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A well-thought-out and capable mini sport-ute, the Vue enters a crowded field of equally competent rivals.
Car-like handling, extensive choice of drivetrains, spacious cabin.
Bland interior, noisy four-cylinder.
The Vue is an all-new sport-utility vehicle in Saturn's lineup, designed to compete on the lower end of the scale with models like the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V.
With mini-SUVs flying off lots all over the country, Saturn figured it was high time that it expanded beyond its small car roots and added an all-new mini ute to the lineup. The Vue may be Saturn's first SUV, but it's packed with plenty of innovative features as well as a broad range of engines and transmissions.
Starting at just under $17,000, the base model Vue is one of the cheapest mini-utes on the market. For that price, you get a 2.2-liter four-cylinder rated at 143 horsepower and 152 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission sends power to the front wheels only, but traction control is an available option. For a little extra money, four-cylinder Vues can also be equipped with a CVT, or Continuously Variable Transmission. The first ever in an SUV, the Vue's CVT provides the shiftless ease of an automatic with the higher mileage of a manual.
Choosing the CVT also gives buyers the option of all-wheel drive. The system is completely automatic and requires no driver input. Power is sent through the front wheels under normal conditions, but if slippage is detected, the rear wheels engage until traction is regained.
For the ultimate in power and capability, the Vue also offers a more powerful 3.0-liter V6. Rated at 181 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, this engine gives the Vue serious get-up-and-go. The only transmission available with this powerplant is an all-new five-speed automatic -- another first in a mini-SUV. All-wheel drive also comes standard on all V6 models.
Knowing full well that the Vue would remain almost exclusively on the pavement, Saturn engineers gave the Vue a fully independent suspension that delivers car-like performance. The overall feel on moderately twisty roads is pleasantly firm, with plenty of roll control in the corners. A new electrically powered steering system, the first ever in an SUV, provides variable effort steering along with less drain on the engine than conventional systems. The low effort at parking speeds is helpful, but road feel at higher speeds suffers.
The interior of the Vue isn't the most stylish on the market, but in terms of functionality and ease of use, it's hard to fault. Passenger room is excellent, and a low step-in height makes getting in and out easy. A foldable front passenger seat allows for carrying extra-long cargo, while folding down the rear seats makes for 63.5 cubic feet of cargo space. All models except the base four-cylinder include power windows, lock and mirrors, while features like an in-dash CD stereo, power sunroof, and the OnStar communication system remain on the options list.
Safety has always been a priority on Saturn vehicles, and the Vue is no exception. A head curtain airbag system is optional on all models, protecting both front and rear passengers in side impact collisions. Driver and front passenger airbags are standard along with three-point seatbelts for all seating positions and LATCH child safety seat provisions. ABS brakes are available on all models.
The Vue's combination of unique drivetrain options, a roomy and functional interior and a strong commitment to safety make it stand out in the already crowded mini-SUV segment. Add to that the consistently high sales satisfaction scores that Saturn dealers typically receive, and it's easy to see why the Vue is a solid contender in just its first year on the market.
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