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The Saturn Astra Was the Coolest Saturn Ever

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2016

When you think of Saturn, you probably don't think "cool." Actually, when you think of Saturn, you probably think about the planet (the one with all those rings) and not the car company, which is fading from our memories like "Rugrats." But Saturn (the car company) did have some high points -- like the Astra.

The Saturn Astra was the one lone bit of cool that came out of Saturn: the one single model that made us think, "Maybe they've got it! Maybe they've finally got it!" And we were hopeful, and optimistic, and eager -- and then, the next year, the brand closed down for good and ceased all production.

Now, I'm in a unique position to describe the Astra because I worked as a Saturn salesman back when they were on sale in 2008, along with the Sky, and the Outlook, and the Aura, and whatever Relay minivans we had left over. And I remember two particular things about the Astra: No. 1, people came in and had no idea that the Astra existed or what the Astra was (and really they just wanted to use our bathroom), and No. 2, people came in, looked at the Astra, sensed the desperation in our voices and asked if we could give them $5,000 off the sticker price (usually, we did).

I also remember that the Astra was never offered with a sunroof. This was perplexing, and we never heard any reason for it -- they just didn't have sunroofs. After a few customer requests, we had a sunroof company come and install a sunroof in an Astra we had for sale. It then sat on our lot for months, unsold, until finally someone bought it with a $5,000 discount.

So I'm not painting a very flattering picture of the Saturn Astra here, but it's worth noting that it's actually a pretty cool little hatchback. The main reason for this is that it was basically a Saturn-badged version of the European-market Opel Astra, and it handled like the European car that it was. You think the Golf handles well for a compact car? You should've seen the Astra. Back when it came out in 2008, it was the Porsche 918 Spyder, with the Weissach package, of the compact-car world.

Unfortunately, the Astra came out at the wrong time -- at the bitter end of the Saturn brand, and right before the recession -- so it was canceled after just one model year (2008) with only a few thousand units sold. Just as unfortunately, the Astra (which you could get in 2- or 4-door hatchback form) was offered with only one rather meek engine: a 138-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder.

But the handling! The uniqueness! The Euro credibility!

If this appeals to you, you're in luck: There are a few Astras left in the world, including more than 100 on Autotrader, with an average price of just $6,400. It's a great choice if you want to be different, or if you want to zip around in an unusual, handsome, fun-to-drive car. It's a bad choice, though, if you want a sunroof.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Saturn Astra Was the Coolest Saturn Ever - Autotrader