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The Saturn Astra is a three- or five-door compact hatchback car that seats five passengers. The Saturn Astra is manufactured in Antwerp, Belgium. Main competition to the Astra include the Mazda MAZDA3 and Dodge Caliber. For 2008 Saturn has brought in the all-new 2008 Saturn Astra. This car replaces the less loved Saturn Ion. The Saturn Astra is actually an import coming from GM’s Opel brand out of Belgium. There will be only a few changes for this popular European model that has been on sale since 2004.

This compact front-wheel drive car will be available with two hatchback body styles – the three-door and the five-door. The five door comes in the XE or sporty XR trim. The three door style is available in the XR only. On the Astra XE comes standard 16 inch steel wheels, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, trip computer, full power accessories, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Many of these extras can be added in to the XE for an additional cost.

The three door Saturn Astra XR, although similar to the five-door has some slight differences. It comes with 17 inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, a quicker steering ratio and sport front seats. All of these are optional for the five door XR. The options for the XR can add in leather seats, front seat heaters, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a trim package and a premium audio system. An option for both five door trims is a large sunroof. The 18 inch wheels with high performance tires are offered for the two-door Astra XR only.

At this time both models come with a 1.8 L four cylinder engine offering 140 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. Standard for this vehicle is a five-speed manual transmission with a four-speed automatic is optional. The Astra, with a manual transmission has the power to go from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds.

The Saturn Astra rates well for fuel economy. The EPA ratings for this car when paired with a manual transmission are 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg for the highway. The Astra with an automatic transmission has the rating of 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

The interior of this small car is well done. It offers a sporty yet comfortable seating. The black and chrome finish gives the vehicle a snappy contemporary feel. Both body styles offer a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat. With the five-door variation, when the rear seats are folded offers close to 45 cubic feet of space. In the three-door model, the sloping rear area restricts the cargo capacity.

Safety features on the Saturn Astra are full loaded including stability control, anti-lock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags, special head restraints with whiplash-reducing action and the ever popular OnStar communications system.

Overall, the 2008 Saturn Astra is a lot of car for a vehicle that prices out around $16,000. It has a strut-type of suspension but a built in design to reduce noise and vibration. The rear is a semi-independent, axle-beam design. It doesn’t have the most powerful engine on the market but with the suspension, electro-hydraulic rack and pinion steering, this little car corners and moves with great agility making it one of the most fun to drive.