2008 Saturn Astra Hatchback Review | Edmunds.com

2008 Saturn Astra Hatchback

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Saturn Astra Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 1.8 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 138 hp @ 6300 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 24/32 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2008 Saturn Astra

  • It's the best small Saturn in years, but the 2008 Astra doesn't set any new benchmarks for the small sedan or hatchback segment.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Upscale interior design, two-door model's sharp exterior styling, sporty handling.

  • Cons

    No sedan version available, missing some increasingly common upscale convenience features.

  • What's New for 2008

    The 2008 Saturn Astra is an all-new model. It replaces the Ion in Saturn's small-car lineup.

Full 2008 Saturn Astra Review

What's New for 2008

The 2008 Saturn Astra is an all-new model. It replaces the Ion in Saturn's small-car lineup.


Saturn's new tagline is "Rethink American." The idea is to convince shoppers normally set on buying imports to take a second look at Saturn's vehicles. To that end, the brand has completely revitalized its lineup in the past two years. For this year, a key addition is the all-new 2008 Saturn Astra. The Astra replaces the Ion, an unloved small sedan and coupe that, if nothing else, confirmed parent company General Motors' inability to build a really good small car. Unlike the U.S.-built Ion, the Astra is an import, coming directly from the factory in Belgium via GM's German-based Opel brand. (Suggested new tagline: Rethink Belgian.) The Astra has been a very popular nameplate for Opel (and its British sister, Vauxhall) in Europe, and the current-generation model, which has been on sale since 2004, is the car Saturn will be getting with only minimal changes.

There are two hatchback body styles, a four-door and a sharper-looking two-door. Compared to a Mazda 3 hatchback, one of the more established models in the small car segment, the four-door Astra is about 6 inches shorter. There's only one engine available for now, a 1.8-liter four-cylinder making 140 horsepower. (It's likely that Saturn will debut a more powerful Red Line version in the next year or two.) Thanks to its European heritage, the stylish Astra has a considerably better-looking and constructed interior than the Ion's, and its handling, particularly the two-door's, is better than what many other small cars are able to provide.

The new 2008 Saturn Astra is certainly a welcome addition to Saturn's lineup. It's a potentially compelling choice for a small hatchback or coupe, especially for those shoppers smitten by its sporty exterior styling. In terms of overall driving dynamics and interior design, we expect the Astra to match up well to top models like the Mazda 3, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Rabbit. It might not end up being the best in its class, but the new Astra just might make you rethink American…or Belgian.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2008 Saturn Astra is a compact car offered as a two-door or four-door hatchback. The four-door comes in a base XE or sportier XR trim level, while the two-door is XR only. The Astra XE comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, a CD player, a trip computer, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and full power accessories. The XR adds alloy wheels, air-conditioning, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, air-conditioning and an upgraded audio system. Most of these features can be added to the XE as options.

The two-door Astra XR is similar to the four-door but also comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, sport front seats, a sport-tuned suspension and a quicker steering ratio. These performance upgrades are optional for the four-door XR. Major options for the Astra XR include a premium audio system and a premium trim package (late availability) that adds leather seating, front seat heaters and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. A large sunroof is an option for both four-door trims, and 18-inch wheels with high-performance tires are offered for the two-door XR only.

Powertrains and Performance

The front-wheel-drive Astra comes with a 1.8-liter engine that produces 140 hp and 126 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. With the manual, the two-door Astra will go from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds. Fuel economy is 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway for manual-transmission models and 24/30 with the automatic.


Standard safety features include stability control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags, whiplash-reducing front head restraints and the OnStar communications system.

Interior Design and Special Features

The cabin is the Astra's strongest point, with the slam of the driver door alone feeling more substantial than that of some midrange Mercedes models. Like much of the car, Opel clearly had Volkswagen in its sights when it designed the Astra's interior, as the overall design is very reminiscent of the last-generation Golf/Jetta. The audio controls on the steering wheel and the combination of soft-touch materials, piano-black finishes and chrome-ringed dials give the cockpit a more upscale ambiance than almost all other economy cars -- much like the Volkswagen Rabbit. The only minor letdown is that the secondary controls are awkwardly placed and strangely labeled with acronyms and logos unknown on this side of the Atlantic. In fact, looking at the dashboard for the first time is like watching a foreign film without subtitles -- you'll understand what's going on eventually, but it'll take a few viewings. Also, unlike most other GM vehicles, the Astra is missing satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.

Both body styles have a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, and the five-door has nearly 45 cubic feet of space with its rear seats down. However, the three-door's aggressively sloping rear quarters restrict cargo capacity and rearward visibility.

Driving Impressions

Compared to most economy hatchbacks, the 2008 Saturn Astra is pretty fun to drive -- particularly the two-door -- thanks to its European-influenced suspension tuning. In our instrumented testing, the Astra performed superbly, matching the handling and grip numbers achieved by more performance-oriented nameplates. Its growling four-cylinder may not produce the quickest car out there, but what the Astra lacks in straight-line go, it supplants with twisty-road fun. The car's European feel also extends to the taut steering, which provides plenty of feedback and quick action. In other words, forget everything you ever learned or assumed about Saturn.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

2008 saturn astra

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Vehicle: 2008 Saturn Astra XE 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)

I purchased a Saturn Astra in July 2008 because it was 0% financing and we needed a small car for commuting. The sunroof and heated seats were an unexpected bonus for the price. We had the car 1 month when the transmission created a problem and needed to be replaced. I told the dealer that this was unacceptable and I wanted a new car. Without arguement they said ok. I said my wife hated the red and would like a blue one. They said ok. In all my life I have never had a more positive consumer experience. We have had this car for 6 years and never had any mechanical issues. It has 150,000 kilometers and we have not even replaced the brake pads or mufflers. Great car.

100k mile test astra xe

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Vehicle: 2008 Saturn Astra XE 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)

Price new: $13,500 - bought winter 08 when the economony blew up and GM was giving cars away. The car was made in Belgium, with German parts and an Aisin (Japanese) transmission. So unlike other Saturn/Opels the car thankfully wasn't Americanized with things like overly spongy suspensions. So the car is manuverable and a blast to toss around. I think its still arguably the best looking subcompact on the market. Its really the best affordable European car on the market still today. Really if you can get this car at about 75K miles and about $6-7K I would highly recommend it.

4 of 12 people found this review helpful

So many issues with this

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Vehicle: 2008 Saturn Astra XE 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)

I purchased a 2008 saturn astra for the price of $26,000 plus warranty total for $31,000 and I have never in my life regreted something so much my first week with my car It had to have a major part replaced and i have had nothing but issues yet. all dealers close shortly after purchasing my car as i had purchased extras from that dealer they were void as they has closed down.I have never had such regret in my life there are a number of these cars around and I have had others have the same issues .When trying to purchase parts for my car they are nearly always unavailble and then i have to wait for 3-4 days if lucky If i could turn back time i would not buy this car it was not worth the $

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Love my astra

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Vehicle: 2008 Saturn Astra XR 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)

After 2.5 years I still really love this car. Too bad they are no longer available here in the US. If Saturn had sold more cars like this they would still be around. Get comments from people asking what car that is, they love styling. Very firm fun car to drive. I live in Colorado and is great in snow. Have had no problems what so ever with vehicle. Dashboard controls a little hard to figure out as they are European based but not an major issue. A lot of car for the money I think.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

Unknown gem

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Vehicle: 2008 Saturn Astra XR 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)

I was looking for an affordable well designed, well made, sophisticated, fun-to-drive SMALL car that got over 30mpg and didn't feel like a Fisher Price toy inside. Amazing how rare that was a couple of years ago. It has mostly fulfilled that expectation. (too bad Saturn went out of business 2 months after I bought it). Every drive feels like an event. This is as much about the overall quality of the interior (design, precise assembly & materials: I have leather), well weighted controls, beautifully damped ride and refinement of response than outright power. Actually the car has plenty of power, it just lacks torque below 1500 rpm, so it feels a bit dead until you learn to drive around that.


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Vehicle: 2008 Saturn Astra XR 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)

I originally reviewed this car in Jan., a week after purchase. With now over 16k miles on it, I am very pleased with my purchase. I get 30 mpg (city/hwy mix) consistently. I never really get fatigued in the drivers seat. The tight handling has saved my rear end more than once around crazy city drivers. I only wish it had another gear and another 20-30 horsepower. I have had a few minor issues that the dealer has fixed under warranty, but no deal breakers.

Talk About The 2008 Astra

2008 Saturn Astra Discussions See all Started By



I gave my white manual shift XE hatchback (see #4 “unexpectedly purchased an Astra” by pafromfl Jul 30, 2008 7:29 pm) to my daughter and traded in her 2005 Sentra Special Edition aut...

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Gas Mileage


  • 24
  • cty
  • 32
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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