annissamazing: Ten's red Chucks (Volvo)
I got to work early Friday morning and thought to myself, "I can not wait to test drive that Volvo any longer. I must do it! I must do it today!" The weather was pretty nasty, hot and rainy. I made a deal with myself. If the sun came out I'd drive down to Canton and test drive the C30 and the S40. If it continued to rain, I'd stay close to home and test the Saturn Astra or a Hyundai of some sort (probably the Sonata, but they have a hatchback that resembles a Saab that I might be interested in [at least, they used to]) or go straight home and test out the new level sync function in Final Fantasy XI. I stayed late at work and had lunch with my co-workers. As we left the restaurant, it was still drizzly, but not horribly bad. So I decided to stay local and test drive the Saturn Astra.

I looked it up online and my first thought was, "It looks like a shoe." This car did not excite me. The 3 door model isn't bad looking, but the 5 door... well, it's not so nice. Well, look... here's pictures:

(The Saturn Astra is the Opel Astra in Europe hence the different insignia and foreign license plate)

So I debated with myself as I drove down Howe Ave. Keep going straight home or turn into the dealership. I made a last second decision and turned into the dealership. I walked in and there were three salesmen standing right at the door (what else are they going to do on a rainy Friday afternoon?).

"Hi." I said. "I'd like to test drive..." The name escaped me. I looked around and pointed, "That. The red one."

"No problem!" They said in unision. Then just one of them continued, "Jason will help you."

So Jason took down some information, asked me some questions about my needs and wants. Then asked me what color I wanted to test drive. I told him I didn't care about color. Not at this point. He left me to go pull an Astra to the front of the dealership.

Before climbing in for the drive, he showed me a few features. He opened the rear hatch and I gotta say I was shocked at the amount of cargo space. It's at least as large as the trunk of my car. The back seats fold down in a 60/40 split, though they do not lay as flat as the ads show. The key to the car is a little gimicky. They've got the same design as the Volkswagen switchblade keys.

The seats were comfortable and wrapped around the body like sport seats. The seat adjustments were manual and a lot like the MINI's. It also had the telescoping steering wheel (which I like).

The center console was very user-friendly. The computer shows lots of useful information like exactly how many more miles you can drive before you'll need to refuel and how many miles per gallon you're getting.

The sound system was...heaven. Absolutely dreamy sound. It wasn't even the kind of music I like and the sound system knocked my socks off (I really need to pack CDs for these test drives). There are speakers where you expect them (down by your feet, up by the side mirrors, in the back) and there is another speaker where I've never seen a speaker before: in the center of the dashboard. We're talking true surround sound.

The back seat was roomy and the salesman encouraged me to bring my kid and a child's safety seat to test the fit.

The car has a snow mode that comes with the automatic transmission. When the roads are slick, you just hit the little snowflake button and instead of starting the car in 1st gear, it starts in 3rd so you don't sit and spin your wheels. And when you no longer need the extra traction, you just hit it again and it goes back to normal automatic mode.

The ride was comfortable. I could feel the car grip the road, but the suspension wasn't so stiff that I felt every little bump. The car wasn't as powerful as the Cooper S or even the Mazda 3. It felt like it was exactly in between the Cooper and the Cooper S. I felt like it could hold it's own while going uphill on a freeway onramp, but it wasn't as fun to drive as the Cooper S or the 3.

Gas mileage is 24 city/32 highway, almost as good as the MINI Cooper. I'm told that the reason the city mpg is so high is because the car drops automatically to neutral when it is stopped instead of idling in first. That also makes for a very quiet ride.

To sum up: This car surprised me. A lot. There's a lot of thoughtful touches and good design in this car that could make me fall in love with it, despite the lack of power in comparison to other cars I'm testing. It's just so darn practical. Plus with it's starting price under $17,000 plus the current GM employee pricing for everyone plus my own GM discount... this car could be a winner.

Current top pick: Dead heat between Mazda 3 and Saturn Astra


annissamazing: Ten's red Chucks (Default)

April 2017

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