2008 Saturn Vue Green Line
2008 Saturn Vue Green Line. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2008 Saturn Vue

Ottawa, Ontario – Normally, a vehicle like the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid isn’t the kind of vehicle to give car enthusiasts heart palpitations. But there I was, a car nut actually looking forward to driving this little truck, if only to see if it would satisfy my cheap streak (I love everything about cars except having to put gas in the tank).

By the end of my time with the Vue Green Line, the car’s fuel consumption display was showing an average of 8.6 L/100 km. This was encouraging: the Vue hybrid’s official city fuel consumption rating is 8.2 L/100 km. What was less encouraging was rolling up to the gas pump, doing the math (litres burned versus kilometres travelled) and coming up with an average of 10.7 L/100 km.

2008 Saturn Vue Green Line
2008 Saturn Vue Green Line. Click image to enlarge

What’s interesting – or annoying – is that this was the opposite of what contributor Laurance Yap observed driving a 2008 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, another GM model that uses the same BAS hybrid powertrain as the Vue. He chalked that up to the gas/electric Malibu’s trip computer not being able to take into account the time the engine spends stopped at red lights.

That’s great for him, but where does it leave me? Ultimately, a little disappointed. After all, I’d just spent a week driving like a non-raging granny to take the edge off my fuel bill only to get the kind of fuel economy usually seen in the regular four-cylinder Vue.

About a year and a half ago, I drove a first-generation Vue Green Line. That model, which uses largely the same powertrain as this new one – a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor/generator and a four-speed automatic transmission – averaged close to 12 L/100 km in city driving during the dead of winter. And what about this: the Vue XE with a 3.5-litre V6 and all-wheel drive (the Vue Green Line comes only with front-wheel drive) that I tested last summer averaged 13.8 L/100 km.

While the Vue Green Line’s powertrain is quite basic compared to those of other hybrids – this one can’t move the car on electric power alone, and it uses a four-speed automatic instead of a more sophisticated continuously variable transmission – it must be commended for providing smooth and seamless power.

2008 Saturn Vue Green Line
2008 Saturn Vue Green Line
2008 Saturn Vue Green Line
2008 Saturn Vue Green Line
2008 Saturn Vue Green Line. Click image to enlarge

Here, the electric motor serves to back up the gas engine when extra go-juice is requested. It also acts as a generator when the vehicle decelerates and allows the gas engine to stop at red lights and restart instantly when it’s time to move off. All of this happens without drama; in fact, the only indication that anything is happening is the charge/assist gauge at the bottom of the tachometer. There’s also an “eco” light that comes on whenever instant fuel consumption is at or below the current stored average figure. The key to driving green, then, is to keep that light on as much as possible. One note, however: the gas engine won’t shut off at stops if the climate control system is on.

Otherwise, what the driver and their passengers see inside the Vue Green Line is largely the same as in any Vue: a nicely-designed interior with a simple control layout and decent space. The front seats here weren’t as comfortable as those in the V6 model from last summer. The backrest had an odd shape to it, and the bottom cushion was almost park-bench firm. The high seating position is great for visibility – a Vue strong point – but as James Bergeron mentioned in his review of this truck, some may find the driver’s seat height adjustment doesn’t allow the seat to go low enough.

Rear seat passengers will find they have decent space and comfort. And cargo space is good: one benefit of the Vue’s simple hybrid system is that the battery pack is small and takes up no cargo space. The rear seats fold perfectly flat; collapsing them along with the fold-flat front passenger seat allows long objects to fit. This was a great feature in the first-gen Vue and it’s nice to see that Saturn passed it down to generation two.

I expected more from this little truck on the road. Last year’s V6 tester suitably impressed with its sharp handling and firm-but-pleasant ride. The Green Line, on the other hand, just rode hard, making lots of noise over rough roads. Handling was uninspiring, too, and the Vue Green Line’s electric power steering (six-cylinder Vues use a hydraulic setup that’s far more satisfying) is underboosted, turning low-speed manoeuvres into quite the upper body workout.

2008 Saturn Vue Green Line
2008 Saturn Vue Green Line. Click image to enlarge

Since the introduction of the Vue Green Line in 2007, Saturn has touted this as the least-expensive hybrid SUV on the market; the Vue Green Line’s starting MSRP is $30,790, while its closest competitor, the Ford Escape Hybrid, starts at $31,499. So, that much is true, but there are compromises that go along with that low price.

If your reasons for buying a hybrid vehicle go beyond using a hybrid badge to make yourself look environmentally aware, skip this Vue Hybrid and wait for next year’s model. It will use a version of the GM/BMW/Chrysler two-mode hybrid system, which promises far more sophistication and tangible benefits at the pumps.

With any luck, the next Vue Green Line will also get the kind of refinement that will make it a vehicle anyone would look forward to driving.

Pricing: 2008 Saturn Vue Green Line

Base price: $30,790

Options: $1,455 (Hybrid Premium Package of eight-way power driver’s seat, automatic wipers, heated windshield nozzles, heated outside mirrors, driver and passenger illuminated vanity mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, universal garage door remote and XM satellite radio)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,200
Price as tested: $33,545
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Saturn Vue

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