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.
This is not really a "Saturn". It's a European Opel with Saturn badges. I've needed O2 senors, breaks, tires, a fuel injection throttle body, a transmission flush, a new valve cover gasket(oil was leaking into the spark plug wells), belts, hoses, batteries (yes I said "batteries") and that's only the mechanical problems. While I still enjoy driving the vehicle, I should have stayed away from a brand that imported their vehicles from Belgium. I probably should have purchased a truly domestic vehicle with more miles because it would have been vastly more simple and cheaper to find parts. Oh, and there's an airbag recall to top it all off.
First I want to start off saying I love this car. In 2008 I got my first car straight off the ship from Belgium with 12 miles on her. Eight years she was reliable and mostly unique. No-one knew anything about this car. The lack of finding parts for it was a huge setback for me. It was made for one year. It had many features that you won't find on the road anywhere else. The acceleration was also tricky. Sometimes it would go other times it would take a minute to hiccup. When it went it went fast. The handling was insane. It would hug every corner so smooth. For eight years maintenance became easier as parts started coming around and being more accessible. The think you need to know. This was my first car. The only car I drove. On a frightfully raining morning last month my car went to the great garage in the sky. I want everyone on this forum to know this car saved my life. The side airbags were amazing. This car took on a full sized F150 and here I sit. The adjuster couldn't believe it and the tow truck driver couldn't believe it. I never had confidence in the safety because it was so small. Do hot under estimate this car. On the other side. Yesterday received a paper saying there's a recall on the airbags for not deploying. Deploying too hard. Or spewing metal fragments when deployed. Keep that in mind. The steering wheel airbag never deployed for me. It probably should have. I had five out of ten deploy. Do not overlooks this gem. It was and always will be my favorite. I miss it!
I bought the car in January 09. I have over 125k on the car. Overall its been a great car. Handling, braking are really good. Off the line it's ok, but get it on a back road and its a blast. Parts availability is ok, most parts store have most things in stock, but I usually order from rock auto and have them put on. They unfortunately haven't held there value, but that just means you can get a good deal on a used one. I would recommend this car to anyone in the market for a car.
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.