The compact sport-ute segment was just hitting its stride when General Motors joined the fray with the quickly popular Saturn Vue. A far cry from previous offerings like the Chevrolet Tracker, which boasted little quality and questionable safety, the Vue almost immediately appealed to buyers for its modern styling and value-oriented pricing strategy. The segment was still fresh, and a domestic-hungry buying public craved alternatives to the Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV4s popping up all over the place.
Perhaps as important as the vehicle itself was the context of the Vue’s launch. When Saturn formed more than a decade prior, it took pride as much in its haggle-free buying experience as the small-town-feel homecomings it held at its Spring Hill, Tenn., plant. Its emphasis on building relationships with buyers generated a quasi-cult following, and stories abounded of folks driving thousands of miles to swap stories and eat hot dogs with their fellow Saturn devotees. In many ways, Saturn redefined the car-buying and -owning experience, making the whole process appealing to those otherwise disinterested in cars as anything beyond simple commodities.
So at its birth, Saturn the company was revolutionary, indeed “a different kind of car company,” as its official tagline boasted. Saturn vehicles, on the other hand, were utterly blah, with equally dull model names, called SC and SL. By the time the Vue made its debut, the lineup had aged way past the point of apology, with Saturn investing almost no energy, time or money to update its cars. Even the homecomings were axed.
The introduction of the brand-new ute, unfortunately, did little to improve the Saturn landscape.
And yet…unrelated to all of that, I hated the Vue. Hay-ted. Even thinking about it now makes my stomach ache.
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What's it like to drive?
To be honest, the first-generation Vue was not the most horrible vehicle from a performance standpoint, but that was so long as you opted for the V6, which turned out enough power to move the little ute quickly enough to keep up with traffic. A couple of model years in even saw the Vue get rewarded with a Honda-designed six-cylinder engine producing north of 200 horses. But it you went with the four-banger, good luck to you: The 2.2-liter was anemic at best, but paired with a CVT, it was downright doggy. A true turd.
The materials used throughout didn’t help the Vue’s cause, either. Until a midcycle refresh injected it with a much improved cabin design, the Vue made do with a dull, cheap, ugly interior.
But power deficiencies and inferior quality, construction and materials aside, I abhorred the Vue for one simple reason: Shutting the doors always resulted in an annoying little rattle, the plastic door panel vibrating for a half second after the latch caught and held. Without fail, that daggum little rattle would force me to turn and look to make sure the door was actually secured. I doubt I ever walked away from a Saturn Vue fully confident the driver’s door was shut properly.
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Do I want one?
Never. I’d opt for riding my Schwinn through slush and salt and sub-zero temps for the rest of my life over having to endure the rattle of those plastic-clad doors. Like the ever beating heart of a Poe tale, I found it maddening at every slam, and echoes of it still reverberate in my nightmares, a torturous sound to the ears and mind.
Neither would I ever own a 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 or 2007 version, as they all suck in exactly the same way. In my view, 2008 and the vehicle’s second-generation couldn’t come quickly enough.
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