Garage doors

2008 Saturn Astra XR 3 door hatchback

GM’s Saturn brand spent the first part of the 2000s transitioning to vehicles on global enterprise platforms, then spent the second half of the decade seeking increasing relevance as The General itself struggled to stay upright. By 2008, the outlook for Saturn and the US economy in general– didn’t look so good, but it was the first model year for the Saturn badge Vauxhall Astra in North America. The announcement that the ax would fall on Saturn came the following year, shortly after GM declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and so 2009 became the last year for the Saturn Astra. Some MY2010 Saturns have been sold (the Sky, Outlook, and Aura), but the Astra shares the dubious honor of Saturn’s shortest sale with the long-forgotten Saturn Relay minivan. For this reason I keep my garbage eye opened for scrapped Astras, and finally found this very clean 2008 three-door in a Denver drive-thru yard last week.

The Astra could be purchased with three or five doors, in two very similar trim levels. This car is the three-door, which was only available as a semi-high XR version.

I don’t know if the Opel Astra got these GM “Mark of Excellence” fender badges, but all US-market 2005-2009 GM vehicles have them (not including items with the crypto-GM Suzuki badge). I have dozens of these badges stuck to my garage wall, because why not?

Only one engine was available in the Saturn Astra: a 138-hp 1.8-liter Ecotec four. The Ecotec turned out to be an exceptionally reliable engine, but I suspect this one died in an expensive way (because the rest of the car looks so good) and that’s why the car is Here Now.

The base transmission for the Astra was a manual five on the floor, and that’s what this car has. the four-speed automatic was $1,325 more on an $18,375 car (that’s about $1,765 on a $24,475 car in 2022 dollars), so either the original buyer of this car preferred the three-pedal ride, or he was just a cheapskate.

I haven’t seen enough scrap Astras to know if manual transmission is very rare in these cars; the five-door that I found a few years ago had the automatic. Presumably, an American car buyer looking for the European-style driving experience of an Opel might prefer the manual.

Built in Antwerp, Belgium!

As it was only a rebadged Opel, the Astra lacked the standard GM radio faceplate found in everything from the Chevrolet Equinox to the Saab 9-3. They’re a bit odd, as the center console buttons controlled the small yellow-tinted screen above.

The Astra XR came with a fairly good seven-speaker audio system with MP3 playback. Do you remember playing data discs loaded with MP3 files in cars? Looks like it was yesterday.

American car buyers never cared much about the rebadged Opel Omega B, and the rebadged Opel Astra didn’t fare much better a decade later.

Maybe Saturn just didn’t. rethink american pretty hard.

Yes, there was a Vauxhall version.

And when there was a Vauxhall version of an Opel, you know a Holden version has to exist.

In Brazil, this car got Chevrolet Vectra badges (and was available as a sedan).

This advertisement for the left-hand-drive Opel Astra features English-language music and road signs, as well as American landscapes. I assume it was destined for the Netherlands.