The Saturn Vue Green Line isn't a Chevrolet Suburban and won't haul your entire soccer team around or tow your cabin cruiser. But it is a relatively roomy, five-passenger sport utility that, thanks to a comparatively basic gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, gets decent fuel mileage and is entirely happy on regular gas.
Admittedly, we were awfully easy on the accelerator, but the reward was pretty satisfying: An overall 29.3 miles per gallon, in an SUV.
There are two basic types of hybrid vehicles: the partial, or "single mode" hybrid, and the full or "dual mode" hybrid. The more-expensive dual mode hybrid can use pure electric power to move the vehicle, usually up to speeds of 20 mph or so, before the gas engine kicks in. Dual-mode hybrids include the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid.
The Saturn Vue Green Line is a single-mode hybrid, meaning that when you come to a stoplight, the gas engine turns off. In order for the vehicle to move forward, the gas engine must start back up, which it does automatically as soon as you take your foot off the brake. As you would expect, single-mode hybrids typically get slightly less fuel mileage than a dual-mode hybrid.
There are some sacrifices with the current Vue Green Line. One is that the four-speed automatic transmission is geared to maximize mileage, not pickup -- so you'll have to live with leisurely acceleration. It's no snail, mind you, but you'll want to plan freeway merges in advance.
Another cost-cutting measure: Stop for a long traffic light, and the air-conditioning compressor runs out of cold air. This can be defeated by pressing a button, but it means the engine will be running at stoplights, using gas. Only once, during a long wait for a train, did it really bother us, so we just rolled down the windows. Still another nod to weight savings and cost savings: Rather than a spare tire, you get a can of tire sealant.
Otherwise, the Vue Green Line asks the driver and passengers to give up little for the extra mileage.
Even the price isn't bad: The least expensive Vue starts at $22,150, and gets an EPA-rated 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway. This Vue Green Line starts at $24,170, and with shipping and a $925 "comfort and convenience" package, lists for $25,720, and the EPA-rated mileage is 25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway.
Even at that price, this is a well-equipped vehicle, with standard stability control, antilock disc brakes, side and side-curtain airbags, OnStar, cruise control, air conditioning, XM satellite radio and power windows, locks and mirrors. The hybrid components are covered by an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
Outside, the Vue, redesigned for 2008, is among the more handsome smaller SUVs. Inside, it's roomy, and while the front bucket seats could be a little more supportive, there's not much else to whine about.
On the road, the Vue Green Line handles reasonably well, despite the fairly hard P225/60R-17 radial tires chosen more for how easily they roll (low rolling resistance means it takes less power to get them turning) than for their quietness or grip.
Any complaints we might have about the Saturn Vue Green Line if gas still cost, say, $2 a gallon, seem awfully minor now that gas is $4 a gallon. Nicely done, Saturn.
Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/gasgauge.
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Saturn VUE Green Line
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.