Last year, when testing Saturn's Opel Astra, I really liked the car. But I also noted that it was obvious how hastily GM brought the import into the U.S. The leading indicator: the 24-hour clock and Day/Month/Year format on the display (time-traveling Michael J. Fox sold separately). For the 2009 model year, I'm happy to announce (to those of you that care) that GM has updated these critical functions to a more American-friendly format. The 24-hour clock gives way to a 12-hour clock for those that can't subtract 12 easily, and the date display will no longer make you think there are only 12 really long days in Febtober, the 25th month. Since it is a damn fine vehicle, the assumption might be that in the month when Honda Civic sales surpassed even the mighty F-150, the demand for any other small, practical vehicles would be at least somewhat higher. Alas, that was not the case. Saturn shifted 1091 Astras in May (contrast this with 1467 Hummer H3s). While these updates (and a new optional heated oil pan) are indeed exciting, one can't help but wonder how the Astra=– rated at a respectable-for-class 24/30 (with America-friendly 4 speed automatic)– would be selling with proper advertising support and an autobox that allowed them to advertise better MPGs. Rethink that.
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