Compact car; Built in Belgium
  • 2-door hatchback
  • 4-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $8,000 – $10,000*

2008 Saturn Astra Front

2008 Saturn Astra Rear

2008 Saturn Astra Interior

2008 Saturn Astra Profile

  • Fuel economy
  • Handling
  • Instruments/controls
  • Rear-seat room, entry/exit (2-door)
  • Ride (w/Sport suspension)

Astra’s array of standard features and safety equipment, affordable base new-car price, and fresh exterior styling, made it a must-see for compact car shoppers. More stylish and refined than a Dodge Caliber, the Astra promises similar utility. If you can get past quirks like a confounding audio system interface and a sometimes noisy, stiff ride, Astra has the potential to impress those looking for a European-flavored take on compact utility-especially the four-door model.


Introduced for 2008, the Saturn Astra replaced the Ion as this GM division’s new entry-level car. Markedly different from prior Saturn models, the compact front-drive 2008 Astra hatchback shared its basic design with the Opel Astra built by General Motors’ European subsidiary. The base XE came only as a four-door; the top-line XR came as a four-door and a two-door. All used a 140-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. A sport suspension and 17-inch wheels were standard on the XR two-door and optional for the XR four-door.

Standard safety features included curtain side airbags, front side airbags, and antilock brakes. An antiskid system and traction control were optional. Also available was OnStar assistance and, for four-door models, a two-panel sunroof that Saturn claimed was the largest in its class. Available features also included leather upholstery and heated front seats. Astra rivals included the Dodge Caliber, Honda Civic, Mazda 3, and Volkswagen Rabbit. Note that the Astra had conventional steel body panels, not the dent-resistant plastic panels that were once a Saturn hallmark.

Yearly Updates

2009 Astra
No major changes were evident on the 2009 Astra, except for the crucial fact that it would be sold only in Canada.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

All Saturn Astras have the same engine: A 1.8-liter four-cylinder producing 140 horsepower, driving either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Every Astra has front-wheel drive.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches)1.8/110
Engine HP140
Engine Torque (lb-ft)126
Avail. Trans.EPA MPG (city/hwy)MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

Acceleration is acceptable. Astra feels slightly sluggish from a stop but has adequate power once underway. Both manual and automatic versions deliver more than adequate power around town. The automatic’s timely downshifts furnish more power when needed. A fuel-saving feature has the automatic transmission shifting into Neutral at stops. That feature works as advertised, without driver intervention, but it causes the car to shudder perceptibly when the driver’s foot is lifted from the brake pedal. Manual-transmission versions suffer from sloppy shift action.

Fuel economy is a plus. Test automatic-transmission models have averaged 27.0 to 28.0 mpg. Astra uses regular-grade gasoline.

Coupes have a sport suspension, which makes for a firm ride on nearly all types of pavement. That same suspension has been optional for XR four doors. Base-suspension versions are more composed and feel more stable.

Handling is a strong point. Base-suspension models offer better than average overall control. Steering on all models is direct and nicely weighted. Sport-suspension models are more responsive, with less lean in corners. Braking is strong and smooth.

Astra’s engine is nearly silent at idle but it roars during brisk acceleration and hill climbs. Road and tire noise are average for the class. Wind noise from around the mirrors also is noticeable. Astra’s available two-panel sunroof produces a conversation-hampering wind rush when open.

Climate controls are large, well laid out, and easy to use. The non-traditional GM radio and vehicle information interface was plucked straight out of the European-market Opel Astra. That’s no surprise, but it can be confusing and not very intuitive. Many radio functions are controlled and viewed through Astra’s on-board computer and center information screen. The dashboard-mounted screen is controlled with large, cryptically labeled buttons and a large center dial for scrolling. Other oddities include a tricky cruise control switch, a power door lock switch near the information screen rather than on the doors, and a remote entry key fob that uses hash marks instead of traditional lock/unlock icons.

Astra’s interior is pleasant overall, if a bit bland. The clean-looking cabin is built with a blend of soft-touch surfaces and hard plastic. Metallic-looking trim breaks up the otherwise lackluster color scheme. Optional leather seats are accented by detail stitching that imparts a high-quality ambiance. Cloth seats feature a subtle, sporty-looking pattern.

Front seats provide good headroom for average-size adults in both body styles, but taller folks will want more head clearance, particularly in versions equipped with the dual sunroof. Seats are comfortable, supportive, and well bolstered, though larger occupants might wish they were wider. Astra’s standard tilt/telescopic steering wheel is a convenient feature not often found at this price level. Good rear visibility is helped by large rear and side windows, though lack of a console armrest is a significant demerit. Astra’s front occupants will have to share its one cupholder, which is awkwardly located behind the emergency brake. On the other hand, front door pockets have space to accommodate small beverages.

Four-door models offer adequate room in the back seat for average-size adults, though small, rather narrow rear doors somewhat hinder entry and exit. Two-door models are tighter in back, and though front seats move forward easily for access to the coupe’s rear seat, a twist-and-shuffle movement is the only way in.

A decent-sized rear cargo area came standard with a removable cover. Rear 60/40 split seats fold with ease, but not quite flat. Rear cupholders are awkwardly placed, jutting out of the bottom of the back seat’s center cushion. Aside from its wide, deep glovebox, Astra lacks any other significant small-item storage space. There is no center console, and the door pockets are small.


Model Tested: 2008 Saturn Astra XR 2-door w/automatic

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 7
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 5


Controls/Materials - 4
Room/Comfort Front - 6
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
Cargo Room - 5


Value - 6

Total: 50


2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.)Length (in.)Width (in.)Height (in.)Weight (lbs)
Cargo Volume (cu/ft)Payload Capacity (cu/ft)Fuel Capacity (gal.)Seating Capacity
4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.)Length (in.)Width (in.)Height (in.)Weight (lbs)
Cargo Volume (cu/ft)Payload Capacity (cu/ft)Fuel Capacity (gal.)Seating Capacity
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A Not tested. 2-door hatchback


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)


Trouble Spots

Transmission leak
Description: Transmission fluid may leak past the channel plate cover gasket on Hydra-Matic 4T65-E transmissions. (2008-09)
Transmission problems
Description: Warning lamp and stored trouble codes for a transmission problem require replacement of the transmission valve body on an Aisin transmission. (2008-09)
Fueling problems
Description: A campaign was conducted to replace the fuel tank filler pipe and fuel cap. (2008)

Recall History

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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