2009 Saturn Vue

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Key Specs
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Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2009 Saturn Vue. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Stylish looks
  • High-quality interior
  • Solid ride quality
  • Easy fold-down rear seats

The Bad

  • Poor fuel economy for class
  • Extra weight makes four-cylinder seem underpowered
  • Small cargo area for the class

Notable Features of the 2009 Saturn Vue

  • Four-cylinder or V-6
  • FWD or AWD
  • Standard panic brake assist
  • High-performance Red Line

2009 Saturn Vue Road Test

David Thomas
Editor's note: This review was written in May 2007 about the 2008 Saturn Vue. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2009, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

Saturn has always been GM's "different" brand. You know, the one that had hard-to-dent plastic body panels and a no-haggle pricing policy. Today, that different little brand no longer has plastic body panels, but it still has one of the highest customer-satisfaction ratings when it comes to the car-buying process. It just hasn't had many models that people wanted to buy.

That started to change last year when Saturn introduced three attractive new models: the Sky, the Outlook and the Aura, but those were in segments Saturn loyalists weren't used to. The Vue, though, is a familiar name that has been a big seller for the brand as one of the least-expensive SUVs on the market. It's completely changed for 2008, and this version will be the model that revolutionizes the brand, ridding it of the old, domestic-bashing stereotypes. The new Vue is stylish, it has fantastic road presence and its interior is arguably the best in the segment. Yes, this Saturn is truly different.

Exterior
You wouldn't believe how many test cars we get here at Cars.com that are either silver or gray. Those may be the most-purchased colors, but they don't make a car stand out, especially to jaded automotive journalists. The Deep Blue ...

Editor's note: This review was written in May 2007 about the 2008 Saturn Vue. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2009, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

Saturn has always been GM's "different" brand. You know, the one that had hard-to-dent plastic body panels and a no-haggle pricing policy. Today, that different little brand no longer has plastic body panels, but it still has one of the highest customer-satisfaction ratings when it comes to the car-buying process. It just hasn't had many models that people wanted to buy.

That started to change last year when Saturn introduced three attractive new models: the Sky, the Outlook and the Aura, but those were in segments Saturn loyalists weren't used to. The Vue, though, is a familiar name that has been a big seller for the brand as one of the least-expensive SUVs on the market. It's completely changed for 2008, and this version will be the model that revolutionizes the brand, ridding it of the old, domestic-bashing stereotypes. The new Vue is stylish, it has fantastic road presence and its interior is arguably the best in the segment. Yes, this Saturn is truly different.

Exterior
You wouldn't believe how many test cars we get here at Cars.com that are either silver or gray. Those may be the most-purchased colors, but they don't make a car stand out, especially to jaded automotive journalists. The Deep Blue of the Saturn Vue XR I tested, however, made the stylish SUV look classier than any silver model, that's for sure.

Regardless of the color, the Vue is one of the most aggressively styled SUVs on the road, looking neither too masculine (Dodge Nitro), too boxy (Hummer H3) nor too odd (Honda CR-V). Every marketer will tell you that car shoppers are so accustomed to cars being relatively equal as modes of transport that their styling makes a significant difference in the buying decision. The Vue's looks should seal the deal.

The large chrome grille and teardrop-shaped headlights are probably the most masculine attributes, while the downward-sloping roof, ending in a radically angled rear hatch, exudes European design. The only angle that isn't a sure winner is the rear, but it gets a pass because the rest of the Vue is so over-the-top.

The Vue comes in base XE and upper-level XR trims. The XR trim level you see in these images features chrome door handles, chrome-tipped dual exhaust and 17-inch alloy wheels. The XE comes with body-colored door handles and side mirrors and 16-inch alloy wheels, as well as accent-colored lower body panels.

Interior
There's a lot to cover with the new Vue's interior. Because the Vue is an American version of a car designed for a global market, there are a few eccentricities, but it has been altered for domestic tastes.

The first thing I noticed was the rather large steering wheel and its brushed-nickel insert at the bottom. This feature was mostly praised by the staff, with the exception of one lone detractor. Personally, I thought the metal on the wheel and interior door handles was a very elegant touch, and just the right amount as to not overwhelm the cabin. I wasn't a fan of the fake wood trim on the tan dash, but neither am I fond of the plastic made to look like carbon fiber that replaces the wood trim in the Vue's other interior choice, gray.

Every other type of material in the cabin is clearly a step up from current GM products, even other new releases. Not only does it best other domestics, like the Ford Escape, it's also superior to top imports like the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe and Honda CR-V.

But (there's always a "but" when a review is this glowing), my test model had leather — the color is "Cashmere Leather," which confused my common sense meter — and not the base XE or XR's standard cloth. I was able to sit in a cloth XR, and while all the other pieces of the cabin were the same as the leather model, the cloth door inserts and seats were a noticeable step down. That step down in interior opulence is more significant than the leather's $1,075 option price. That's right, if you can afford one option I'm recommending leather here — that's how much it alters the overall feel.

The seats were supportive and straddled the line between cushy and firm. I could never decide if they were too soft or too solid, but, as Goldilocks would say, they weren't just right, either. There was plenty of headroom and legroom up front and in the backseat. The rear seats also recline. Rear passengers are treated to an upscale cupholder that exemplifies how superior even the most minute interior features are in the Vue. Usually such a feature is flimsy; in the Vue it's a solid tray that glides out of the center console.

The test car also had GM's upgraded navigation system ($2,145) and sound system ($325), but I've been pleased with the stock stereo in other new GM products.

There were a few interior oddities I still can't wrap my head around. The center console that runs between the front seats, which contains two cupholders and a storage area, was extremely low to the car floor, meaning you have to reach down a bit to grab a drink. My wife, at 5 foot 6 inches, complained mildly about this, but I too had noticed it because it's not the norm in most of today's cars and SUVs. There's also a small slot to the left of the steering wheel that's designed for European tollway cards, which are basically the size and shape of a credit card. For American drivers, a paper toll ticket or parking-garage ticket could also fit in here, or perhaps a Starbucks card, but I wouldn't advise anyone putting their credit card that close to the front window.

The parking brake lever is a trapezoidal contraption that reminded me of a piece off the Millennium Falcon; geeks will immediately think of "Star Wars" when they see it. It worked flawlessly, though, so I don't think anyone can complain about its nontraditional shape. If you start driving with your parking brake on, the Vue beeps at you. Now that's brilliant.

Performance
There are three engine choices for the Vue, including the base 2.4-liter four-cylinder in the front-wheel-drive XE, a 3.5-liter V-6 in the all-wheel-drive XE, and a 3.6-liter V-6 in both front- and all-wheel-drive XRs. I tested the 3.6-liter in a front-wheel-drive XR.

The XR's 257-horsepower V-6 is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and is rated, according to new, stricter 2008 EPA guidelines, at 16/23 mpg city/highway for the front-wheel-drive version I tested. That's just slightly below most of the Vue's competition if you adjust their 2007 mileage numbers to account for the EPA's 2008 standards. The only V-6 model in the class with significantly better mileage is the Toyota RAV4.


EPA-Estimated Mileage
City
mpg
Highway
mpg
Combined
mpg
2008 Saturn Vue
3.6-liter V-6
162419
2008 Ford Escape
3.0-liter V-6
182420
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe*
3.3-liter V-6
172319
2007 Toyota RAV4*
3.5-liter V-6
192722
Source: Manufacturer
*Beginning with 2008-model-year vehicles, the EPA is using a new, more representative test to estimate gas mileage. The figures are lower than they would be using the 2007 method. The 2007 models have been adjusted using the EPA's new guidelines. All numbers are for FWD models.

While mileage suffers, performance excels in most areas important to everyday driving and comfort. There was ample acceleration (it manages zero to 60 in an impressive 6.7 seconds), nimble handling and smooth gear shifts, and the Vue does all this with an absolutely silent cabin. There's almost no engine noise and very little wind or road noise on even the most abrasive highway lanes.

Do the Vue's sporty nature and quiet road manners detract from the ride? Nope. It mutes bumps and potholes with ease, yet still gives the driver a good feel for the road. That is a tough combination to pull off in any segment, and it's one of the Vue's best attributes.

V-6 versions come with conventional hydraulic power steering, which should eradicate complaints about the previous generation's electric power assist — an unsatisfying and widely criticized feature that remains in the four-cylinder 2008 Vue, including the hybrid Green Line version.

Cars.com senior editor Joe Wiesenfelder found that our XR V-6 didn't snap back to center very well after turns, and it had dramatic torque steer. Many front-drive cars with any torque to speak of exhibit this, but nowadays most of them keep the vehicle going straight despite some wobble in the steering wheel, sometimes through the use of traction control. Under hard acceleration, our Vue's steering consistently jerked to the side and stayed off-center, inducing a sustained turn. We'll keep an open mind because this was an early production model. If you experience this — or don't — drop us an email.

The Vue is relatively heavy for its class, weighing in at 4,076 pounds. That weight makes for a reassuring feeling on the road, but it also contributes to body lean in tight cornering, like on highway offramps. This body lean isn't as bad as most modern full-size SUVs, and there's never a feeling that the car will tip over, but most of the Vue's compact SUV competition has almost neutralized this always-uneasy attribute.

The hybrid Vue Green Line will be on the market in late summer, with a high-performance model called the Red Line to follow in the fall.

Cargo
All SUVs, even the stylish ones, need to offer some cargo versatility. The Vue doesn't have the largest cargo area — 29.2 cubic feet with the rear seats up, versus 29.3, 35.7 and 36.4 cubic feet in the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, respectively. What the Vue lacks in space, though, it makes up for in ease of use.

The rear seats fold flat with a single pull of a latch on top of the seat backs. This automatically lowers the seat cushion a few inches as the seat back folds down, creating a truly flat floor.

Folded flat, the cargo area expands to 56.4 cubic feet, which is certainly big enough for most cargo hauling. There isn't much height to the space, though, which means it lags the competition significantly if you're looking at bare cargo-volume numbers. In real life, however, I loaded the Vue up at the grocery store, with golf clubs and luggage for a weekend getaway, and with a dog — not all at the same time — and it handled each with ease.

The best feature of the cargo area is a rail system that uses easily movable clasps that can be arranged in various configurations. A tent-pole-like cargo net can then divide the space using the clasps. When not in use, it can be easily folded in half and stored in a compartment beneath the cargo floor. This is one of the best features I've seen in an SUV; it does its job well, and creates no headaches for the user. The only drawback is that when the clasps are secured to the lower tracks, you can't raise the floor, so anything you might have stored underneath is stuck there.

Saturn says the European version of the Vue has a cottage industry of aftermarket supplies for this system, but I'd like to see Saturn make its own, especially some pet-friendly versions.

Safety
One factor that may keep some Saturn owners from rushing to the new Vue is its higher price. Well, not only is the '08 Vue completely new in style and performance, it also features a slew of standard safety features that were not available on its predecessor, and safety features cost manufacturers money.

There are six standard airbags, including front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and side curtain airbags in both rows that have sensors that deploy them during a rollover. Stability control, traction control and four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, as are collapsing brake and gas pedals that protect a driver's legs in a collision. There is also a provision in the stability system to prevent trailers from dangerous swaying. All of these features are standard on all models.

As of publication, the Vue has not yet been crash tested.

Saturn Vue in the Market
This might sound odd after such a positive review, but the new Saturn Vue does have some obstacles to overcome. The price of entry is reasonable for the base XE, but it's quite easy to load up an XR to the $30,000 mark and beyond. The seemingly poor mileage in a slumping economy, complete with gas-price hysteria on the nightly news, might also turn this attractive SUV into a lame duck — especially because it will be competing with cars not yet advertising the new, lower 2008 EPA figures. Plus, this new Saturn might just be too "different" for past owners. The company will have to do some innovative marketing to combat these deceptive numbers and woo new or returning shoppers.

The good news is that the 2008 Vue matches or bests the competition on almost every front. If a perception problem is the SUV's biggest problem, Saturn should be quite pleased.

Send David an email 



Latest 2009 Vue Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.2)
Performance
(4.5)
Interior Design
(4.1)
Comfort
(4.1)
Reliability
(4.5)
Value For The Money
(4.5)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Like New With 107,000 Miles Saturn VUE XR 3.6 AWD

by Jerrs from Cheektowaga, NY on March 13, 2018

I am 77 and this is only the second used car I have purchased in the last 40 years. I was very surprised at it's good condition (interior, rust) and lack of any problems with things such as gauges, ... Read full review

(5.0)

Love the comfort of the vehicle

by K_norwalk from Norwalk, ohio on March 3, 2018

Meets my expectations and handles well in snow. I would recommend this Saturn for family and person travel. SPACIOUS IS top of the list for every one that drives it Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2009 Saturn Vue currently has 2 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2009 Saturn Vue 4-Cyl XE

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
marginal
Structure/safety cage
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Vue received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker