much-improved vehicle.

The experienced automotive critics at TheCarConnection.com consulted with the range of information available from General Motors and other sources to put together this review covering the 2008 Saturn Vue models. TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the new Vue and incorporate their experiences whenever possible.

Saturn's carlike compact SUV, the Vue, has been completely redesigned for 2008, though it's about the same size as last year's model.

The new 2008 Saturn Vue is distinguished by its sportier and more athletic exterior appearance, with prominent side gill vents and dual stainless steel exhaust tips in uplevel trims, including the chrome bar and chunky front end that might not be to everyone's liking. Unlike the previous model, the new Vue has conventional sheetmetal rather than the ding-resistant polymer door panels that used to be a Saturn selling point. The Vue is now also built in Mexico rather than Spring Hill, Tenn.

The 2008 Saturn Vue only has seating for five, in a class where some models feature a small third row, but the backseat space is roomier than typical, with ample legroom. As with most vehicles of its type, the backseats fold flat easily for expanded cargo space--though it isn't especially vast. The front-seat design could use more support, though. It also has one of the quietest interiors in its class, allowing very little road or wind noise.

Review continues below

Three different engines are offered on the 2008 Saturn Vue. A 164-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder is somewhat fuel-efficient--at 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway--but barely adequate with its four-speed automatic; the XE all-wheel-drive model adds a 215-horsepower, 3.5-liter pushrod V-6 engine with a six-speed automatic; the top XR and sporty Red Line models come with a 257-horsepower DOHC 3.6-liter V-6 and a six-speed automatic. A Green Line hybrid model is also offered but is covered in a separate review. At over 4,000 pounds, the Vue has some of the worst fuel-economy ratings in its compact class, at 16 mpg city for the V-6 with all-wheel drive.

Both of the V-6 engines provide enthusiastic acceleration, with similar gusto from a standing start, but the 3.6-liter is the choice for its better passing performance and more refined character, as the 3.5-liter is somewhat coarse. The six-speed automatic can be slow to downshift with anything aside from full throttle, but on the 2008 Saturn Vue Red Line (and optional on the XR), there's manual shift control.

Both handling and ride quality have been improved in the 2008 Saturn Vue. The ride is firm but absorbent enough for most bumps, and there's very little body lean in corners, thanks to stabilizer bars front and back. The steering, meanwhile, feels crisp and precise. The four-cylinder model uses an electric power steering system that doesn't transmit the road feel or confidence of the hydraulic power steering included with the V-6s, although the V-6 models have some torque steer--a pull to the side with hard acceleration, especially coming out of a tight corner.

All three of the 2008 Saturn Vue models can be equipped with front- or all-wheel drive. Base XE models come quite modestly equipped but have keyless entry, air conditioning, power windows, and a year of OnStar service on the standard-features list. The XR adds larger alloy wheels, fog lamps, and the dual-outlet exhaust, along with automatic climate control, a power driver's seat, a rear cargo organizer, and steering-wheel audio controls. Options on the top XR include heated leather seats, a sunroof, and the Carbon Flash Special Edition, an appearance and upgrade package.

The 2008 Saturn Vue fared extremely well in occupant safety. In tests administered by the federal government, the Vue received a mix of four- and five-star results in frontal impact and top five-star results for side impact. Insurance-industry tests awarded the top "good" rating to the Vue in all categories. The Vue comes with electronic stability control, including a Trailer Sway Control function to help maintain stability while towing, along with anti-lock brakes, front-seat side airbags, head-curtain side airbags, and active head restraints.


2008 Saturn VUE


The 2008 Saturn Vue reemerges as a stylish alternative to competing compact SUVs.

The 2008 Saturn Vue is a completely redesigned compact SUV derived from GM's European subsidiary Opel. Accordingly, the Saturn Vue features distinctly European styling that helps it stand out on American roads.

The redesigned 2008 Saturn Vue is available "in three trim levels," according to Edmunds: "base XE, midgrade XR and sporting Red Line." All trims of the Saturn Vue 2008 sport aggressive styling, and Cars.com says that "the Vue is one of the most aggressively styled SUVs on the road, looking neither too masculine (Dodge Nitro), too boxy (Hummer H3) nor too odd (Honda CR-V)." Most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show the styling to be a hit, and reviewers at The Detroit News rave about this "crossover with character." Kelley Blue Book points out some specific characteristics, noting that "with its big and bold front end, trendy side vents and sloping roofline, the 2008 Saturn Vue is among the sportiest-looking SUVs in the segment." Cars.com mentions "the large chrome grille and teardrop-shaped headlights are probably the most masculine attributes" of the Saturn Vue, while "the downward-sloping roof, ending in a radically angled rear hatch, exudes European design."

The accolades don't stop at the exterior of the Saturn Vue 2008, either. Regarding the interior, ConsumerGuide reviewers gush, "Everything is well laid out and easy to see," including "large and clear gauges" and an "available navigation system" that "absorbs audio functions but doesn't complicate their use." Kelley Blue Book praises the "generous helping of high-quality materials and contemporary styling" on the Saturn Vue, which "combine in a comfortable and attractive interior." Cars.com reserves high praise for the interior, where "the metal on the wheel and interior door handles was a very elegant touch, and just the right amount as to not overwhelm the cabin," according to reviewers. Also, the interior of the Saturn Vue bears "an array of chrome-accented round shapes, from the gauges to the air vents to the climate controls," which Edmunds feels "lend a sense of classic style to the cabin."


2008 Saturn VUE


Strong handling and peppy V-6 engines make for a fun, if not fuel-efficient, ride in the 2008 Saturn Vue.

The 2008 Saturn Vue rides well and accelerates with gusto, especially in Red Line trim.

The 2008 Saturn Vue lineup offers three different engines: one four-cylinder and two V-6 versions. Edmunds says that the base Saturn Vue "XE is powered by a 2.4-liter inline-4 (169 hp and 160 lb-ft of torque)," while the "XE V6 has a 3.5-liter V6 (215 hp and 220 lb-ft)" and "both the XR and Red Line trims feature a powerful 3.6-liter V6 (257 hp and 248 lb-ft)." Engine performance on the four-cylinder is decidedly less impressive than on the V-6 versions, but it achieves better fuel economy than its six-cylinder siblings. Kelley Blue Book avers that "the 3.5-liter V6 will provide adequate power, while the four-cylinder's appeal most certainly lies in its fuel economy advantage." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are unanimously impressed with the powerful 3.6-liter V-6, which ConsumerGuide proclaims is "strong and refined." Cars.com reviewers claim that there is "ample acceleration (it manages zero to 60 in an impressive 6.7 seconds)," while Edmunds declares that "with the 3.6-liter V6, this Saturn scoots."

The three available engines on the 2008 Saturn Vue pair up with one of three different transmissions. Edmunds says that the four-cylinder engine is "mated to a four-speed automatic transmission," while the 3.5-liter V-6 benefits from "a six-speed automatic transmission," and the 3.6-liter V-6 gets a "six-speed automatic" with a "manual-shift feature." Edmunds adds that front- or all-wheel drive is available on each trim. The transmissions receive mixed reviews, with ConsumerGuide commenting that "the transmission upshifts smoothly but tends to delay downshifts." With the manual shift feature on the six-speed automatic, Kelley Blue Book says "the return action of the optional tap-up/tap-down shift lever was frustratingly slow." The one recurring complaint regarding the transmission is that it "has a tendency to hunt between gears when going up even slight inclines," in the words of ConsumerGuide.

One of the major selling points of compact SUVs is that they offer decent cargo capacity in a more frugal package than their bigger brethren. While that may be the case for some compact SUVs, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the Saturn Vue 2008 certainly doesn't sip fuel. The EPA estimates that a front-wheel-drive four-cylinder Saturn Vue will get 19 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway, while the numbers for the V-6 models vary between 15 and 16 mpg in the city and 22 or 23 mpg on the highway, depending on the configuration. In real-world driving, ConsumerGuide reports that "a 2WD Red Line averaged 20.9 mpg in mostly highway driving," while "AWD versions averaged 14.7 mpg in mostly city driving."

What the Vue lacks in fuel economy it makes up for in terms of ride quality. In this category, ConsumerGuide says "non Red Line Vue models are among the best compact SUVs." Kelley Blue Book agrees, announcing that "the 2008 Saturn Vue is as eager and agile as most of its competitors and as comfortable on the highway." Reviewers at the Detroit News attest that Saturn Vue has "well balanced" steering and it's "an easy vehicle to maneuver in a parking lot or on the autobahn." Edmunds reviewers report that "braking is about average for the class, as the four-wheel vented disc brakes help bring the Vue to a stop from 60 mph in 131 feet."


2008 Saturn VUE

Comfort & Quality

It’s vastly more refined, but the 2008 Saturn Vue has less interior and cargo room than others in its class.

The redesigned 2008 Saturn Vue is an order of magnitude removed from the outgoing model in many regards, but perhaps most noticeably when it comes to interior quality and comfort.

According to Edmunds, the 2008 Saturn Vue "is a five-passenger compact SUV," and many reviews read by TheCarConnection.com decry the lack of an available third-row seat. Regarding the seats in the Saturn Vue, a few complaints arise. Reviewers at Automobile are quick to point out that "the front seat bottoms are too low and too short," though the Detroit News mentions "plenty of leg room in the front (40.7 inches) and the second row (36.9 inches)." ConsumerGuide agrees that there is "good headroom and legroom" up front, but they again note that the "short seat bottoms lack long-distance thigh support." As for the rear seats, ConsumerGuide reports that they offer "excellent headroom" and a "reclining seatback," though once more with "short seat bottoms, and too-firm cushioning."

Although the 2008 Saturn Vue isn't a huge car, it offers average storage space and usability. Reviewers rave about the amount of useful space, and those at the Detroit News love all "the small storage containers, including a drawer under the passenger's front seat," which "give the space purpose instead of becoming a black hole for garage remotes." ConsumerGuide also reports that there is "good space behind the 2nd row," and it "becomes plentiful with the rear seatbacks folded." At Automobile, reviewers note that "the glove box is huge and there are some clever storage solutions in the rear cargo area." However, overall, ConsumerGuide marks down the Saturn Vue because its "in-cabin storage is meager." In terms of hard numbers, Car and Driver says that "luggage space comes in at 29 cubic feet behind the second row and 54 cubic feet with the second row folded, which is noticeably less than the 36 and 73 cubic feet in the RAV4."

Fortunately, the Vue redeems itself in the areas of build and materials quality. Kelley Blue Book offers particularly high praise, declaring "especially when outfitted with leather, the Saturn Vue offers the richest passenger cabin in the category." ConsumerGuide agrees, stating that the new interior is "a vast upgrade over the previous-generation Vue" and claiming "materials quality and assembly of models tested are arguably the best in the compact-SUV class." Cars.com reviewers add that the materials not only "best other domestics, like the Ford Escape, it's also superior to top imports like the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe and Honda CR-V." Edmunds notes "brushed-aluminum accents on the steering wheel, door panels, parking brake and shift knob further the upscale treatment."

In addition to improved build and materials quality, the Saturn Vue does a wonderful job of suppressing external noise. ConsumerGuide remarks that "wind noise is low even in crosswinds," and Cars.com adds "there's almost no engine noise and very little wind or road noise on even the most abrasive highway lanes."


2008 Saturn VUE


The 2008 Saturn Vue performs at the top of its class in safety.

With the 2008 Saturn Vue, it's clear that safety is one of the vehicle's top priorities. The emphasis is clearly seen in both the Saturn Vue's crash-test ratings and its list of safety features.

The 2008 Saturn Vue has been crash tested by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and results from both agencies were superb. In NHTSA tests, the 2008 Saturn Vue earned a perfect five-star rating for both front impact tests, as well as both side impact categories. The only category in which the Saturn Vue scored fewer than five stars was for rollover, where the NHTSA gave it a four-star rating. The IIHS results are equally impressive, as it earned the highest possible rating in each of the IIHS tests. In fact, the Vue performed so well during those tests that the IIHS awarded it a Top Safety Pick 2008 title, stating that it displayed "good performance in front, side, and rear tests."

The Vue is packed with safety features. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com invariably mention the Vue's "slew of standard safety features that were not available on its predecessor," according to Cars.com. Edmunds reviewers report that those safety features include "antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active head restraints." Motor Trend says that the Saturn Vue's safety features, including "seatbelt pretensioners" and "collapsing pedals" allow crash-test dummies to "emerge unscathed (or at least undead) from the worst crashes conceived by any world government." Motor Trend adds "standard stability control with trailer-sway mitigation (a class exclusive) might even help intelligent dummies avoid a crash."

The list of safety features on the Saturn Vue is further complemented by better-than-average visibility, which ConsumerGuide says is "good to all directions." Car and Driver reviewers also rave about the "expansive view out the front windshield," which they call "excellent."


2008 Saturn VUE


Bluetooth is becoming ubiquitous inside cars today, but if you can do without it, the 2008 Saturn Vue is worth a look.

The features list on the entire Saturn lineup has grown in recent years, and the 2008 Saturn Vue represents some of the best features that the company has to offer. Unfortunately, other features remain conspicuously absent.

The 2008 Saturn Vue comes nicely equipped even in base XE trim. Edmunds reviewers note that every Saturn Vue features "air-conditioning, keyless entry, full power accessories, OnStar telematics," and "steering-wheel audio controls." Kelley Blue Book adds that the 2008 Saturn Vue comes standard with "a CD/MP3 sound system with auxiliary input jack" and "auto on/off headlights." Moving up to the more expensive Saturn Vue XR trim brings standard equipment increases to the tune of "automatic climate control, a power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated mirrors and lighted vanity mirrors," according to Edmunds. Finally, ConsumerGuide says that the top-of-the-line Saturn Vue Red Line adds "leather/suede upholstery" and "heated front seats."

In addition to the standard features, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the Saturn Vue 2008 offers some enticing options. The Detroit News is particularly taken by the optional features, asserting that "there are lots of little features owners will relish." Kelley Blue Book states that these features include "a DVD-based navigation system, automatic climate control," and "six-disc CD changer" with "premium audio system." For those who prefer to have the sun shining through the roof, ConsumerGuide says that a "power sunroof" is available for $850. Unfortunately, like many other GM vehicles, the Saturn Vue 2008 lacks a Bluetooth hands-free cell phone interface, mainly because GM wants to steer customers toward an OnStar subscription.

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August 28, 2016
2008 Saturn VUE FWD 4-Door I4 XE

After 8 years and 62,000 miles with only oil changes, batteries and tires my Vue is still good looking, reliable, safe and the best overall valued car I have ever owned!

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When I first saw my 2008 Vue in November of 2007 I fell for its "rust" color, and roomy interior! After my test drive at the dealership I was sold, and signed the papers right then. Since then its roomy... + More »
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July 24, 2015
2008 Saturn VUE AWD 4-Door V6 Red Line

Saturn Vue has been a very reliable and fun to own vehicle

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Love our Saturn Vue Redline wish I could buy another one.
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