2009 Saturn Sky Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 8, 2009

The 2009 Saturn Sky looks great and in the Red Line trim is a blast to drive, but its ergonomics and quality keep it from truly competing with the Miata.

The automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com looked to some of the best automotive resources to put together this review covering the 2009 Saturn Sky. TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven both Sky models on familiar roads as well as especially demanding routes and have added their firsthand impressions.

The 2009 Saturn Sky is an attractive, ground-hugging roadster that shares mechanical bits with the Pontiac Solstice, but is arguably better-looking than its corporate cousin. It also comes with more standard equipment, including air conditioning, standard 18-inch wheels, anti-lock brakes, and keyless entry.

Engine choices for the Saturn sky go from mild to wild with the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivering 177 horsepower and the optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder in the Red Line that pumps out a screaming 260 horsepower with very little turbo lag. Both engines can be joined to either a manual or automatic gearbox featuring five speeds pushing power to the rear wheels.

The Red Line model also features a firmer suspension setting, polished 18-inch wheels, and dual chrome-tipped exhaust, as well as its own interior enhancements, such as Red Line-specific instruments (including a digital boost gauge), metallic sill plates, and stainless steel trim. For 2009, Ruby Red and Hydro Blue Limited Edition Packages come with a new split-spoke wheel and a sport stripe.

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Both engines propel the Sky well, as it is a lightweight car. According to Saturn, the base Sky makes it to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds with the manual, and the Sky Red Line hits the same mark in 5.5 seconds. The 2.4-liter is not very refined and can feel and sound coarse. The 2.0-liter turbo, on the other hand, is very smooth and responsive with little turbo lag.

The 2009 Saturn has quick-ratio steering that feels precise and brings a good sense of the road. The ride quality is firm, though not terribly hard. Handling is predictable even approaching the limits of adhesion.

While the Sky excels in overall design and styling, it fails to impress in terms of ergonomics. The base seats are narrow and not very comfortable, the steering wheel doesn’t telescope, and the pedals don’t adjust. These leave shorter drivers feeling too close to the wheel and taller drivers placed far from the shifter. Other ergonomic oddities include a dearth of storage spaces, oddly placed and flimsy cup holders, and window switches that are placed where your elbow would normally rest on the armrest.

The convertible top on the Saturn Sky is also disappointing in execution; raising and lowering the roof requires getting out of the car and securing two anchor points (much more of an ordeal than it is with the Mazda Miata). Visibility is poor with the top up, and with it down, trunk space all but disappears. On the road, several test cars exhibit a lot of wind noise with the top up.

The base 2009 Saturn Sky roadster comes quite well equipped. The list includes power doors and windows, cruise control, air conditioning, keyless entry, and a decent AM/FM/CD audio system with iPod accessory plug. There's also a Carbon Flash SE model that brings appearance extras similar to the Red Line, including 18-inch chrome wheels, projector-beam headlamps with black bezels, leather seats, stainless steel pedals, and metallic sill plates. Stability control and anti-lock brakes are also standard on both models, as is a limited-slip differential. A radio with XM is standard as well, while a Monsoon audio system is an option.

The 2009 Saturn Sky rolls into a new model year with only minor changes. New for the 2009 model year is an available Bluetooth hands-free connection, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and three colors.

The Saturn Sky has been crash-tested by the federal government and got four-star results in frontal and side impact. The low roadster was also one of just a few cars to obtain top five-star results in NHTSA's rollover risk rating. Side airbags are not available.

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2009 Saturn Sky

Styling

The 2009 Saturn Sky gets top marks in styling, and it's arguably the best-looking small roadster from the outside.

The Saturn Sky is one of those rare vehicles boasting that classic, ageless sportscar style. The articles reviewed by TheCarConnection.com all agree that the exterior style of the Sky is one of its strongest selling points.

The 2009 Saturn Sky comes in two available trims, "base and Red Line models," according to Edmunds. They also add that the exterior of both is largely the same. That exterior receives lots of love from reviewers; Kelley Blue Book says "GM's designers knocked the styling right out of the park," gushing that the 2009 Saturn Sky simply "looks great." Car and Driver reports that the exterior features "forward-canted side vents, faux hood vents, multiple grille openings with dashes of chrome, and a rear undertray with incorporated backup light." Cars.com agrees, claiming that the Saturn Sky's "daring, more angular design inspires frequent rubber-necking and mouth-breathing." Cars.com adds that the Saturn Sky "comes complete, with few optional adornments" aside from the "chromed versions of the 18-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler that is so superfluous it appears in almost none of Saturn's marketing photos." Perhaps the most common description of the Sky Saturn in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com is that the car features "mini-Corvette styling," in the words of Car and Driver.

While the exterior of the Sky looks amazing, the interior doesn’t quite live up to the expectations. Kelley Blue Book reviewers are generous in their praise, admiring "a smart instrument panel and control layout, piano black and metallic trim" that afford a "sophisticated, contemporary ambiance." ConsumerGuide is more moderate in its review, saying that although "most controls are simple and well marked," they can also be "hard to reach in the tight confines of the cabin, particularly the ill-placed cupholders." Up front, Edmunds reviewers find "the dash is modern and attractive," and Car and Driver feels "the refinement is turned up a notch over the Solstice," the Saturn Sky's sibling from Pontiac.

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2009 Saturn Sky

Performance

The 2009 Saturn Sky Red Line is the choice for enthusiasts, but both versions handle well.

Either trim of the 2009 Saturn Sky provides satisfying performance on a mountain road, with especially commendable steering, though most reviewers agree that the turbocharged Red Line is not only more powerful in daily driving, but also more enjoyable.

The engines on the 2009 Saturn Sky lineup are two very different beasts; Edmunds says that the "base-model 2009 Saturn Sky comes with a 2.4-liter inline-four engine that makes 177 hp and 166 pound-feet of torque," while the Red Line version of the Sky Saturn "has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with direct injection capable of a very strong 260 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque."

Impressions of the engines vary considerably in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, as the enthusiast-oriented reviewers understandably favor the stronger 2.0-liter version over the 2.4-liter engine. ConsumerGuide remarks that "the base engine is slow to rev and has little power reserve for quick highway passing," and Cars.com laments that "you have to get the engine revving pretty high to get appreciable power out of it." Fortunately, the Saturn Sky Red Line steps in to provide a more enthusiastic driving experience. Whereas "the regular Sky went from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds," Edmunds claims "the Red Line challenges the Porsche Cayman at 5.8 seconds."

Both versions of the Sky Saturn are available with one of two transmission options, but neither scores particularly well with reviewers. Cars.com says that "the short gearshift" on the "five-speed manual" is reasonable, but notes that "a sixth gear is nice to have," and in particular, "the Sky really needs it." The other available option is "a five-speed automatic transmission" that "costs $925 extra," according to Road & Track. However, Cars.com warns against the automatic paired with the base engine, asserting "modestly powered engines and automatic transmissions are the worst combination." The situation improves on the Saturn Sky Red Line, where ConsumerGuide claims "the automatic transmission has no real penalty vs. the manual."

One of the benefits of an engine with a small output, such as the 2.0- or 2.4-liter offerings on the Saturn Sky lineup, is that it usually affords good fuel economy. That is true on the 2009 Saturn Sky; the EPA estimates the Red Line will return 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with the automatic transmission and 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway with the manual. The less powerful engine on the base Saturn Sky actually gets worse mileage numbers, rating 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway with the automatic, according to the EPA. In real-life testing, ConsumerGuide reports their base Saturn Sky "with manual transmission averaged 20.8 mpg in mixed driving," while the "test manual-transmission Red Line averaged 20.1 mpg in mostly city driving."

Another area where the 2009 Saturn Sky shines is in terms of handling and ride quality. ConsumerGuide remarks that "the ride is supple enough for sports cars" on the base model, but "the sport suspension used on Red Line" is a bit tauter, "so impact harshness is more noticeable." However, the tauter suspension definitely improves handling, and Edmunds reviewers say "most drivers will find the car's substantial lateral grip and quick steering enjoyable enough to make the Sky a fun and engaging twisty road companion." Cars.com also raves that, "in terms of overall performance, the Sky's ride and handling are where it shines the brightest." When it comes time to stop, Cars.com attests that the brakes are "highly effective four-wheel discs with standard ABS."

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2009 Saturn Sky

Comfort & Quality

If you want a high-quality, well-designed interior that delivers noiseless top-up driving, look beyond the Saturn Sky.

Nice vehicles like the 2009 Saturn Sky can never please everyone, but the quality of the interior materials and the ergonomics could be a bit better. Packaging for cargo is also a sore point.

The 2009 Saturn Sky arrives as a "two-seat roadster," according to Edmunds, and most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are disappointed by the design of the passenger space. While ConsumerGuide notes "there's OK leg space and good top-up headroom," they also say the seat "padding feels skimpy" and the "low seats won't suit some shorter drivers." Edmunds reports "ergonomics and materials quality leaves much to be desired," and the usefulness of cabin space is impeded by the fact that "the transmission tunnel is unusually wide, which can put the squeeze on larger drivers." Car and Driver also observes that "the interior has tidy forms but ergonomics on par with a game of Twister."

The parade of criticism in this category continues when it comes to interior quality, where ConsumerGuide says that the "cabin is awash in cheap-looking hard plastic" and notes the presence of "numerous interior squeaks and rattles." Cars.com adds "the materials are hard to the touch." On the positive side, many reviewers appreciate the "piano black and metallic trim" on the Sky Saturn that Kelley Blue Book feels dominates the interior, imparting a "sophisticated, contemporary ambience."

Things don't get much better for the 2009 Saturn Sky when it comes to practicality and storage space. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are quick to point out that the trunk on the Sky Saturn is woefully small, even for a convertible. Edmunds says that the trunk offers "just 5.4 cubic feet of space with the top up and practically none with it down," while Cars.com reports "when the top is down, roughly a backpack's worth of space remains, though the top must be lifted to reach it." The interior cargo possibilities on the Saturn Sky aren't very impressive either, and Cars.com reviewers feel "the Sky needs more covered, lockable storage so you can leave it parked with the top down." ConsumerGuide also notes "cockpit storage is meager, even for a sports car."

The Saturn Sky loses yet more points when it comes to cabin noise. Cars.com laments the fact that "the engine noise is rough and...noisy." ConsumerGuide also notices the presence of "annoying wind rush even at moderate speeds," thanks to the "ill-fitting tops."

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2009 Saturn Sky

Safety

The lack of side airbags—a feature now taken for granted by most new-car shoppers—is inexcusable.

The 2009 Saturn Sky has been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the results are heartening. The federal crash-testing agency subjected the Saturn Sky to its full range of tests and has awarded the Sky Saturn four out of five stars in every category. That includes four-star ratings for front driver and passenger impact protection, along with a four-star rating for side impact protection. The Saturn Sky has not, however, been tested by the other major crash-testing authority, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

In addition to respectable crash-test ratings, the 2009 Saturn Sky offers quite a few safety features, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com note some key features offered by the competition are missing. Edmunds says "antilock disc brakes and stability control are standard equipment, as is OnStar." Unfortunately, Cars.com points out that "the big safety disappointment is the absence of side-impact airbags," which aren't even available as optional equipment though they "have proven critical in occupant safety." Kelley Blue Book is also disappointed to find that, "unlike the MX-5, the Sky doesn't offer side airbags or traction control."

One area where the Saturn Sky redeems itself is driver visibility. Reviewers at Cars.com say they are "able to see well over the hood," and the placement of the rear window "immediately behind the driver" means "the rear view with the top up isn't bad." ConsumerGuide reports "top-up rear visibility is better than in most convertibles," though they mention that the "double-hump rear deck hinders vision astern for shorter drivers."

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2009 Saturn Sky

Features

The 2009 Saturn Sky is a complete package with a reasonably long features list.

The 2009 Saturn Sky comes nicely equipped with standard features and must-have options. New for 2009 is Bluetooth hands-free communication via the OnStar system and three additional colors.

Car and Driver mentions that the "Sky's base price of $23,690" includes "air conditioning, ABS, cruise," and "power everything." About the only other standard feature of note on the Saturn Sky is the "remote keyless entry," according to ConsumerGuide. The standard features list on the 2009 Saturn Sky is not particularly long, but it includes some cool items. Road & Track reviewers are particularly impressed with the "six-speaker AM/FM/CD player and iPod plug-input sound system with XM satellite radio" on the Sky Saturn, and other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com approve of the sound system as well.

In addition to the standard features on the 2009 Saturn Sky, there are several available options packages and stand-alone features. On the base Saturn Sky, Cars.com says buyers have the option of adding a "Premium Trim Package" that includes "steering-wheel mounted audio controls" and a "driver information center." Kelley Blue Book reports "leather seats" and a "rear spoiler" are also available on the Saturn Sky. One critical review of the available options for the Sky Saturn comes from Cars.com, where reviewers contend that the "optional premium Monsoon stereo" simply "isn't the best stereo" that they've heard, and they feel that "more distortion-free power is needed for top-down highway driving."

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Styling 9
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