By James Bergeron

Photo Gallery:
2008 Saturn Astra

Day 1:

2008 Saturn Astra
Click Image to Enlarge

This week I am driving GM’s latest European import. Yes, you read that correctly: an import from a domestic company. The Saturn Astra, a.k.a. the Opel Astra in Europe, brought over by GM to become Saturn’s new entry level vehicle. You can tell it wasn’t fiddled with too much along the way.

This five-door hatchback starts at a reasonable $17,900 a price point at which it competes with the likes of the Volkswagen City Golf, Mazda3 Sport and Toyota Matrix.

2008 Saturn Astra
Click Image to Enlarge

The Astra comes with a nice list of standard equipment that you may not expect in this price range, such as: body-coloured door handles, mirrors and side mouldings and rain-sensing wipers (front and rear).

On the inside, some of the standard features include: cruise control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry, power windows with express down on all windows, and, sadly, only one front cupholder, but two in the rear.

All Astras are powered by a 1.8L DOHC in-line four cylinder Ecotec engine that produces 138hp and 125ft-lb of torque. Standard is a five-speed manual tranmssion, but my tester is equipped with a 4-speed automatic transmission. This is normally a $1350 standalone option but comes as part of the 1SB package in my tester for $3,415, which includes air conditioning, 16″ aluminum alloy wheels, and front heated seats.

Also added to my tester is Stabilitrak stability control system ($695) and a huge dual-panel power sunroof ($1295) that practically covers the entire roof of the car.

Basing your car-buying decision solely on the included goodies would have you about ready to head out to the Saturn dealer right about now — but we all know it is not just about the features, but how it drives as well.

2008 Saturn Astra
MSRP as tested (including destination): $24,645

For more information on Saturn and the Astra visit GM Canada

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