Quick Drive: 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid Page 2

March 13, 2009

As with other models of the Vue—which is now built in Mexico—the ding-resistant door panels that at one time attracted buyers to the Saturn brand are history. We’re also a bit disappointed in how flat and short the contouring is for the seats; combined with a steering wheel that doesn’t telescope, it’s one of the least comfortable perches for this tall reviewer. Entry and exit are a cinch though.

Nevertheless, mileage was excellent. In a 35-mile loop consisting of about one third low-speed urban crawl, one third suburban boulevard cruise, and one third freeway, driving gingerly but cruising around the speed limit or with traffic, I averaged 31 mpg in the Vue Hybrid. And over the course of the week in more than a hundred other miles of mixed driving, I averaged about 27 mpg.

That’s good, but what followed in my fleet was a vehicle that those who care about fuel economy might very well be cross-shopping with the Vue Hybrid: the Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Especially in SportWagen form, the Jetta is a great vehicle for small families and although its cabin doesn’t feel quite as tall as the Vue’s, its cargo capacity behind the back seats is slightly larger overall. The Jetta—whether as a sedan or SportWagen—gets EPA ratings of 30 mpg city, 41 highway with the six-speed manual, which we had, or 29/40 with the excellent optional DSG automatic.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen

Enlarge Photo

Taking the Jetta on that same loop, in nearly identical traffic conditions two days after the Vue, we averaged nearly 43 mpg. We followed the same manner of conservative driving on the loop. By the end of a comparable week, we’d averaged 36 mpg—admittedly driving the Jetta somewhat less gingerly. We’ve already said plenty about the Jetta. TheCarConnection.com likes the whole package, but the tremendous torque of the TDI engine in highway cruising especially proved hard to resist, as even lugging along in sixth gear we could ‘waft’—in the way of big lux sedans—quietly and quickly from 65 to 80 mph and beyond.

The 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid starts at $28,160 and comes with more standard equipment than the base Vue XE but not as much as the XR; that places the price premium, but TheCarConnection.com’s estimation, at nearly $4,000. Using $2.50 a gallon, it would take more than ten years to pay off for the typical driver; but if the price of fuel climbs a lot higher the Hybrid could make a difference. As equipped, the Vue Hybrid totaled $29,845; the Jetta TDI we drove would have priced at less than $26,000 as a Sportwagen.

In the Vue Hybrid’s class, there’s also the Ford Escape Hybrid, and its platform-mates, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Mazda Tribute Hybrid. In the city, these Ford full hybrids will easily top the Vue in mpg, although they cost a bit more.

The overwhelming message here is that there is no ideal ‘green’ choice for everyone; not all of them will make economic sense at the moment either. And with multiple choices like full hybrid systems, mild hybrid systems, and clean diesels to choose between if you want to save fuel we can only recommend that you drive several models and crunch the numbers.

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