The Saturn Astra was a compact three or five-door hatchback available in the United States and Canada from 2008 to 2009.
Origins of the Astra
If you pay attention to the international market for cars, you'd notice that automakers will often rename models depending on the country the vehicle is sold in. And sometimes, companies go beyond the model name and instead leverage a vehicle produced by a wholly separate manufacturer, as is the case with the Saturn Astra. The roots of the Saturn Astra can be traced back to 1991 when the German automaker Opel released the first Opel Astra. It is a compact small family car that has been available across many different body styles over the last three decades and is now in its sixth generation of design. And for one short moment, the Opel Astra was shipped across the Atlantic and sold in the United States and Canada under the Saturn Opel name and badging. While the vehicle shares some of the compact, affordability seen in other Saturn models, its DNA is wholly German and developed, designed, and engineered by Opel. It was also released under the Holden name in Australia and New Zealand from 2009 to 2015, and as a Buick in China from 2009 to 2021.
Saturn Astra Introduction, Design, and Features
When the Saturn Astra was introduced to North America in 2008, it was based on the Astra H (A04) design that was first released in 2004. Saturn unveiled the new model at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show as the replacement model for the Saturn Ion. The exterior shape featured many rounded corners and body panels, with a sloped front end that had large headlights surrounding the thin grille with the Saturn emblem in the middle. The five door model was on the longer end of the spectrum for hatchback vehicles, offering a fairly decent back row seating area, while the three-door version still had a somewhat spacious rear. The C-pillar was quite large, leading to large blind spots. The Saturn Astra was available in the XE base level trim and an XR with more features. The five-door model could select between either, but the three-door models were limited to the higher-end XR trim. While the base featured basic steel wheels with plastic covers, the XR used 17-inch ten-spoke alloy wheels. Other available options included cruise control, power door locks, a 60/40 split rear seat for additional cargo flexibility, and a driver information center. Additional overhead sunglasses storage, courtesy lighting, and adjustable, sliding seats were also available. The XR trim could also add on the Premium Trim Package with leather seats and steering wheel, heated front seats, and interior LED lighting. A Sport Handling Package used enhanced, lowered suspension, improved steering, and StabiliTrak stability control system.
Engine and Sales
Under the hood sat a 2.8L U18XER inline-4 gasoline engine that produces 138 horsepower, paired to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Although it wasn't the most powerful engine on the market, the vehicle provided a fairly sporty driving experience that showcased German engineering's ability to blend drivability, fuel economy, and affordability into one practical package. Plus, this engine was the only engine in the Astra lineup that featured an automatic transmission option, something that driver's would easily go without in other markets, but not in the United States. Throw in the relatively decent interior space, and the Saturn Astra seemed to be a good fit for those in the hatchback market.
Saturn and its parent company, General Motors, had big plans for the Astra, expecting up to 40,000 units to fly off the shelves per year. But that proved to be a lofty goal that didn't met reality. Unfortunately, less than 20,000 units of the Saturn Astra were sold. In part, this was because of stiff competition against more powerful models like the Mazda 3 with 156 horsepower and the VW Rabbit with 170 horsepower. Additionally, the Saturn Ion inventory lingered, likely leading to better deals on the aging vehicle sitting in some dealership lots. As a result, Saturn ended the Astra agreement was ceased selling the model in North America after 2009. Shortly thereafter, GM discontinued the entire Saturn brand in 2010.