Junkyard Find: 2008 Saturn Astra XE

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Remember the Saturn Astra? A Belgian-built Opel Astra, it was supposed to replace the Ion, but GM had a few distractions around that time and axed the Saturn Astra early in 2009… followed by the Saturn brand itself.

Just two model years, poor sales, weird Euro-Detroit badge-engineering hijinks, and a near-instant disappearance from cultural memory: just what I like best in a Junkyard Find!

I had been keeping my eyes open for an Astra for a couple of years, and it took a bad crash to send this one to a Denver self-service yard. It appears that someone nabbed the transmission, leaving the 138 hp Ecotec 1.8-liter sitting atop the wreckage.

The huge panoramic sunroof was a signature Saturn feature during the marque’s final years.

This one still has the manual for the futuristic audio system, which could play MP3 files on home-burned CDs; meanwhile, younger car buyers wanted to plug their Zunes into auxiliary audio input jacks, which I’m pretty sure this car doesn’t have. Bluetooth? That’ll never catch on!

This one has stickers from two different Colorado car dealers, including one on the other side of the Rockies from this yard.

I have never been a driver or passenger in an Astra, but I hear that they were pretty good driving cars (by late-2000s GM standards), though on the underpowered side. The interior certainly has that “affordable European commuter” look.

Definitely a couple of Zune owners here.

Isn’t trying to be cool the furthest thing from being cool?

Over in Yurp, it was assumed that most Astra buyers would want the manual transmission.

In Australia, the Holden Astra became the driver, which made parking easier.

Egyptian Astras did some impressive stunts.

In Poland, the Astra had, uh, Zorro?

Meanwhile, in Russia.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Dannew02 Dannew02 on Sep 09, 2018

    In 2008, my wife and I were having our first kid. SHe basically forbid me from putting her in either my Miata, or my Dodge Shadow, because obviously a baby would immediately die in either of those cars (rolleyes) Anyway she said I HAD to get a brand-new car, and the Astra was the first one I looked at. I liked the manual-trans 4-door hatch because I had a couple of those already (Dodge Lancer, Plymouth Duster and the Shadow I currently had) Anyway I really liked the Astras I saw, but the dealer only had fully-loaded examples on hand, and basically refused to let me order one the way I wanted. I also looked at Nissan Versas as well. The Nissan dealer also only had loaded, auto vehicles, but was willing to get me one equipped the way I wanted. After driving both of them, they were grossly similar- neither was as quick as my V6 Shadow, the Astra felt "nicer" than the Versa (of course being the loaded-up version) it had too much "stuff". I'm old and don't want power stuff or phone integration. THe base Versa also literally cost 1/2 of what the fancy Astra cost! It didn't have projector headlights, sunroof, aluminum wheels, etc but I didn't want any of that, anyway... The Saturn dealer literally said, "These are what we have, take it or leave it" and they did the "no haggle" pricing too, so I could literally buy two Versas for what all the Astras were gonna cost. I really wanted to buy something "American" (stupid, because I knew they were made in Europe) but I went with the Nissan and less than a year later Saturn was gone. The former Saturn dealer is now a used car lot/oil change place... I put over 100K on my Versa in less than 4 years, and the only problem I had with it was hitting a deer, so I think I made the right decision.

  • Andrey Andrey on Jan 13, 2024

    I had two of these Opel station wagons with a 1.9 diesel engine, powerful and economical. Second coupe OPC 2.0 turbo 250 hp 6 gears

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  • Zerofoo “Can the sedan be saved?” Sure - just lift it a bit, add a mild all wheel drive system, and make the trunk a lift back. I don’t know a single middle-aged woman who doesn’t drive a CUV. Precisely none of them want to go back to a sedan. The sedan may not be die completely, but sedans will not replace CUV/SUVs any time in the foreseeable future.
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