General Motors tried to keep the Saturn brand alive and introduced the Astra on the North American continent in January 2008, but that was not enough.
Developed mainly for the European continent, the Astra was a nameplate used by Opel and Vauxhall. It was available in a few shapes. On the other hand, Saturn took only the three- and the five-door version for the U.S. market. The latter was also featured in the Transformers movie series, but that couldn't help the young brand survive the economic crisis.
In Europe, the Astra was already on the market since 2004, but it took GM some time to unveil it at the NAIAS 2008. The American version came with a simpler design, featuring fewer aerodynamic sculptures on the front bumper. Yet, the V-shaped front bumper and apron were kept, along with the side-scoops for the foglamps. Moreover, a Saturn-specific chromed slat adorned the grille.
Inside, apart from the steering wheel and the badge, everything was carried over from the European Astra. Fortunately, that came with the zero-gravity seats that customers appreciated on longer trips. But the car provided everything a regular driver needed, such as power windows and locks, AC, and a decent stereo. Moreover, an infotainment system was available as an option. However, it wasn't as performant as the one installed on its European sibling.
Under the hood, GM installed a 1.8-liter gasoline engine that provided a healthy 140 ponies, which were just enough to move a family around a city.
General Motors tried to save the Saturn brand and took the European Opel/Vauxhall Astra, brought it to the U.S. and rebadged it.
The world economic crisis was already on, and the carmaker knew that it had to sell more cars, with a lower price and a higher profit. To do that, it needed a new model, which was already developed. And it needed it fast. From its tall building from the dying Detroit, the GM executives looked over the Atlantic and spotted a successful, compact-sized vehicle: the Astra. The rest is history, including the Saturn brand.
The Saturn Astra sported a specific grille, and that was the only chance for the badge-engineered car. It was available with three or five-door bodywork. The sportier version came with a very raked windshield and a sloped back that made the car look like a coupe rather than a hatchback. The narrowed rear triangular windows and the big tailgate transformed the otherwise dull Astra into an eye-catcher for the Europeans, but the Americans were not that impressed.
The interior sported a rounded instrument cluster with red needles and lettering for the dials. A pair of sport bucket seats were fitted as standard for the front passengers. There was a good amount of space for two adults in the back, but the center tunnel was too tall to fit three passengers in there. Thanks to its 60/40 split-folding seatback, the Astra offered plenty of trunk space and, even with the seats up, it provided decent storage space.
Saturn offered the Astra with only one engine option to simplify the manufacturing process and cut costs. GM paired the 1.8-liter Ecotec engine with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.