2008 Saturn Sky

2008 Saturn Sky

The Basics:

The automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com looked to some of the best automotive resources to put together this review covering the 2008 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 2008 Saturn Sky is a stylish, low-slung two-seat roadster that shares a platform (though not exterior panels) with Pontiac's Solstice. It is arguably the more attractive of the two, with an especially distinctive interior theme, and comes with additional standard equipment, including features like air conditioning, standard 18-inch rims, keyless entry, and anti-lock brakes.

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 Sky's standard engine is a 2.4-liter, 177-horsepower inline-four connected to a five-speed manual transmission, with a five-speed automatic available as an option. For 2007, a high-performance Red Line version of the Sky joined the lineup. It features a 260-horsepower turbocharged direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, 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. Both 2008 Saturn Sky models have rear-wheel drive, with the engine mounted in front.

With either engine, the lightweight 2008 Saturn Sky turns in brisk performance; the Sky can get to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds with the manual gearbox, according to Saturn, while the turbo shortens that to 5.5 seconds. The base engine lacks refinement and can be quite coarse in sound and feel, but the Red Line's turbocharged engine and different gear ratios make the car feel more sophisticated and responsive in ordinary driving; the turbo doesn't bring much lag (hesitation) either.

The 2008 Saturn Sky has a ride that's firm, though not downright hard, with quick-ratio steering that feels precise and brings a good feel of the road. Even approaching the limits of adhesion, the Sky handles predictably.

The Sky is quite disappointing in ergonomics, with the standard narrow seats not offering a lot of comfort or support and some controls located in odd places. For instance, the power window switches are along the armrests near where one's elbow would normally go; the steering wheel doesn't telescope and it's oddly located for taller drivers relative to the shifter; and short drivers will feel far away from the pedals and too close to the steering wheel. The cabin in the 2008 Saturn Sky also lacks modern must-haves, such as abundant storage cubbies and sturdy cup holders.

The Sky's soft-top arrangement is also disappointing; raising the top requires getting out of the car to secure two anchor points, visibility is more impaired than typical with the small rear window, and when down, the top tucks into the trunk and occupies much of the already limited cargo space. When up and in place, the top in several test cars exhibits excessive wind noise.

The base 2008 Saturn Sky roadster comes quite well equipped, especially considering its affordable base price. 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. For 2008, stability control is now standard on both models, as is a limited-slip differential. A new radio with XM is standard as well, while a Monsoon audio system is an option.

In addition to electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes are also standard, but no side airbags are offered on the 2008 Saturn Sky, making it one of few remaining models not yet offering them. The 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.

The Saturn Sky was a new model for the 2007 model year, but it will take much longer than a year for the styling impact of the Sky Saturn to diminish. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com simply rave about the exterior of the 2008 Saturn Sky, which is about as dramatically styled as any mass-produced vehicle on the road today.

The 2008 Saturn Sky comes in two available trims, which Edmunds says are "base and Red Line models," but 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 2008 Saturn Sky simply "looks great." Cars.com agrees, claiming that the Saturn Sky's "daring, more angular design inspires frequent rubber-necking and mouth-breathing." 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 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.

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 interior of the 2008 Saturn Sky is nice, but it doesn't quite live up to the expectations set by the dramatic exterior. Kelley Blue Book reviewers are generous in their praise, spotlighting "a smart instrument panel and control layout, piano black and metallic trim" that afford a "sophisticated, contemporary ambiance." ConsumerGuide is more moderate in their 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.

Both trims of the 2008 Saturn Sky handle well, and the more powerful Saturn Sky Red Line is very capable off the line, thanks to its turbocharged engine.

The engines on the 2008 Saturn Sky lineup are two very different beasts; Edmunds says that the "base-model 2008 Saturn Sky comes with a 2.4-liter inline-4 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 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 5-speed automatic transmission" that "costs $925 extra," according to Road & Track. However, Cars.com warns against the automatic paired with the base engine, saying "modestly powered engines and automatic transmissions are the worst combination." The situation improves on the 2008 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-liter or 2.4-liter offerings on the Saturn Sky lineup, is that it usually affords good fuel economy. That is true on the 2008 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 and 24 mpg highway with the automatic, according to the EPA, and 19/25 mpg with the manual. 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 2008 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."

The 2008 Saturn Sky may be more of a styling statement and performance machine than a luxury car, but it would still be nice to see better materials inside. The Saturn Sky also loses points for its poor interior ergonomics.

The 2008 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 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 says "the interior has tidy forms but ergonomics on par with a game of Twister."

Things don't get much better for the 2008 Saturn Sky when it comes to practicality and storage space, either. 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 offerings 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 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 says dominates the interior, imparting a "sophisticated, contemporary ambience."

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."

The 2008 Saturn Sky performs decently well in crash tests and offers a number of the more typical safety features, but it is disappointing to note the absence of other critical features.

The 2008 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 2008 Saturn Sky offers quite a few safety features, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com note some glaring omissions. On the positive side, Edmunds says "antilock disc brakes and stability control are standard equipment, as is OnStar." ConsumerGuide mentions that a "tire-pressure monitor," which can improve safety and fuel economy, and "daytime running lights" are standard on all 2008 Saturn Sky models. 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 and which they say "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; many reviewers are impressed by the sightlines afforded by the Sky Saturn's design. ConsumerGuide says "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." Reviewers at Cars.com also 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."

The 2008 Saturn Sky presents a decent offering of standard features, but there's not much in the way of exciting options.

The standard features list on the 2008 Saturn Sky is not particularly long, but it includes some cool items. Road & Track reviewers are particularly impressed with the "6-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. 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.

In addition to the standard features on the 2008 Saturn Sky, there are several available options packages and stand-alone features. On the base Saturn Sky, Cars.com says that 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."

Buying Tips:

The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine in the 2008 Saturn Sky Red Line has direct injection and actually gets better fuel economy than the standard 2.4-liter engine.

Other Choices:

  • 2008 Honda S2000
  • 2009 Pontiac Solstice

Reason Why:

General Motors says that shoppers typically won't consider both the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky, but the comparison is inevitable. The Solstice starts several thousand dollars cheaper than the 2008 Saturn Sky but has more basic appointments; for instance, it doesn't include power windows and locks or keyless entry. But the Solstice, in standard or GXP (equivalent to Red Line) models, offers comparable wind-in-hair performance for less money. Admittedly, the Saturn has a superior interior, with a more attractive instrument panel design and better controls. But nearly all else is the same. Otherwise, the Honda S2000 may be the closest competitor to the Sky Red Line and Solstice GXP; it brings an incredibly rev-happy, 237-horsepower, 2.2-liter VTEC four-cylinder and six-speed manual that doesn't match the Red Line for straight-line performance but beats it for the tactile experience. A quick drive in the Mazda Miata also reveals what's lacking in the base Sky roadster: the basics. The Miata covers all the necessities with a certain tactile charm lacking in the Sky; the shift action, super-direct steering feel, and sound of the modest engine powering the balanced, lightweight roadster are still unbeatable. But for those seeking more power, the torquey Nissan 350Z Roadster is also worth a look.

The Bottom Line:

The 2008 Saturn Sky has an especially seductive shape, but it lacks the expected charm and simple sophistication from behind the wheel.

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