Had a brief visit with Saturn's three-door coupe when it was unveiled in Spring Hill, Tenn., last year and now have had the chance to spend time with it on Chicagoland roads. The third door is great for providing access to the rear cabin in a coupe that traditionally is intolerable when it comes to ease of entry and exit. But, while the third door has eliminated the barrier to getting in or out of the rear seat, it hasn't made the rear cabin any larger. It's still a kids' compartment or the storage area for youthful owners' gym bags. It's not Valhalla for adults. If that third access door, like the ones on extended-cab pickup trucks is so great, how come other coupe-builders haven't copied Saturn? Whenever we ask those who produce the Toyota or Honda or Ford or any coupe why not a third door, the response always is, "Saturn owners are more likely to have little kids that use that door." Hmm. Does that mean producers of Toyota, Honda, Ford (or whatever) coupes don't sell to youthful owners who could use the third door to conveniently store the gym bag or dry cleaning in back? And don't the other coupes have owners with kids? Just wondering. As for the SC2, there's more style than sizzle. Good-looking sport coupe for those who want a more eye-catching design than Chevy Cavalier, Ford Escort, Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla but to whom high mileage and low price are more important than performance. The SC2 is powered by a 1.9-liter, 124-h.p., twin cam, 4-cylinder engine (base SC1 model offers a 1.9-liter, 100-h.p., single overhead cam 4) that growls at initial acceleration as 4-cylinder engines are wont to do. But when teamed with a 4-speed automatic, it delivers 25 m.p.g. city/35 m.p.g. highway. A little noise but a lot of mileage. Ride and handling are pleasant, but slow down when approaching big bends in the road. The big plus, of course, are those plastic body panels that won't dent, ding or rust, and will look showroom new five years from now if you give them a bath. Another big plus is the availability of ABS with traction control, though to keep the base price down, it runs $695. One glaring flaw, and we emphasize glaring: Saturn needs to add a black dot matrix on the windshield around the rearview mirror like it has on the coming midsize 2000 Saturn LS to eliminate glare. The SC2 starts at $15,865 with automatic. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, dual manual sideview mirrors, rear spoiler and fog lamps. Our test vehicle added option package 2 with cruise control; power windows, locks, and right outside mirror and alloy wheels at $1,320; ABS with traction control at $695; AM/FM cassette with front and rear speakers at $260; and carpeted floor mats at $60. Add $440 for freight. For the optimum sport image, add the power sunroof at $695. A significantly redesigned SC coupe arrives in January as a 2001 model.
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