November 3, 2011
Many owners posting back in 2009 talk of the part being on backorder, more because of the Astra’s rarity here. One thing to consider, though, is that the Astra’s engine is the same one used in the now-common (since its 2011 debut) Chevrolet Cruze, which may improve parts availability for Astra owners.
TrueDelta’s vehicle reliability data calls the Astra’s dependability about average, with 108 owners reporting 70 repair trips per 100 cars for the 2008 model year.
This thread at the UK-based Astra Owners Club forums is a list of complaints owners have regarding their cars’ reliability. Much of what’s mentioned in here won’t apply to North American cars, though, as the Astra (sold as a Vauxhall and Opel in the UK and Europe) was offered with a wide variety of powertrain options in those markets.
2008 Saturn Astra XE four-door. Click image to enlarge
It’s normal for air conditioning to have a noticeable effect on engine power in small cars, but Astra owners posting at SaturnFans.com seem to think their cars are worse for this than most.
CR cites the Astra’s “fuel system” as a problem, and I found a couple of mentions at ImSaturn.com about a faulty fuel filler neck that doesn’t seal properly at the gas cap, causing the check engine light to turn on. There are also complaints of excessive brake dust on the rear wheels only, which could explain CR’s average rating in its brakes category. Brake complaints cited by CR could be linked to mentions I found online of squeaky brakes and excessive brake dust from the rear brakes. Apparently, the rear brake pads are a different material than the fronts, and the semi-metallic compound tends toward generating more dust and noise than the front pads.
With the Saturn Astra’s similarity to versions of the car sold overseas in mind, I had a look at a very busy European Astra forum (AstraOwnersClub.com) to get an idea of what problems owners elsewhere are having with their cars. The most common issues I noticed mentioned there were a vehicle immobilizer fault that prevents the car from starting on the first try, though removing the key, then reinserting and trying again generally seems to work. Also, there are numerous mentions of bad clutches in manual transmission cars (most Astras sold outside of North America were probably manuals, while the majority sold here are automatic).
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests, the Astra rated “good” in frontal offset testings, and “marginal” in side impact testing. The side impact rating was affected by poor protection for rear-seat passengers; the IIHS cited a high possibility of rib fractures, internal organ injuries, fractured femur (thigh bone) and excessive “loading” to the occupant’s shoulder.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) didn’t crash test the Astra.
According to the Canadian Black Book (CBB), used Astra values range from $8,550 for a 2008 XE four-door with manual transmission and option air conditioning, to $13,700 for a 2009 XR two-door with automatic and leather seats.
The Astra is a satisfying car to drive, but its unconventional interior – at least by typical North American standards, even in many of the German cars sold here – might be a turn-off for some. For that reason, I’d advise you to spend as much time as you can in the car before buying.
It appears there aren’t too many serious issues to look out for in the Astra, but the car sold in so few numbers that any data, anecdotal or otherwise, are difficult to rely on, and so it’s hard to tell how the car will hold out over the longer term. In the meantime, if you like the Astra, follow my usual advice and look for one that comes with proof of proper maintenance and get the car checked out with a trusted mechanic before you buy.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) November, 2011:
2009: On certain vehicles, the tire information label may contain incorrect front tire size information. The label indicates P2105/55R16, but instead should read P205/55R16. Correction: General Motors will advise customers and retailers of the condition and the correct tire specification in the form of a letter which is to be kept with the vehicle owner’s manual.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.