2008 Saturn Astra – Click above for high-res image gallery Enthusiasts here in the States have long wondered why they couldn't buy Ford and GM small cars from Europe, and at least part of the answer has been that Americans don't want to pay big bucks for premium small cars. Spiking gasoline prices have quelled that argument, and fuel economy is now towards the top of shoppers' lists when looking for a new car or truck. While Ford is still more than a year away from bringing over the Euro Focus and Fiesta, GM has made the cross-Atlantic jump by importing the Opel Astra to our shores. The Astra is a hot-selling hatch in Europe with high-end amenities and very good fuel economy, and the model is shipping to the U.S. differentiated from its Euro twin by some Saturn logos and little else. We were itching to get our hands on an Astra to see if it were as good as advertised, and our tester came equipped with everything Saturn could throw at the vehicle. Hit the jump to see how the 2009 Saturn Astra fared in the Autoblog Garage. %Gallery-19951% All photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc. Our Salsa Red five-door Saturn Astra XR came equipped with 17-inch wheels, leather seating surfaces and an enormous dual-panel sunroof that brought the price tag to $21,955. Features like ABS and traction control, keyless entry, cruise control and moisture sensitive automatic wipers are sometimes optional in midsize offerings, but you get those features standard in the Astra. Building cars in Europe and shipping them across 3,000 miles of ocean isn't cheap, and GM wants to make sure nobody mistakes the Astra for an economy commuter. By virtue of its rear hatch and athletic stance, the Astra looks the part of a Euro small car. Large, five-spoke wheels and rich-looking finish give onlookers the impression that the Astra is no run-of-the-mill econobox. During our time behind the wheel of the Astra, people took notice -- young people especially. At one point I was stopped at a red light when I got the distinct impression that someone was staring at me. I looked to the right and saw three young ladies in a beat-up Pontiac Grand Am looking my way. Just as I grinned and thought, "Still got it!" it became obvious that their attention was fixed on the car. How many Saturns in the past five years have elicited that type of response from teenagers? On the inside, the Astra XR is far better than any small car that GM has created in its 100-year history, at least in the U.S. Soft-touch materials; comfortable, supportive leather seats; and a terrific little steering wheel that feels like it belongs in something more expensive made us want to be inside the sporty little Astra for more than just running errands. Our favorite option was by far the monstrous panoramic moonroof that looks like it belongs in a Cadillac or Mercedes, not a …
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|MPG||24 City / 32 Hwy|
|Transmission||5-spd man w/OD|
|Power||138 @ 6300 rpm|
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