Designed for sporty yet fuel-efficient driving, the three-door 2008 Saturn Astra XR Coupe comes equipped with an upgraded interior, when compared to the entry-level Astra XE. Interior features include front sport bucket seats, a multifunction steering wheel with buttons for audio controls, air-conditioning with a particle filter, and a seven-speaker AM/FM/CD with MP3 playback capability.
The XR Coupe rides on a lowered sport suspension, giving it a race-car feel, while its wide stance provides good overall balance. A StabiliTrak stability control system, which helps keep the car on the road in slippery conditions, also comes standard. In addition, 17-inch 10-spoke wheels add to the coupe's sporty feel and appearance.
A 1.8-liter, 138-horsepower, double-overhead-cam Ecotec inline four powers the Astra XE. The engine ekes out a respectable 32 miles per gallon on the highway, according to EPA estimates, making it a good option for drivers looking for an economical ride.
Drivers can choose from two transmissions - a standard five-speed manual with a short-throw shifter or an optional four-speed automatic, designed for fuel efficiency. The automatic comes with a Winter Mode, which causes the car to start in third gear, reducing wheel spin on slippery roads.
The rear hatchback provides easy access to the cargo area, which expands to almost 45 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. Numerous additional storage spaces, including rear-seat cupholders, are located around the cabin.
Other standard features include antilock brakes, front and side-impact airbags, heated exterior mirrors, fog lamps, a tire pressure monitor system, and one year of OnStar with a hands-free calling system, accident assist, remote door unlock, and turn-by-turn navigation system.
The Astra originated in Europe, where it has become one of the top-selling compacts, and with good reason, according to drivers and reviewers. Overall, they give the Astra good marks for its well-laid-out interior, easy-to-read gauges, ergonomic design, supportive seats, and sporty styling.
Performance-wise, the Astra XR Coupe suffers somewhat when compared to the competition. But its agile handling, standard StabiliTrak, and sport-tuned suspension almost make up for that, according to some drivers. And thanks to a number of upgrade packages, including a Premium Trim Package that adds leather seats, and an Advanced Audio Package that adds a six-disc CD changer, the Astra can be outfitted to compete on many levels with the best its competition has to offer.