Upon its debut five years ago, the Saturn Vue attempted to separate itself from the compact SUV herd by way of unique powertrains and construction. In addition to a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines, Saturn's small ute also offered a choice of transmissions that included class-exclusive five-speed automatic and continuously variable transmission (CVT) units. Other distinctions included dent-resistant and rust-proof flexible body panels. A few years later, a Honda-sourced V6 boasting 250 hp became available, replacing Saturn's less potent and less refined 3.0-liter unit. Due to reliability concerns, the CVT was dropped, while complaints about an abundance of hard plastic in the cabin brought a refresh last year that included upgraded door trim and a redesigned center stack. Although build and materials quality still isn't a strong point for the Vue, the accommodations in newer models are much closer to what similarly priced SUVs offer. Thoughtful features like a low step-in height, pop-up grocery bag holder in the cargo area and a roomy backseat give the Vue an easy-to-like nature that buyers in this segment are apt to find comforting.
The big news for the 2007 Saturn Vue line is the debut of the new Green Line hybrid model. With fuel economy estimates of 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, it's not quite as frugal as its chief competition, Ford's Escape Hybrid, but the Saturn is more powerful (170 hp vs. 155) and about $3,000 less. On the other end of the spectrum is the Red Line, which is essentially a sport version of the Vue, complete with big alloy wheels, a lower body styling kit and a firmer, hunkered-down suspension.
For buyers shopping the mainstream compact SUV segment, the standard 2007 Saturn Vue has its merits, such as a gutsy V6, a roomy cabin, a generous standard features list and a body that resists dings and dents. Though it still lags behind class leaders such as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V in terms of overall refinement and driving dynamics, it's still worth checking out. Alternately, some shoppers might be drawn to the new Green Line. It's one of the cheapest new hybrid vehicles you can buy and it still has the usual small-SUV advantages. Just be aware that affordability comes at the expense of advanced technology. Because of its mild hybrid system, the Green Line's fuel economy is well off the mark set by better-known hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Civic Hybrid.
The 2007 Saturn Vue is a compact SUV that's available with a choice of three power plants: four-cylinder gasoline, four-cylinder gas-electric hybrid and V6 gas. The four-cylinder gas and hybrid versions are front-drive only, while the V6 can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive. Even base four-cylinder Vues are well-equipped with the following standard features: 16-inch wheels, air-conditioning, keyless entry, full power features, OnStar telematics, steering wheel audio controls, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat and a CD stereo with an auxiliary jack. Moving up to the six-cylinder models adds alloy wheels (16-inch on FWD, 17-inch on AWD) and color-keyed door handles. Optional on the V6 models is the Red Line Performance Package that features a lowered, sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels, ebony leather seats with suede inserts, unique instrumentation and ambient footwell lighting. Various other packages, such as the Comfort Package (includes power driver seat and heated front seats) and Leather Appointments Package (includes leather seating and steering wheel wrap) are available for other trim levels as well. The Vue can also be ordered with upgraded audio systems, satellite radio, a sunroof and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The five-passenger 2007 Saturn Vue boasts an attractive cabin with sound ergonomics. Last year's refresh brought improvements, such as soft-touch door trim and faux wood accents, but the quality of most of the plastic trim is still below average for this class. Larger adults will find the front seats a size smaller than competitors' seats, but rear-passenger room is excellent, and a low step-in height makes getting in and out easy. A foldable front-passenger seat allows the transport of extra-long cargo, while folding down the rear seats provides 63.4 cubic feet of cargo space.
The base Vue is powered by a 2.2-liter four-cylinder rated at 144 hp and 152 pound-feet of torque and mated to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The Vue Green Line hybrid has a 2.4-liter gas/electric hybrid four-cylinder (170 hp and 160 lb-ft) that runs through a four-speed automatic. The V6 versions feature a 3.5-liter V6 sourced from Honda that makes 248 hp and 242 lb-ft and comes matched to a five-speed automatic. All Vues are front-drive except for the V6 version, where one may choose either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Fuel mileage for the potent V6 is above average, as it's rated at 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway (FWD). The Green Line hybrid garners ratings of 27 city and 32 highway. A Red Line AWD we tested scampered from zero to 60 in 7.9 seconds, so we'd expect the front-drive V6 to be a tad quicker. The Green Line hybrid took 10.7 seconds to reach the same speed.
Engineered for a life on pavement, the Vue has a fully independent suspension that delivers a comfortable, forgiving ride. Handling is on the soft side, and the electric power steering system is somewhat vague. The four-cylinder gas and hybrid versions provide leisurely acceleration at best, the price paid for frugal fuel usage. The burly V6 offers a substantial power boost that makes the Vue very quick on its feet for a small SUV, though torque steer can be an issue during hard acceleration. The Red Line performance upgrades reduce body roll around corners, while eliminating most of the torque steer.
Antilock brakes are standard on the V6 models and optional on the others. Traction control is standard on the FWD V6 and Green Line versions and optional on the base four-cylinder. Stability control and front-seat side airbags are not available, though side curtain airbags are optional. In NHTSA frontal crash testing, the 2007 Saturn Vue earned a perfect five stars for driver protection and four stars for front-passenger protection. Side-impact tests resulted in a five-star rating across the board. During IIHS frontal-offset crash tests, the Vue earned a "Good" rating (the highest possible). In that agency's side-impact test, the Vue scored a "Poor" (the lowest possible), though the tested vehicle didn't have the optional side curtain airbags.
The big news for the 2007 Saturn Vue line is the debut of the Green Line hybrid version. Putting out a respectable 170 horsepower, the Vue Green Line also scores fuel-economy estimates of 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.