The 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid shares much with the standard four-cylinder version of the Vue, a small crossover SUV, but it's fitted with a mild-hybrid powertrain and nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. The model was, prior to this year, called the Vue Green Line. The more advanced Saturn Vue 2 Mode Hybrid model originally promised for 2009 will instead be arriving for 2010, alongside this existing Vue Hybrid model.
On the outside, the Vue Hybrid looks a lot like the regular Vue models; its sheetmetal is smooth and rounded, but the overall profile is tall and arched, with a more carlike front end than the closely related Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent. The ding-resistant side panels that Saturn once offered on the Vue were replaced last year with sheetmetal, as part of an extensive redesign.
The Vue Hybrid has front-wheel drive, and under the hood is a mild-hybrid powertrain that's carried over mostly unchanged from the Saturn Vue Green Line of previous model years. A 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine is mated to a "hybrid enabled" four-speed automatic transmission. A belt-alternator-starter (BAS) system helps recover energy from deceleration and braking, and it gives the engine a slight boost during acceleration. It also permits the engine to shut off at stoplights in drive, restarting it quickly when you back off the brake pedal.
With a combined rating of 28 mpg for the Vue Hybrid (25 city, 32 highway), the Hybrid gets more than 25 percent better mileage than the four-cylinder standard Vue models. TheCarConnection.com found that its real-world mileage is quite consistent with the EPA ratings; editors recently saw a 27-mpg average in mixed driving and 31 mpg in a 35-mile gentle-driving loop with a 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid.
Overall drivability isn't great in the Vue Hybrid, and widely spaced transmission ratios, balky shifting, and a vague steering feel conspire to make the Vue Hybrid a sometimes sluggish-feeling vehicle that's not entertaining to drive. The Vue Hybrid rides quite harshly as well.
Inside, the Vue is nicely designed, and it would be a good vehicle either for young families or those who have issues with entry and exit, as the seating position is very easy to sit in, given the high roofline. The Vue's front seats lack good support and contouring, and there's unappealing hard plastic throughout the interior, but it's marked by plenty of storage cubbies and a simple, straightforward instrument-panel layout. The Vue's backseats are quite spacious and comfortable for a small SUV, and the seats fold down neatly, but if they're up in position, there's not very much cargo space.
The Hybrid gets four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with good stopping power (and StabiliTrak for added safety), but attempts at gradual, smooth braking are still met with unpredictable lurches from the hybrid system. Safety features and occupant protection are more than respectable in the Vue Hybrid, though. Front side airbags and side-curtain bags are standard, and the Vue achieves top crash-test ratings across the board from both the federal government and the IIHS.
The Vue Hybrid comes in a single model, which is better equipped than the base Vue XE but doesn't include as much as the more upscale XR. Keyless entry, cruise control, automatic climate control, and a six-speaker sound system with XM Satellite Radio are all standard. Top options include a sunroof, six-disc changer, leather heated seats, and a package that brings conveniences like heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and heated windshield wiper nozzles.
Appearance-wise, the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid looks similar to the standard four-cylinder and V-6 versions of the Saturn Vue.
Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com approve of the general shape and profile of the Saturn Vue, with Cars.com reporting that the "Vue Hybrid features the same coupe-like sportiness as the regular model." MotherProof adds that the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid "is darn cute" and "more refined and curvy than the previous generation." However, reviewers aren't so impressed with the generous helping of "Hybrid" decals that have found their way onto the Saturn Vue Hybrid's exterior—MotherProof notes all of the "flashy details on the exterior" can be fun, but combined with the plethora of hybrid decals, "it's just too much." On the positive side, Kelley Blue Book feels that the Saturn Vue Hybrid's "bold styling and rich interior might represent key victories in the battle for the hearts and minds" of consumers, who thus far have favored models like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. In terms of actual styling elements, Kelley Blue Book raves 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."
The interior of the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid is a winner as well, and reviewers are unanimously impressed with the work done by the Saturn design team. Motor Trend reports that the "interior is handsomely designed," while Kelley Blue Book heaps praise on the "comfortable and attractive interior." The dashboard features a clean, intuitive layout, and Edmunds says that the "controls are simple and well marked." ConsumerGuide agrees, noting that "everything is well laid out and easy to see," especially the "large and clear" gauges.
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.
The compact crossover SUV segment has its fair share of high-quality, practical models. While the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid can compete in terms of interior quality, it suffers from a lack of space that some consumers might consider a deal-breaker.
The compact Saturn Vue Hybrid "seats five," according to Cars.com, and, "unlike some hybrids, this one sacrifices no passenger space compared to the non-hybrid version." That's a good thing too, since some reviews read by TheCarConnection.com point out the minimal interior space to begin with. Car and Driver says that the "interior room is cramped...compared with the class leaders such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4," but at least the seats prove comfortable. MotherProof appreciates that "the driver's seat [is] power-adjustable," and Kelley Blue Book points out that the Saturn Vue Hybrid's seats are "comfortable and a definite improvement compared with the previous model's." The second row scores fairly well with reviewers also, as Edmunds finds that "the comfy second-row seats recline and offer decent legroom."
Behind the second-row seats, you'll find a rather limited storage area inside the Saturn Vue 2009 Hybrid. Edmunds is quick to mention that there is "less cargo capacity than [in] some rivals," while Motor Trend adds that the "cargo hold [is] downright pinched due to the Vue's angled, but at least attractive rear styling." In terms of hard numbers, Car and Driver reports there is "29.2 cubic feet of luggage space behind the rear seats and 56.4 with the seats folded." The 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid does manage to redeem itself in terms of passenger-area storage, as MotherProof points out "storage pockets in the doors" that are "deep and wide enough to get stuff in and out without the help of a vacuum or bent hangers."
If there's one thing that American manufacturers have been criticized heavily for over the last few decades, it's interior quality. If you haven't spent much time inside a late-model domestic vehicle, then you might be surprised at the turn Saturn has taken—the Saturn Vue Hybrid now offers one of the nicer interiors of any vehicle in this class. MotherProof reviewers are "pleasantly surprised by its details," including the "lovely bone color" of the leather and plastic trim pieces that don't look "too glaring or cheap." Kelley Blue Book claims the 2009 Saturn Vue "boasts the most premium-like interior in the segment," and Car and Driver adds that "the interior is nicely appointed and in some ways better crafted than those of its Japanese rivals." Even the hard-to-please reviewers at ConsumerGuide contend that the "materials quality and assembly of models tested are arguably the best in the compact-SUV class."
ConsumerGuide reports that the Saturn Vue Hybrid offers a "quiet, smooth ride on all but the worst roads," while on the highway "wind noise is low even in crosswinds."
Every prospective car buyer cares about safety to some degree, but it's generally those consumers with kids who spend the most time flipping through the "Safety" section of a vehicle's brochure. Family buyers will undoubtedly be impressed by the Saturn Vue Hybrid's safety credentials, which rank among the highest in the industry.
The first thing people think of when they consider a vehicle's overall safety is its crash-test ratings. On the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid, those ratings are absolutely impeccable; the Saturn Vue Hybrid earns perfect scores in every crash-test category from both major agencies. NHTSA awards the Saturn Vue Hybrid a perfect five-star rating in both of its front impact tests, as well as both side impact tests. In IIHS testing, the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid earns the highest possible rating, "good," in both the frontal offset and side impact tests. Furthermore, the IIHS grants the Saturn Vue 2009 Hybrid its Top Safety Pick award for 2009, citing the Vue Hybrid's "good performance in front, side, and rear tests and standard electronic stability control."
As the IIHS report mentions, the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid does include standard electronic stability control, along with numerous other safety features. Cars.com notes that, "because it's also sold in Europe, the Vue has some unusual features for this price range, including active headrests (headrests that tilt forward during a rear collision) and break-away pedals." MotherProof is pleased to report that the Saturn Vue Hybrid also "comes with front- and side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags for both rows," as well as standard "traction control and antilock brakes." Because Saturn is a GM brand, the Saturn Vue 2009 Hybrid also comes standard with OnStar.
Automakers tend to pack all sorts of high-tech features into their hybrid models, but Saturn opts for a less opulent base package for the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid.
The 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid comes in just one trim, which TheCarConnection.com's editors note is better equipped than the base Saturn Vue XE but doesn't include as much as the more upscale XR. Some of the standard features on the Saturn Vue 2009 Hybrid include "remote keyless entry, a CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack, cruise control, [and] automatic climate control," according to Cars.com. Kelley Blue Book adds that "steering wheel-mounted audio controls," and full-power accessories are also included in the base price, as well as "auto on/off headlights." Edmunds reviewers are impressed with the "lengthy features list" on the 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid, which is rounded out with a standard "satellite radio" receiver.
Moving over to the options list, consumers will find quite a bit worth splurging on when outfitting their Saturn Vue Hybrid. Kelley Blue Book reviewers find that Saturn "offers at extra cost a DVD-based navigation system" and a "rear DVD entertainment system." Edmunds reports that other options available for the Saturn Vue 2009 Hybrid include a "Comfort & Convenience Package [that] adds rain-sensing wipers, heated mirrors and windshield washer nozzles, [an] eight-way power driver seat, [and] leather-wrapped steering wheel." An available Premium Trim Package on the Saturn Vue Hybrid refits the interior with leather upholstery and heated front seats.
- 2009 Ford Escape
- 2008 Mazda Tribute
- 2009 Mercury Mariner
- 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
- 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen
The 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid has a lower price than the Ford Escape Hybrid—and the Tribute Hybrid and Mariner Hybrid, which are all mechanically similar to the Ford. The Ford, Mazda, and Mercury, along with the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, all have a full hybrid system—meaning the system can propel the vehicle on electric power alone—and mileage is a bit better than that of the Vue in town. The Ford-designed hybrids and the Toyota each have available all-wheel drive, while the Saturn's system is only offered with front-wheel drive. The Jetta Sportwagen TDI is an intriguing alternative for those who do a lot of highway driving or have longer commutes; the clean-diesel engine shines on the highway, with real-world fuel economy well into the 40s, and the model is priced lower than any of these hybrids.