2007 Saturn Vue Green Line

2007 Saturn Vue Green Line 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line
Short Take Road Test

After its first cautious step toward hybrids in 2004 with full-size pickups, GM now takes a second. The game plan for the Saturn Vue Green Line is less hybrid for less money. You get three shiny "HYBRID" badges and a weak engineering effort for $22,995.

EPA mileage improves to 27 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway, from 22 and 27 for the 2.2-liter nonhybrid Vue.

This hybridization on the cheap is accomplished with an utterly conventional four-cylinder engine (upsized to 2.4 liters) and four-speed automatic. The whole trick comes down to lengthening the gear ratios and replacing the usual starter and alternator with a belt-drive motor/generator. A low-output NiMH battery - the lighter Toyota Prius has about 50-percent-more battery power - lives under the cargo floor in place of the spare. We admire efficiency, and maybe GM has a clever idea here for a few extra mpg.

But that also means few reasons to buy. Compared with a serious hybrid for about $3500 more, the Toyota Camry, for example, the Saturn is slow and thirsty; it goes 0 to 60 mph in 10.2 seconds, 2.5 seconds longer than the Camry. Fuel economy over our Arizona driving routes (different days, similar weather) was 25 mpg for the Saturn, 37 for the Camry. Air-conditioning cool-down times are much longer for the Saturn, too.

The Green Line is available as a front-driver only, and unlike Toyota and Ford hybrids, it cannot move without running its gas engine. Cheap and joyless, there's not even a mileage computer for keeping score of your adventures in thrift. Then again, there's little thrift here to bother with.