Current Object of Lust: Saturn Astra

Yeah, yeah, I'm a eurosnob. Sue me.



The Camry is getting on my nerves...it sure beats walking, and it gets great mileage on the highway, but I'd really like to get back into a hatchback stick with good steering. I've heard good things about the Mazda3, but I don't like their looks all that much.

The E30 has world-class steering, but it's only a coupe, it gets 20mpg on a good day, and it's loud and rides like a brick. And it's about as safe as a car designed in 1980 with 1st gen high-explosive Airbags can be (that is, not very)

The Astra's supposed to be a great car with the 5-speed--very tractable in city traffic, with excellent steering. There are plenty of negatives:

  • Visibility...it's a slave to fashion, so I don't know how well one can see out of it.

  • Size/practicality. Two kids (probably 3 by the time I can buy one of these puppies), and one of them will be sitting behind me.

  • Safety. Safer than the E30, I'd wager, and Euro standards are pretty tough, especially in real-world situations like offset crashes. Still...small car amid the oceans of SUVs...

  • It has a timing belt. WTF?! I'm cursed by cars with timing belts--the Camry, E30, and Odyssey all have 'em.

  • The price is not right. They're built in Beligium, so the Euro/Dollar exchange rate is inflating the price...One could have a bare-bones MINI for $18k, though I don't like the R56 MINIs at all. Plus, since it's a Saturn, it's a no-dicker situation.

  • Rarity. Sales targets are 30k/year, which is a drop in the bucket for the volume cars in the segment, and the majority of those will likely be autos. Upshot: Finding a used one in 3-5 years might be hard.

  • El-monstroso wheel & tire package. 16" standard with 17" or 18" optional. Say hello to $200/tire for replacements.



It's a pretty little car that's turned my head. It seems like it could hustle, get good MPG, and get the fam around town without resorting to the Exxon Vadez...er...the Odyssey (14 mpg at last fillup).

And it's European!!!

When I get like this, I typically go test drive the thing and it snaps me out of it. . .reality rarely matches fantasy. Thing is, I haven't test-driven a NEW car in so long, I might just get the itch worse. :-)

Oh well, we'll see...

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