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