PARIS — Saturn Corp.'s small S-series sedans might find a better home here. This is the land of little cars — tiny autos such as the Smart, a Swatch Watch-inspired product; a host of itty-bitty Renault, Peugeot, Fiat and Ford models; and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, the perfect car for upwardly mobile people with overtaxed middle incomes.

In four days here, I've seen six sport-utility vehicles. Four of those were small; two were mid-size American jobs, a Chevrolet Blazer and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Those mid-size SUVs looked liked overpowering giants on Parisian roads.

I've seen no passenger pickup trucks of any sort. They aren't the fashion in this city of narrow side streets and limited parking; nor do they seem to be the rage in the surrounding countryside.

So I'm thinking that the consumer rejection currently affecting small Saturn cars in the United States might not exist here, especially with the modest but favorable redesign of the Saturn S-series exterior, as represented by this week's test car, the 2000 Saturn SL1 sedan.

I don't know how the pricing would work. The tax thing again. Locals routinely complain about sending 60 percent of their paychecks to the government. And taxing authorities reach into pockets in other ways that, while helping to provide superior public services, also limit individual consumer choices.

It is downright un-American, but it succeeds in forcing people into sensible, fuel-efficient cars.

I would've felt just fine driving the Saturn SL1 here in the company of its small, motorized brethren. But I drove it on the U.S. East Coast, where I was a hummingbird among falcons and eagles. I got no respect.

That is mostly the problem with the Saturn S-series, introduced in the United States in 1990. It is a decent, reliable little car. It is reasonably attractive, especially with the exterior rework that rendered a cleaner, smoother, wedge-shaped body. It also has a feature that a heck of a lot of small cars here sorely need — dent-resistant polymer body panels.

The SL1 also has body bumpers designed to take a hit up to 5 mph with no visible damage to the car. Insurance companies like that. And the car comes with an engine-immobilizing anti-theft system, which prevents the vehicle from starting if there is an attempt to circumvent the ignition system. Insurance companies like that, too.

But U.S. consumers aren't necessarily swayed by what insurance companies like, or what environmentalists hold dear. Take, for example, the SL1's in-line, single-overhead-cam, 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine. It develops 100 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 114 pound-feet of torque at 2,400 rpm when linked to the car's standard five-speed manual transmission. That is seemingly decent "motor-vation" for a front-wheel-drive car that weighs 2,331 pounds.

But it is not at all impressive in an America where cars sold in 1999 averaged 5.21 hor sepower per 100 pounds of vehicle weight, which is the highest U.S. horsepower-weight ratio in the 43 years that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been keeping records on such matters.

It is even less impressive when viewed from 0-to-60-mph acceleration times. The SL1 completes the run in what, for many American consumers, is a painfully slow nine seconds.

But that kind of acceleration would be perfectly acceptable in Paris, where on weekday mornings, even with the city's legions of small cars, traffic doesn't move very fast anyway.

Nuts & Bolts

2000 Saturn SL1 Complaints: The manual gear lever in the test car was choppy, lacking any semblance of shift rhythm. It was like dancing with someone who dances poorly. You had to force it to follow your moves.

Praise: A decent, practical, reliable (despite gearshift choppiness) car; an overall excellent commuter vehicle.

Head-turning quotien t: It's a wo rk of mainstream, urban anonymity — acceptable, but no "wow" factor.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Nothing spectacular in any of these categories. Speedsters will not approve. But this is an economy car, and city streets aren't racetracks. Most normal drivers won't complain.

Brakes: Saturn has introduced a new anti-lock braking system on all of its models. The new system greatly reduces the pedal shudder and vibration used by many automakers to signal the initial activation of anti-locks. The Saturn anti-locks have a mild pedal pulsation and sound, signaling the engagement of those brakes.

Capacities: The SL1 seats five people and carries 12.1 cubic feet of cargo. Fuel capacity is 12.1 gallons; regular unleaded gasoline is recommended.

Mileage: About 33 miles per gallon in mostly highway driving.

Price: Base price is $11,485. Dealer invoice on the SL1 is $9,991. Price as tested is $14,555. Including $2,630 in options and a $440 destination charge. Price does not include taxes and fees.

Purse-strings note: Compare with Chevrolet Cavalier, Toyota Corolla/Chevrolet Prizm, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Spectra and any other small car sold in the United States.