2009 Saturn VUE

2009 Saturn VUE

The Basics:

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 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid isn't fun to drive, but it will ease your reliance on fossil fuels.

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.

Most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show the styling of the 2009 Saturn Vue to be a hit.

Reviewers at The Detroit News rave about this "crossover with character." Kelley Blue Book points out some specific characteristics, noting that, "with its big and bold front end, trendy side vents and sloping roofline, the 2009 Saturn Vue is among the sportiest-looking SUVs in the segment." Cars.com mentions "the large chrome grille and teardrop-shaped headlights are probably the most masculine attributes" of the Saturn Vue, while "the downward-sloping roof, ending in a radically angled rear hatch, exudes European design." According to Edmunds the 2009 Saturn Vue is available "in three trim levels," the "base XE, midgrade XR and sporting Red Line." Cars.com says that "the Vue is one of the most aggressively styled SUVs on the road, looking neither too masculine (Dodge Nitro), too boxy (Hummer H3) nor too odd (Honda CR-V)."

The 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid isn't fun to drive, but it will ease your reliance on fossil fuels.

Reviewer praise extends to the interior of the 2009 Saturn Vue. "Everything is well laid out and easy to see," including "large and clear gauges" and an "available navigation system" that "absorbs audio functions but doesn't complicate their use,” gushes ConsumerGuide. Kelley Blue Book likes the "generous helping of high-quality materials and contemporary styling" on the Saturn Vue, which "combine in a comfortable and attractive interior." Cars.com reserves high praise for the interior, where "the metal on the wheel and interior door handles was a very elegant touch, and just the right amount as to not overwhelm the cabin," according to reviewers. Also, the interior of the Saturn Vue bears "an array of chrome-accented round shapes, from the gauges to the air vents to the climate controls," which Edmunds feels "lend a sense of classic style to the cabin."

Most reviewers have positive things to say about the driving experience in the 2009 Saturn Vue. Acceleration, especially with the 3.6-liter V-6 Red Line trim, is impressive, though the majority of reviewers mention that you’ll pay the price in fuel economy.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com editors are unanimously impressed with the powerful 3.6-liter V-6, which ConsumerGuide proclaims is "strong and refined." Cars.com reviewers claim that there is "ample acceleration (it manages zero to 60 in an impressive 6.7 seconds)," while Edmunds declares that, "with the 3.6-liter V6, this Saturn scoots." Kelley Blue Book avers that "the 3.5-liter V6 will provide adequate power, while the four-cylinder's appeal most certainly lies in its fuel economy advantage." Engine performance on the four-cylinder is decidedly less impressive than on the V-6 versions, but it achieves better fuel economy than its six-cylinder siblings.

Of the three different engines available in the 2009 Saturn Vue, Edmunds says that the base Saturn Vue "XE is powered by a 2.4-liter inline-4 (169 hp and 160 lb-ft of torque)," while the "XE V6 has a 3.5-liter V6 (215 hp and 220 lb-ft)" and "both the XR and Red Line trims feature a powerful 3.6-liter V6 (257 hp and 248 lb-ft)." Regarding the 2009 Saturn Vue’s transmissions (of which there are also three), Edmunds reports that the four-cylinder engine is "mated to a four-speed automatic transmission," while the 3.5-liter V-6 benefits from "a six-speed automatic transmission," and the 3.6-liter V-6 gets a "six-speed automatic" with a "manual-shift feature."

The transmissions receive mixed reviews, with ConsumerGuide commenting that "the transmission upshifts smoothly but tends to delay downshifts." With the manual shift feature on the six-speed automatic, Kelley Blue Book says, "the return action of the optional tap-up/tap-down shift lever was frustratingly slow." The one recurring complaint regarding the transmission is that it "has a tendency to hunt between gears when going up even slight inclines," in the words of ConsumerGuide. Edmunds adds that front- or all-wheel drive is available on each trim.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the 2009 Saturn Vue certainly doesn't sip fuel. The EPA estimates that a front-wheel-drive four-cylinder Saturn Vue gets 19 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway, while the numbers for the V-6 models vary between 15 and 16 mpg in the city and 22 or 23 mpg on the highway, depending on the configuration. In real-world driving, ConsumerGuide reports that "a 2WD Red Line averaged 20.9 mpg in mostly highway driving," while "AWD versions averaged 14.7 mpg in mostly city driving."

Although fuel efficiency may not be a strong point of the 2009 Saturn Vue, the SUV’s ride quality exceeds expectations. According to ConsumerGuide, "non Red Line Vue models are among the best compact SUVs." Kelley Blue Book agrees, announcing that "the 2009 Saturn Vue is as eager and agile as most of its competitors and as comfortable on the highway." Reviewers at The Detroit News attest that Saturn Vue has "well balanced" steering and it's "an easy vehicle to maneuver in a parking lot or on the autobahn." Edmunds reviewers report that "braking is about average for the class, as the four-wheel vented disc brakes help bring the Vue to a stop from 60 mph in 131 feet."

Interior silence of the recently redesigned Saturn Vue is deafening and an obvious improvement over earlier models. The material qualities of 2009 Vue’s cabin are also a marked improvement.

The Saturn Vue does a wonderful job of suppressing external noise. According to ConsumerGuide, "wind noise is low even in crosswinds," and Cars.com adds "there's almost no engine noise and very little wind or road noise on even the most abrasive highway lanes."

When evaluating the seats in the Saturn Vue, a few complaints arise. Reviewers at Automobile Magazine are quick to point out that "the front seat bottoms are too low and too short," though The Detroit News mentions "plenty of leg room in the front (40.7 inches) and the second row (36.9 inches)." Consumer Guide agrees that there is "good headroom and legroom" up front, but they again note that the "short seat bottoms lack long-distance thigh support." As for the rear seats, Consumer Guide reports that they offer "excellent headroom" and a "reclining seatback," though once more with "short seat bottoms, and too-firm cushioning." According to Edmunds, the 2009 Saturn Vue "is a five-passenger compact SUV," and many reviews read by TheCarConnection.com decry the lack of an available third-row seat.

Regarding interior storage space, Car and Driver lays out hard numbers: "luggage space comes in at 29 cubic feet behind the second row and 54 cubic feet with the second row folded, which is noticeably less than the 36 and 73 cubic feet in the RAV4." At Automobile Magazine, reviewers note that "the glove box is huge and there are some clever storage solutions in the rear cargo area." However, ConsumerGuide marks down the Saturn Vue because its "in-cabin storage is meager." Although the 2009 Saturn Vue isn't a huge car, it does offer average storage space and usability. Reviewers at The Detroit News love all "the small storage containers, including a drawer under the passenger's front seat," which "give the space purpose instead of becoming a black hole for garage remotes." ConsumerGuide reports that there is "good space behind the 2nd row," and it "becomes plentiful with the rear seatbacks folded."

Cars.com reviewers contend that the materials used inside the 2009 Saturn Vue not only "best other domestics, like the Ford Escape, it's also superior to top imports like the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe and Honda CR-V." Edmunds notes "brushed-aluminum accents on the steering wheel, door panels, parking brake and shift knob further the upscale treatment." Kelley Blue Book offers particularly high praise, declaring, "especially when outfitted with leather, the Saturn Vue offers the richest passenger cabin in the category." ConsumerGuide agrees, stating that the new interior is "a vast upgrade over the previous-generation Vue" and claiming "materials quality and assembly of models tested are arguably the best in the compact-SUV class."

Crash-test ratings are one of the 2009 Saturn Vue’s strongest attributes, and its list of safety features is clearly a top priority. The addition of Saturn’s Panic Brake Assist, which helps decrease stopping distances in emergency braking situations, can only help increase the Vue’s safety rating.

The 2009 Saturn Vue excels in crash tests conducted by both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2009 Vue’s IIHS results are impressive, as it earns the highest possible rating in each of the IIHS tests. In fact, the Vue performs so well in those tests that the IIHS awards it a Top Safety Pick 2009 title, stating that it displays "good performance in front, side, and rear tests." In NHTSA tests, the 2009 Saturn Vue earns a perfect five-star rating for both front impact tests, as well as both side impact categories. The only category in which the Saturn Vue scores fewer than five stars is for rollover, where NHTSA gives it a four-star rating.

How many safety features can a compact SUV contain? A "slew of standard safety features that were not available on its predecessor," according to Cars.com. Edmunds reviewers report that those safety features include "antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active head restraints." Motor Trend says that the Saturn Vue's safety features, including "seatbelt pretensioners" and "collapsing pedals" allow crash-test dummies to "emerge unscathed (or at least undead) from the worst crashes conceived by any world government." Motor Trend adds that the "standard stability control with trailer-sway mitigation (a class exclusive) might even help intelligent dummies avoid a crash."

Adding to the 2009 Saturn Vue’s already superb safety rating is excellent visibility, which ConsumerGuide says is "good to all directions." Car and Driver reviewers also rave about the "expansive view out the front windshield," calling it "excellent."

The 2009 Saturn Vue possesses one of the most impressive lists of standard and optional features Saturn has ever offered. A Bluetooth hands-free phone connection—not available last year—is now optional on XE models and standard on XR and Red Line models, as part of a revamped OnStar system.

According to Edmunds, the 2009 Saturn Vue, even in base trim, comes nicely equipped with "air-conditioning, keyless entry, full power accessories, OnStar telematics," and "steering-wheel audio controls." Kelley Blue Book adds that "a CD/MP3 sound system with auxiliary input jack" and "auto on/off headlights" comes standard on the 2009 Saturn Vue. Moving up to the more expensive Saturn Vue XR trim brings standard equipment increases to the tune of "automatic climate control, a power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated mirrors and lighted vanity mirrors," according to Edmunds. Finally, ConsumerGuide says that the top-of-the-line Saturn Vue Red Line adds "leather/suede upholstery" and "heated front seats."

For those who prefer to have the sun shining through the roof, ConsumerGuide says a "power sunroof" is available for $850. The Detroit News is particularly taken by the optional features, asserting that "there are lots of little features owners will relish." Kelley Blue Book states that these features include "a DVD-based navigation system, automatic climate control," and "six-disc CD changer" with "premium audio system."

Buying Tips:

The Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent are closely related to the 2009 Saturn Vue. Both of them come standard with V-6 engines and more cargo space.

Other Choices:

  • 2008 Toyota RAV4
  • 2009 Subaru Forester
  • 2008 Honda CR-V
  • 2008 Hyundai Tucson
  • 2009 Ford Escape

Reason Why:

The 2009 Saturn Vue’s primary rival is perhaps the Honda CR-V, a vehicle that was recently redesigned and boasts a roomy interior and smooth ride. But the CR-V comes with only a peppy and efficient four-cylinder engine, and it's quite a bit lighter than the Vue. The comparably priced Toyota RAV4 is about the same size as the Vue on the outside, but it has seating for seven and a third-row seat, along with a more efficient four-cylinder engine and a more powerful V-6. The Subaru Forester is another alternative; compared to the Vue, the Forester drives more like a sporty small car, with crisp handling and good performance from its flat-four engine, plus standard all-wheel drive. The Ford Escape, despite a recent reskin, looks dated but is still very competitive, with a space-efficient design. The Vue's fuel economy is not as good as that of either the Ford Escape or Toyota RAV4 when equipped with their optional V-6 engines.

The Bottom Line:

With its available V-6 engine, the 2009 Saturn Vue is a bit more fun to drive than other compact SUVs; otherwise it’s not a standout.

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