The 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid had me all giddy. I was thrilled there was a challenger to the Ford Escape Hybrid in the American-made-small-hybrid-SUV category. I’ve seen the non-hybrid Vue out and about, and I really like its looks. I was excited to try a cute-looking, domestic hybrid that’s small but could carry my family of four through winter’s snow and ice – terrific!
My test car was a mild hybrid, although you wouldn’t know it from the not-so-mild hybrid stickers plastered all over it. It had a four-cylinder engine that’s designed to turn off at stoplights, drive-throughs and any other idling time. This engine is supplemented by an electric motor that assists the gas engine with some extra power when needed. There’s a second version of the Saturn Vue Hybrid; it’s a full hybrid with a V-6 engine, two electric motors, a regenerative braking system and a high-voltage battery pack. The Saturn Vue 2-Mode Hybrid is scheduled to hit dealerships in the spring.
The Vue Hybrid only comes in front-wheel drive. It got me through Colorado’s snow and ice, but I’d prefer to have all-wheel drive as an option. The Vue Hybrid felt like driving any other car, but my test car’s gas engine rarely shut off when I drove it, which was odd since it’s supposed to whenever you’re idling at a stoplight. I got a combined 26.1 mpg in my week in the Vue Hybrid; it gets an EPA-estimated 25/32 mpg city/highway.
The 2009 Vue Hybrid is darn cute. It’s more refined and curvy than the previous generation. One thing I didn’t like was how pushy it was about its hybrid status. My test car had stickers and badges all over it that announced it was an environmentally friendly car. While I suppose it’s a nice opportunity for Saturn to get the word out about its green cars, I’m not big on it. When people sarcastically yell, “Hey, is that a hybrid?” at you from across a parking lot, you know the hybrid badges and stickers have gotten out of hand.
Besides the badges and sticker, there were a lot of flashy details on the exterior, like chrome wheels and chrome accents on the grille. Without the stickers these details are fun, but with the stickers, it’s just too much. It’s like women who wear lots of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, hair clips and rings. All at once.
Appearances aside, my kids got in and out of the Vue easily, and I think even younger kids would have an easy time with it. The handles weren’t too hard to pull, the doors weren’t too heavy and the step-in height wasn’t too high. If you had to offer your little ones some assistance, it most likely wouldn’t break your back to do it.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair-Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
When I got inside the Vue Hybrid, I was pleasantly surprised by its details. The leather was a lovely bone color, and some of the plastic trim had a brushed metal or carbon fiber look to it. It was well-placed throughout the SUV and didn’t look too glaring or cheap.
The seats were comfortable. The driver’s seat was power-adjustable, but the steering wheel didn’t telescope. This isn’t a big deal except when the steering wheel is incredibly close to the instrument cluster, as it is in the Vue Hybrid. When I positioned the driver’s seat for my legs, the wheel was too far away. When I was comfortable with the arm length, my legs were cramped. No, I’m not a Tyrannosaurs rex, I just need a little telescoping steering wheel from time to time.
The kids were relieved to find the backseat comfortable, and all the seat belts were a snap to use because they weren’t wedged into the seat bench. This business with embedding the buckles into the seat bench has been tiresome for me and my kids. The Latch connectors were easy to locate, but they were nestled too tightly into the seat bench.
The backseat’s armrest folded down and provided a covert storage cubby for my kids’ stuff. I also liked the storage pockets in the doors; they were deep and wide enough to get stuff in and out without the help of a vacuum or bent hangers. Yay! With 60/40-split reclining and fold-flat rear seats, there were plenty of flexible cargo options. The front passenger seat folded flat, too. It’s a feature that’s becoming more common, but it’s always a pleasant surprise in the smaller cars we test.
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
The Saturn Vue Hybrid comes with front- and side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags for both rows. It also has electronic stability control, traction control and antilock brakes.
The Vue Hybrid comes with one free year of OnStar’s Safe and Sound Plan, which alerts authorities in case of a collision. The plan also includes Crisis Assist, which provides information on evacuation routes and shelter locations during severe weather or natural disasters.
In Diapers: There’s enough room for your small family and their gear.
In School: My kids liked the comfortable backseat, and the storage cubbies were a big hit with this mom.
Teens: They’ll like that they’re riding around in a green SUV, although the loud hybrid badging might embarrass them. You should buy two!