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A Different Vue of an SUV

2003 Saturn Vue

John Davis

When Saturn announced it was going to build a compact SUV, the news was generally taken with a yawn. After all, Saturn would be coming late to the small sport-ute party, one that at that point was pretty much controlled by the import brands. But, as the arrival of the Saturn SUV neared, and as details began to leak out, it became apparent that this new people mover would be different. Indeed, when the 2003 Saturn Vue was finally unveiled, it did provide some important new and unique twists on the compact sport-utility vehicle.

Like most Saturn cars, the Vue is built with a steel space frame. That's different. Different, too, is that most body panels are formed from flexible polymer that can resist some pretty hard knocks. This eliminates the need for protective lower body cladding, and gives the Vue a very clean look.

The Vue also emerged as a somewhat more stout vehicle than most competitors. It is longer, wider, and taller than the import leaders. Also, unlike those offshore utes, the Vue offers a choice of engines, both garnered from Saturn's largest L-Series sedans and wagons. Standard fitment is General Motor's new global Ecotec 2.2-liter, twin-cam, inline-4, with 143 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque. Optional on the Vue is a 3.0-liter, twin-cam, V-6 rated at 181 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Transmissions include a 5-speed manual, or a new stepless, continuously variable transmission for the Vue 4-cylinder. The V-6 Vue, on the other hand, is equipped with a new adaptive 5-speed automatic, a first for its compact class.

Both front-and all-wheel-drive versions of the 4-cylinder Vue are available, while traction control is optional with two-wheel drive. The V-6 is equipped with all-wheel drive as standard. Like most of its type, the Vue drives like a front-wheel drive sedan until slippage occurs, and then torque is seamlessly transferred to the rear wheels as needed.

The Vue rides on an all-independent suspension. Struts reside up front, and a three-link trailing arm setup supports the rear. Together they give the Vue a very balanced, car-like feel, yet allow enough wheel travel for light-to-medium off-road work.

The Vue also comes standard with a well-equipped and spacious interior. It's comparable in size to the segment's largest competitors, the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute. The dash layout is clean, and user-friendly. Controls are large and clearly marked, as expected from a Saturn and most GM vehicles. Safety options include head curtain air-bags, which provide protection in side and rollover accidents, and the factory-installed OnStar emergency locator system. The front seats are well-padded buckets, while the rear floor is perfectly flat with a 70/30 split bench seat. It folds easily and locks into place. We judge cargo space as reasonable, and it's easily accessed through a big hatch and a very low load floor. True versatility is provided by the folding front passenger seat that allows the Vue to accommodate cargo up to 8-feet long.

The 2003 Saturn Vue is a solid new entry into the small sport-ute class. Yet, with its space frame and polymer skin construction, choice of engines, advanced transmissions, and highly versatile interior, it also offers something more and different from most rivals. For anyone considering a small sport-utility as their next purchase, the 2003 Saturn Vue is clearly worth viewing.

If you're curious enough to want to see more of the Saturn Vue, be sure to catch our MotorWeek roadtest on episode #2140 to be broadcast on most PBS stations during the week beginning June 7. Click here to find out when your local station airs MotorWeek.
 

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From the front it is moving into Aztec territory.

Seems like a lot of trucks (ala Nissan) are moving into this Transformer toy look alike thing. They are about 10 years behind the times though :D

Chris
 

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I still say that from the front it reminds me of something I used to build with legos. I almost expect it to be pictured with lego people....hey, what a great photoshop idea! :27:

Kinda cool, actually.
 
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