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.
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.
After 2.5 years I still really love this car. Too bad they are no longer available here in the US. If Saturn had sold more cars like this they would still be around. Get comments from people asking what car that is, they love styling. Very firm fun car to drive. I live in Colorado and is great in snow. Have had no problems what so ever with vehicle. Dashboard controls a little hard to figure out as they are European based but not an major issue. A lot of car for the money I think.