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PERFORMANCE | 6 out of 10
Four-wheel drive is not offered
Betters its gas-only edition by 6 mpg
Languid handling response
A hybrid vehicle is first judged, appropriately, by its fuel economy. While the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid clearly bests its conventionally powered sibling in this category, it still can't compete with the best in the class when it comes to handling, acceleration, or even ride quality.
If you happen to glance under the hood of the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid, Cars.com reports you'll find a "2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor/generator that develop a combined 172 hp." That horsepower number may sound respectable enough, but this Saturn Vue 2009 Hybrid is no lightweight, and it pays a significant performance penalty thanks to its heft. The Saturn Vue Hybrid's tepid acceleration causes Motor Trend to ask the following: "0-to-60 mph in 10.9 seconds? That's its weight." Edmunds also says that the Saturn Vue Hybrid's "electric motor provides very little assistance during acceleration and does not have enough juice to power the Vue by itself." So just what, exactly, does the electric motor in the Vue Hybrid do? According to Motor Trend, "in a sense, it amounts to a 'hybrid helper,'" and will help shut off and restart the engine at stoplights, "drive-throughs, and any other idling time." It may not sound like much, but the little electric has a big impact on fuel economy.
Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com reveal few complaints about the current transmission, but several express a desire for all-wheel drive. Cars.com reviewers report that, "unlike most hybrids on the market, this mild hybrid employs a conventional four-speed automatic transmission" whose overall "operation is virtually indistinguishable from a non-hybrid." MotherProof reviewers note that they would "prefer to have all-wheel drive as an option," and Cars.com likewise laments that "four-wheel drive is not offered" for those living in cooler climes.
Despite the fact that the Saturn Vue Hybrid's electric motor doesn't do much while you're driving, you'll really appreciate the boost the system delivers to overall fuel economy. According to the official EPA estimates, the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid should return 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, which leads Edmunds to state that the "Vue Green Line betters its gas-only edition by 6 mpg" overall. Edmunds also points out that the Saturn Vue Hybrid "offers superior gas mileage for the same price as comparably equipped non-hybrid competitors."
While automotive experts are impressed by the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid's bump in fuel economy, the same can't be said about its overall driving characteristics. Motor Trend warns, "while the Vue rides comfortably, there's the ever-present impression [that] this is mostly because there's so much lazy mass [that] it can't do anything else." Edmunds agrees the "ride is tuned on the soft side," but they add it "never feels floaty and soaks up bumps with assurance." Car and Driver feels that the Saturn Vue Hybrid "rides quite nicely and handles in a carlike—if slightly inert—fashion." Kelley Blue Book reviewers take a rather ambiguous stance by commenting that the "steering, throttle and brake response were all in line with...expectations for the category," though they never elaborate on what those expectations are. According to TheCarConnection.com's own experts, the Saturn Vue Hybrid boasts good stopping power, although attempts at gradual, smooth braking are still met with unpredictable lurches from the hybrid system.
If you're looking for a cheap way to get into a hybrid SUV, the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid offers excellent fuel economy for a very competitive price.