Full 2008 Saturn VUE Hybrid Review
What's New for 2008
The Green Line is the mild hybrid version of the completely redesigned 2008 Saturn Vue compact crossover SUV.
It shouldn't take a Nobel Prize in economics to realize that buying a hybrid to save money isn't always the wisest financial decision. Put simply, the price premium associated with all that high-tech gasoline-electric wizardry would take years to recoup with fuel savings alone. Federal tax credits aid some models, but the 2008 Saturn Vue Green Line has more going for it than just the generosity of Uncle Sam.
The Vue essentially shares the same unsophisticated, "mild" hybrid technology found in the Aura Green Line sedan and Malibu Hybrid. Compared to the systems found in the Ford Escape Hybrid or in Toyota's various vehicles, the Saturn electric motor provides very little assistance during acceleration and does not have enough juice to power the Vue by itself. Instead, the electric motor is mostly used to automatically restart the gas engine when it shuts down at a stop, which is where most of the fuel savings originates. However, while the related Aura Green Line sedan provides a meager 2 mpg advantage over the standard four-cylinder Aura, the Vue Green Line betters its gas-only edition by 6 mpg.
So the Vue Green Line is more fuel efficient than the regular Vue, but how does it do against its true competition? Well, the hybrid Vue is on average about 5 mpg more efficient than four-cylinder competitors like the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4. The Vue has a slightly higher base price, but when comparably equipped, the four cash out for about the same. But, with a $1,550 federal tax credit, it's technically cheaper. The Vue may not be a class leader (especially in terms of space), but this newly redesigned crossover still boasts solid road manners, a lengthy features list and a high-quality interior.
On the surface, the Ford Escape Hybrid (and its Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute siblings) would seem like a natural competitor, but with its "full" hybrid system and substantially better city fuel economy, it's a much different animal than the Saturn. The forthcoming Vue Green Line V6 two-mode hybrid will be more of a rival to the Escape, given its full hybrid system. Though it will certainly cost more, it should also be much better, considering its greater power output and the general superiority of the Vue over the Escape. It's unknown what its federal tax credit will be, so we'll have to wait and see how pricing will compare. If the environment is a primary concern, however, its better fuel economy and lower emissions rating will make it a better choice.
For now, though, the 2008 Saturn Vue Green Line makes a lot of sense. It gets significantly better gas mileage than its primary competitors and costs less when you consider tax credits, while still being an attractive, well-built compact crossover. It doesn't take a Nobel Prize in economics to view the Vue Green Line as a wise decision.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Saturn Vue Green Line is a compact crossover SUV available in one trim level that seats five people. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels; automatic headlights; keyless entry; cruise control; full power accessories; automatic climate control; steering wheel-mounted audio controls; OnStar and a six-speaker stereo with single-CD/MP3 player, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.
The Comfort & Convenience Package adds rain-sensing wipers, heated mirrors and windshield washer nozzles, eight-way power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and universal garage door opener. The Premium Trim Package adds leather upholstery, leather-wrapped shift knob and heated front seats.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Saturn Vue Green Line is principally powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 172 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. A small electric motor provides a little power assist during acceleration, though its primary role is to restart the engine after it automatically shuts off at a stop. Electricity is recouped by capturing energy normally lost during braking. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard, and the Green Line comes only with front-wheel drive.
Fuel economy estimates are 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, which are both 6 mpg better than the regular four-cylinder Vue FWD.
The Vue Green Line comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active front head restraints and OnStar. In government crash tests, the 2008 Saturn Vue Green Line achieved four out of five stars for driver protection in a frontal crash. It got five stars for front passenger protection. Side impact crash protection also resulted in a five-star rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Vue its highest rating of "Good" in its side and frontal-offset crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The generic low-grade plastic of the former Vue's interior has given way to a posh new appearance, with far nicer materials more typical of European cars. Controls are simple and well marked. An array of chrome-accented round shapes, from the gauges to the air vents to the climate controls, lends a sense of classic style to the cabin. Brushed-aluminum accents on the steering wheel, door panels, parking brake and shift knob further the upscale treatment.
Unlike many other hybrids, there are no prominent battery packs or other components that interfere with interior or cargo space. However, at 56 cubic feet, the Vue's maximum cargo capacity is still small compared to some rivals that offer nearly 20 more cubes. Front seat comfort is generally adequate, though some folks may find the seat cushions a bit short and the seats somewhat lacking in lumbar support. The comfy second-row seats recline and offer decent legroom.
Although it's the lightest Vue sold, don't expect particularly brisk acceleration from the 2.4-liter four-cylinder that still needs to lug about 3,800 pounds. Its weight may impede acceleration, but it does give the Vue a very buttoned-down feel -- it feels very much like the European-designed car it is. The ride is tuned on the soft side, but never feels floaty and soaks up bumps with assurance. Unlike the weighty steering feel of the Vue XR and Red Line, the Green Line's electric power-assist system feels looser and doesn't offer much feedback.