AJAC votes vehicle best new small car

The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada voted the Saturn Astra the best new small car for 2008.


Folks who know a thing or two about cars are raving about the Saturn Astra.

“If driving is your passion,” writes Jill McIntosh of Canadian Driver, “this is the car you want to drive.”

Small wonder, then, that the Saturn Astra was voted as the best new small car for 2008 by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.

The AJAC decided at its three-day TestFest in Niagara Falls last October that the Astra is a considerably better small car than the Suzuki SXx4 Sedan, the Subaru Impreza Sedan, the Mitsubishi Lancer and the Ford Focus. (For a breakdown of the results, go to www.ajac.ca/web/ccoty/2008/comparison_category.asp?cat=32.)

About 70 AJAC voters checked out the aforementioned five cars with back-to-back test drives on public roads as well as on a closed track, where vehicles could be evaluated at their limits.

“The Saturn Astra turned out to have good comfort and good performance at a very affordable price,” Gerry Malloy, a member of the management board with the Canadian Car of the Year group, told Metro.

“In the small-car class, fuel economy is a must, and the Saturn Astra proved efficient in that area, as well.”

The Astra’s price, as tested, was $18,049. The other four cars ranged in price from $18,995 to $23,698.

The consensus was the front-drive, five-door Astra is equipped with exceptional safety features, has a functional interior and a crisply styled exterior.

“Its steering wheel is the only one in this class that also telescopes, adding to the Saturn’s outstanding cabin ergonomics,” writes automobile expert John LeBlanc. “The Astra’s excellent balance of ride versus handling seems swiped from a Saab. Its balanced suspension and quick steering made for no surprises on the (Canadian Car of the Year) test track.”

However, Leblanc warns the Astra’s braking distance is average and it lacks a quick throttle response. It also was the noisiest of the tested small cars. And McIntosh says the Astra “has a few interior issues that could use some attention.”

Still, McIntosh, Malloy and LeBlanc all agree the lowest-priced car they tested definitely did not feel like it.

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