Saturn's new small car, a version of the well-regarded Opel Astra, should be hitting the shores of North American sometime a bit beyond the middle of 2007. This will replace the not-so-well-regarded Ion, which is now scheduled to be produced through March of 2007 - three months longer than originally announced.

The name for Saturn's new compact has not yet been decided, but it may carry over the Ion name, or it may simply use the Astra nameplate. Either way, customers can expect to get the full-on European experience, as the vehicle is expected to arrive from Europe largely unmolested by the same sort of American twiddling that has doomed similar efforts in the past.

In 2008, production is expected to move to a stateside facility - most likely GM's Lordstown plant, where the Cobalt and G5 are produced. This may provide an opportunity for some of the Astra's DNA to improve the existing Delta platform compacts, and we'd be quite pleased if a few of those supercharged Ecotecs were to find their way under the Astra's hood as part of Saturn's Red Line high-performance lineup.

[Source: Detroit Free Press; Nashville Business Journal]