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TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Saturn Vue in order to give you an expert opinion. In addition, TheCarConnection.com researched available road tests on the new Saturn Vue to produce this conclusive review and help you make a smart purchase.
The 2009 Saturn Vue is a carlike crossover utility vehicle; completely redesigned last year, it enters this model year with only a few significant upgrades. The host of changes last year includes the replacement of Saturn’s ding-resistant polymer door panels with sheetmetal versions, and the decision to relocate production of the Vue from Spring Hill, Tennessee, to Mexico.
The Vue has an exterior design that’s quite sporty and athletic, with prominent side gill vents and dual stainless steel exhaust tips in uplevel trims. Inside, the 2009 Saturn Vue offers comfortable seating for five with ample legroom, whereas its competitors often have small third-row seats. Front-seat design, however, could use more support. Typical for models in this class, the Vue’s rear seats handily fold flat for a moderate expansion of cargo space. It should be mentioned that the Vue’s cabin allows minimal road or wind noise to enter, making it one of the quietest interiors in its class.
The 2009 Saturn Vue comes with a choice of three engines: a 164-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder; a 215-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6; or a 257-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6. At 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, the 2.4-liter’s fuel efficiency is only adequate with its four-speed automatic transmission. The 3.5-liter pushrod V-6 on the all-wheel-drive XE model gets a six-speed automatic, as does the DOHC 3.6-liter V-6 in the XR and Red Line models. The six-speed automatic can be slow to downshift with anything aside from full throttle, but on the 2009 Saturn Vue Red Line (and optional on the XR), there's manual shift control. All 2009 Saturn Vue models can be equipped with either front- or all-wheel drive.
Weighing more than 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. A Green Line hybrid model is also offered but is covered by TheCarConnection.com in a separate review.
The steering of the 2009 Saturn Vue feels crisp and precise, and the ride is firm but absorbent enough for most bumps. Also, there's very little body lean in corners—confidence-inspiring in a tall vehicle—thanks to stabilizer bars in front and back. The four-cylinder model uses an electric power steering system that feels rather numb and 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.
Keyless entry, air conditioning, power windows, and a year of OnStar service are part of the standard-features list on the modestly equipped base-model XE. 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.
For 2009, OnStar 7.2 with a Bluetooth hands-free phone connection comes newly standard on XR and Red Line models and as an option on XE models with the Convenience Package (the package also includes heated seats). Optional on all models through Saturn Accessories is a headrest-integrated DVD entertainment system and XM real-time traffic display.
The 2009 Saturn 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. Panic Brake Assist, which helps shorten emergency stopping distances, is now standard equipment across the line. The Vue fares extremely well in occupant safety. In tests administered by the federal government, the Vue receives a mix of four- and five-star results in frontal impact and top five-star results for side impact. Insurance-industry tests award the top "good" rating to the Vue in all categories.