My Saturn Astra is my first car and I'm extremely happy with it. I like the European look and that the 3 door model isn't as popular as other cars in its class yet. I got an amazing deal on it because the dealership was cleaning out all the '08's. I saved about $7000 and got my windows tinted for half price. Other cars I was considering were Pontiac G5, Mazda 3, Honda Civic, Hyundai Accent and Ford Focus.
Handling. Fuel economy. Switchblade key. Standard rims. OnStar. Telescopic steering wheel and many seat adjustments. Winter driving mode. Auto lights and sensor wipers. Fog lights
In one weeek, I've put over 1,500 miles on my Astra XR 3-Door, and I've enjoyed every single one of them. I traded in a 2005 Saab 9-3 Sedan, and I like this car even better (and I loved my Saab). My car had 3,500 miles on it when I purchased, and though not perfect, it's very close. It's very solid, handles beautifully, feels quicker than the numbers say, and looks hot (esp. in Salsa Red)! The manual transmission and clutch work very well, the steering wheel controls are very useful and not THAT hard to figure out (they give you a book for 'em - read it!!), the seats are terrific on long trips, and the brakes are great! My 30 MPG combined average doesn't hurt either.
Overall solidity, heated leather seats with serious bolsters, steering wheel controls for the radio and trip computer, handling and braking. Also, the OnStar w/ turn-by-turn navigation works as well as my Garmin system. The Salsa Red Paint makes me look at it longingly when I'm not driving.
More power would be nice if it did not sacrifice fuel efficiency. Also, an aux or USB input for the stereo system and bluetooth capability would be great. While they're at it, another 12v power outlet would really be useful, as would "factory" XM radio. So would a temperature gauge.
I have been driving for 64 years and most of my cars have been manuals. I wanted a manual but the shifters were stiffer and less accurate than my previous manuals cars so I decided on an automatic and I haven't been disappointed. Another car that I still drive has a turbo which is very quick but my Astra gives me more than enough pickup for urban traffic.
I can't think of any extra feature that I would want that the Astra hatchback doesn't include, except convenient cup holders However I have never had a car with so many standard features.
The Astra is the second best selling car in Europe. Owner reviews on Edmunds and Yahoo are 95% favorable and gushing with favorable comments on this little gem. Yet, GM and Saturn hardly advertise it. Makes you wonder why our USA-based automotive companies have a problem selling cars. This car will blow Corolla, Civic and other imports out of the market if GM handles it right. Tweak it to get better mileage (28/36), add some engine options, add overdrive, add a auxiliary audio input port, etc. and it will sell (Build it and they will come....remember that GM?). I am from Detroit and want our Detroit-based auto companies to succeed big time. Listen to the consumer and build the Astra!
After only 2500 miles of driving - Exterior styling is great, love the overall cockpit design, handles like a BMW, great cargo space, the exterior fit is amazingly clean, the "snow" drive feature in the automatic, once you get used to the controls - they make sense, nice ride!
Overdrive for better fuel economy, Ipod port, sunscreen glass option, engines options (more HP), auto-stick option, make it compatible with OBDII scanners, add an engine temperature guage to the instruments, option for 12-hour clock setting.
Great handling, great mpg (30-32 in everyday driving). Good enough go, but get the manual transmission. Perfect for 2 people, 3 dogs, a week of luggage, and 2 bikes (hitch mount). The only cars that I considered in the same class were the Audi A3 and the VW GTI. The Astra (with the sport suspension) has it all except for the horsepower - all else is perfect, and at a great price! A good compromise of performance, fun, functionality, and economy.
Handling, economy, functionality, fun. sunroof, manual trans, and premium audio.