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Before Saturn was forced to fold its tent in the aftermath of GM's 2009 bankruptcy ordeal, one of its more interesting offerings was the second-generation Saturn Vue Hybrid. This compact crossover SUV wasn't much of a hybrid in terms of the technology used. Its wimpy electric motor could only power the vehicle up to speeds of about 3 mph, which is about human walking speed (a Toyota hybrid can typically achieve 30 mph on electricity alone). The Vue's electric motor was primarily used to restart the gas engine after it automatically shut down at a stop. In a world of Priuses and then-future Chevy Volts, this was dinosaur stuff.
Nonetheless, the Vue Hybrid got better gas mileage than its primary non-hybrid competitors (not to mention the regular four-cylinder Vue), and it cost less as well, thanks to Uncle Sam's tax credits on hybrid vehicles. Note that this praise is directed solely toward the second-generation Vue Hybrid, as the first-generation Vue Green Line (made only for 2007) was based on an aging design and was saddled with a crummy interior and forgettable driving dynamics.
Given Saturn's demise and the mechanical complexity of hybrid vehicles, we would advise staying away from used examples of even the second-generation the Vue Hybrid. It was a worthwhile vehicle in its day, but there are better ways to assuage your environmental conscience.
Most Recent Saturn Vue Hybrid
The Saturn Vue Hybrid (formerly known as the Saturn Vue Green Line) was a five-passenger compact crossover SUV produced from 2008-'09. It was primarily powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that produced 172 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic was mandatory, and the Vue Hybrid was available only with front-wheel drive. A small electric motor provided a trickle of power assist during acceleration, but its chief duty was to restart the engine after it automatically shut down when stopped to conserve fuel. Through a process known as regenerative braking, electricity was recouped by capturing energy normally lost during braking.
As for the hybrid raison d'etre, the Vue Hybrid's EPA estimated fuel economy was 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. That amounted to a 6-mpg improvement over the non-hybrid four-cylinder Vue, while inexplicably also being more fuel-efficient than the lighter, more aerodynamic Saturn Aura Hybrid.
There was only one trim level available on the Saturn Vue Hybrid. Standard equipment included 17-inch wheels, keyless entry, cruise control, automatic climate control, OnStar and a six-speaker stereo with a single-CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. A host of optional goodies could be added including rain-sensing wipers, heated mirrors and windshield-washer nozzles, a power driver seat, leather upholstery and heated seats.
Other than the powertrain and a few badges, the Vue Hybrid was virtually indistinguishable from the regular Vue. It featured the same taut European-tuned ride and handling, which gave this crossover a sure-footed feel around town. Still, we didn't note particularly brisk acceleration. The interior was a vast improvement over the preceding model, with materials and build quality more in line with a Volkswagen than the cheap plastic that plagued earlier Saturns. Unlike the bizarre hieroglyphs on display in the Opel-designed Saturn Astra, the Vue thankfully featured GM's user-friendly stereo and climate controls.
Past Saturn Vue Hybrid Models
The first-generation Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid was built for only one model year in 2007. This compact crossover was based on the original Saturn Vue introduced at the beginning of the decade. This model was characterized by its blocky styling, dent-resistant plastic body panels, cheap interior construction and sloppy steering. It was somewhat practical, however, with a sizable backseat and more cargo space than the current model.
This Saturn Vue Green Line featured a mild hybrid powertrain that was similar to that in the second-generation car, with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produced 170 hp and 160 lb-ft of torque. A four-speed automatic and front-wheel drive were standard. EPA-estimated fuel economy (using 2008 standards) was 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. Given this generation's inferior fuel economy and the mediocrity of the crossover upon which it's based, we'd steer clear.