Monday, May 21, 2007

Taking Green To The Bank with the Saturn Vue Hybrid

For two weeks, The Boss and I painted the town red in a 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line. We sat pretty at mid-sized-crossover height as I navigated the "mild hybrid"--meaning the gas engine does most of the dirty work, with the electric motor kicking in only when the car is coasting, braking, or stopped--across the rural landscape of northeastern Connecticut. I don't know where "rural" falls in the city vs. highway miles per gallon assessment, but I imagine it's somewhere between the 27-32 MPG range outlined in the neat, white folder of vital statistics left on the passenger seat when the gentleman from NYC dropped off the car for me to review as part of the Parent Bloggers Network.

The first order of business was for The Partner to correct The Boss when she referred to the shiny, forest-green vehicle as a truck.

"That is a car," he said.

"Car," she repeated.


Lacking in 4wd, significant ground clearance or anything with half a chance of eliciting a rush of testosterone, the Saturn Vue Green Line disappointed The Partner from the get-go. As an equally jarring affront to his masculinity, there is no manual transmission option. Matters were further complicated when he first stepped into the driver's seat only to have his knees and elbows bang up against the dashboard, the side door, and the center console. Though tinkering with the seat settings made the arrangement slightly more comfortable, quarters were always cramped where his 6'1", 200 pound frame was concerned.

I'm smaller than my husband, but I have to agree that the Vue Green Line does not feel spacious. And though my fingers are downright small, even I had trouble working a cruise control set-up that seemed designed for Barbie's Dream Hybrid.

The thing I adored most about the Saturn Vue Green Line, however, was the opposite of cramped. It was the rear cargo area. I drive a four door sedan with a regular sized trunk, and the space afforded me there pales in comparison to that of this crossover's rear end. I was able to load my jogging stroller into the back without going through the tedious process of removing all three wheels--and there was still room for groceries.

[What I have to say next merits a disclaimer: the love of my life, the car I drive daily, is a Caddy that Zigs. It's a sporty luxury vehicle with smooth handling beneath a lush interior. It's comes from a line of notorious lemons and it's in our garage/makeshift auto shop on almost a weekly basis, but it is far more dear to me than any inanimate object has a right to be. ]

Relative to what I know and love, the Saturn Vue Green Line--with its 170 HP, 4 cylinder engine--has no pep. Having become accustomed to surviving bad merging choices thanks only to my daily driver's quick acceleration, the Vue's lack of giddy-up almost killed me on more than one occasion. Eventually I got used to it, and I'd go so far as to say the world is probably better off with me driving a car that lacks pep. But the lack of power still makes me sad. The Partner also commented that the handling of the Saturn Vue Green Line was inferior to that of his much larger GMC Yukon. The responsiveness and stability was not what you'd expect when comparing a smaller and more compact SUV to its gargantuan, gas-guzzling cousin.

When it comes to The Boss, however, she usually doesn't complain about things in the automotive realm--and the Saturn Vue Green Line presented no exception to the rule. In a car seat that was strapped tighter than usual into the back seat thanks to the LATCH system my current car lacks, she watched the world go by with attentive eyes. I'm sure she enjoyed the new perspective from a perch higher than that of the mid-sized sedan she's used to.

One of the last things I will mention is satellite radio--uncensored music, talk, entertainment and news coming at you with only a few commercials. The Saturn Vue Green Line offers XM Satellite Radio as an option. If you upgrade to the "Comfortably Safe" package that includes XM, you also get a Head Curtain Side Air Bag, power driver's seat, and heated front seats. For a couple extra hundy, bringing the total to $2k in add-ons, you can get a power sunroof.

The bottom line is...well, the bottom line. With the Saturn Vue Green Line, it's all about clean, green savings. Though the fuel economy is not as good as the similar Toyota Highlander, Mercury Mariner, or Ford Escape hybrid models, the price is unbeatable. Even with the upgrades mentioned above, my personalized Saturn Vue Green Line Line--with a base price of approximately $23k--would max out at $25k.

With decent fuel economy and a highly economical price, the Saturn Vue Green Line is a good choice for those who are just beginning to consider the necessity of taking a less gasoline-dependent lifestyle to the bank.


Wendy said...

"The Partner also commented that the handling of the Saturn Vue Green Line was inferior to that of his much larger GMC Yukon. The responsiveness and stability was not what you'd expect when comparing a smaller and more compact SUV to its gargantuan, gas-guzzling cousin."

I am a little confused. Are you saying that your Partner's Yukon handled better than the Vue?

I would love to have a SUV that didnt break the bank at the gas pump. However, I dont think I could come down from the Suburban's rear cargo area to a crossover. I rarely use the third seat, so I have tons of room. I have hauled so much stuff in the past couple of weeks that I dont know what I would do with a smaller vehicle.

Also, I think my Suburban handles much better than the Hubby's Tahoe. Maybe I am use to it's size, but I have had no problems with manuvering the broken city streets of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. There is a lot of quick thinking that must be done to miss that massive pot hole in the middle of the street.

The husband and I are waiting for that phone call for a large hybrid SUV. If not for me, but for him. His job is nothing but driving from one location to another. My way of being "green" with my monster is to map out the most efficient route for my errands and simply stay home sometimes. That last part such not be too hard with summer coming up. No driving to and from school.

Great review, something to think about. The husband has be eyeing some of the new crossovers that have come out recently.

slouching mom said...

Ahh, our husbands have some of the same car fit issues -- mine is 6'2" and 220 pounds.

Lauren said...

I like to consider you obsessed with satellite radio.

Binky said...

Lauren--Join the revolution!

Andrea said...

Thanks for the info! I have a suspicion when my 12 year old car goes (and it's still running well, so I'm hoping it'll wait at least three more years so we can pay off our other car) that I'll be more interested in hybrids than I suspect my husband will be. Until I tell him that at the gas pump, we'll be saving a couple hundred a month. With my 2 hour daily commute, mpg is a big consideration. More information is always better.

And it was nice of them to let you drive it for a review.

Chris said...

Wendy: My Yukon feels more stable and corners tighter than the Vue. I think the problem stems from the crappy tires on the Saturn. The suspension felt fine but without sticky tires, it's all for naught. You have a Suburban and a Tahoe in the same family?!? I REALLY hope that both of your daily drives involve slogging through construction sites and towing boats. Because if those two things are rolling around empty, that's a waste.
I have a Yukon but it's pretty much a lawn ornament. It sucks gas and is no fun to drive compared to my Porsche 944 daily driver.
The truck only comes out to tow trailers, haul stuff, and go wheelin'.
As much as the Vue has issues, I think it is good for the majority of SUV drivers out there. None of them need a truck but they all want to look like they do. This is a good way to look "cool" without getting 17mpg, crushing everything in an accident, or rolling over and killing yourself.

lildb said...

Excellent review, Binky. I'm glad to read it, since I was s'posed to participate in that series before I dropped out of - um. Before I dropped out.

I could almost say that I lick(ed) it up, baby. Lick(ed) it up.


Mrs. Chicky said...

Cape Buffalo had one of these so I got a chance to check it over. I was going to review it myself but I was afraid the back cargo area would be too small for 160 pounds of dog. I was right. The back is spacious but not for someone who is used to transporting two dogs, a toddler and her stroller on a regular basis.

The XM satellite radio rocks the casbah, though.

lauren said...

Nice review. I was thinking of getting a new saturn vue, got the perfect size for my family. But then, i have to consider some more feedbacks on new cars especially the hybrids. And i'm planning to give my car after some mods and saturn wiper blade adjustments to my sis.