2002 Saturn Vue

Greenville, South Carolina - Saturn's new SUV is the exact opposite of a BMW X5. Whereas the X5 is a tall, four-wheel-drive sports car with less usable room than a 5-series wagon, the Vue is all utility and pretty much no sport. But it sure is cute. The Saturn cult will eat it straight up.

0201 Saturn Vue 01

Having proven themselves uncaring on the subject of performance, the cult will not mind that the biggest Vue engine--a decent, 181-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 with jazzy double overhead cams and 24 valves--comes matched only to a five-speed automatic and only with all-wheel drive. The five-speed manual (front-wheel drive only) can only manage the base 143-hp, 2.2-liter in-line-four (also with twin cams and a four-valve head). A third combination--the four, paired with a continuously variable transmission--would be our choice. Called VTi, this virtually maintenance-free $940 option (available with front- or all-wheel drive) offers the most power the engine can muster at any given moment with no drama.

Traditional Saturn customers also will not mind that the electric-power-assist rack-and-pinion steering--quite responsive on twisting roads--is incapable of centering itself going down the freeway in a straight line. They might not even mind the flat, short rear seat.Instead, they'll be thrilled with a host of features that impressed even jaded us, including a front passenger's seat that folds flat, giving you an eight-foot channel back to the liftgate, and a fantastic array of interesting storage spaces, such as a purse-sized spot between the front seats, pockets in the doors, gallon-jug-size bins, and a pop-up plastic cargo sorter.

They will also love the low liftover, the easy step-in, the level of safety features (air bags, side curtains, ABS, optional traction control), and the ruff-n-tuff plastic body panels.

Most of all, they won't believe all that goodness and all that famed Saturn hospitality can be had for the low, low entry price of $16,835.

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