171,800 miles and counting!
The old saying about adopting a brand new vehicle upon it’s initial release being a bad move could be right. But sometimes if you stick it out you can enjoy a reliable daily driver.
This is what happened in our household. After a run of two Buick Rendezvous, my wife decided to move over to the newly redesigned Saturn Vue. The first generation model Vue was the plastic body version, but during a General Motors open house at a local sports venue we saw the (then) upcoming 2008 Saturn Vue.
Our household Saturn was purchased new with the higher end XR model with all wheel drive and a V6 engine not long after they were introduced for sale. We immediately loved the looks and the way it drove. The size was a bit smaller than the Buick Rendezvous we turned in but not bad as it was a compact utility vehicle. We did immediately miss the relative lack of cargo space in the rear. The floor of the rear cargo area of our previous vehicle was much deeper than the higher floor of the new Vue. But again, we had a new vehicle and we’ll just learn to adjust.
Here are our overall thoughts on the 2008 Saturn Vue that we’ve come to appreciate over the past few years.
We loved the rather spherical look of this model Vue. It was immediately a hit with us and I believe with the general public. We often noticed people taking second looks.
I can account for several occasions where I would wait inside the car while my wife would make her extended shopping trips inside the supermarket. People would regularly walk past, stop and take a closer look at the car admiring the looks of it. A couple of times they would walk up and peek inside only to see me sitting there. We would laugh and they would compliment it and move on. So the Vue had some definite curb appeal in the early days.
The cabin of the Vue is rather efficient. It’s not large by any means but it easily seats four of five adults. We have never had any situation where we were reluctant to entertain another couple in the car enroute to an event.
The seating in the front is adequately adjustable and comfortable. The rear seats can recline a bit for a more comfortable seating position as well. There is a useable armrest between the rear 60/40 split seats that has proven useful as well.
The rear folding armrest opens for additional storage. Sometimes you forget its there if you don’t have small kids that basically live in the back seats. I recall our family searching for my son’s mp3 player for months without any luck. But one day while our entire family was going out to eat, they found it inside the rear armrest. Eureka!!! In the numerous times we’d torn the Vue apart looking in every nook and cranny, under and between seats and compartments; we never checked or considered that the armrest opens.
We ordered the Vue with the optional leather seating. I don’t recall if this is a part of the upscale XR package we have, but it still looks good after 171,800 miles. The leather is not the supplest leather of course. It is rather hard and “thick-ish”. In fact it is hard to tell what is leather and what is the embossed vinyl. I’m not sure if that’s an indictment of the leather or a testament to the looks of the vinyl. In any event it has held up pretty good.
Considering the vehicles in this price range offer you leather “seating areas” tells me the only real leather is in the actual seating portion of the seat bottom and seat back at best. Still this seat has held up well with the exception of a slight amount of splitting on the left/entry edge of the drivers seat bottom. This is a typical wear point on any level of vehicle.
I guess another good thing about the thickness of the leather/vinyl interior is the ability to take a rather hefty cleaning. We have a huge (really huge) German Shepherd Dog who loves car rides. I’ve had to take to heavy-duty cleaners and a stiff brush to clean the seats behind him as well as wifey’s coffee spills. It cleans up well without wear.
The Vue drives fine as expected. After 171,800 miles it still drives pretty much like we’d expect. The ride is tight, and compliant. Turning is direct and precise. We have the all-wheel drive model so there is the normal amount of understeer, but that’s good.
In our Michigan winters, the car has faired pretty well even in deep snow. The only time we’ve been stopped in heavy snow is when the snow was substantially deeper than the bottom of the vehicle. Considering we never opted to swap the tires for dedicated winter tires, we’re satisfied.
We’ve encountered and recovered from a common trait of this vehicle’s suspension. It has been widely reported that after a while you will encounter a rather annoying front end clunking noise coming from the front suspension. This noise regularly originates from the front sway bar links. We’ve had them replaced twice. The last time I did it myself in about a half-hour as it’s not a difficult fix if you can take a tire off and use a wrench.
This fix definitely corrects the problem and can be done in your garage for under a hundred bucks easily.
My wife has been told that its time for replacing the front struts as well. It appears one of them is “leaking”. I haven’t inspected them myself, but at some point if we keep the car I might look into it. Right now, the car drives and handles fine so it’s low on the list at this stage. Especially since the front bushings, etc are still fine.
Before the warranty expired we also had both rear hubs replaced as we were experiencing they symptomatic drone that accompanies a bad hub. No problems since then.
Here’s where it gets fun. Especially for a newly redesigned model of this or any vehicle.
About a year into the ownership of the vehicle and as my wife’s daily driver she encountered a catastrophic failure of the electrical system. She was driving at night and the car died. DIED! Everything shut off. No power to anything. Even the key could not be removed from the ignition.
After being towed to the dealership the they ended up replacing something dealing with the main wiring harness. Okay. But then it happened again.
Of course my wife being a woman pitched all kind of fits to anyone and everyone that had a phone number or email address. They eventually gave her an extended warranty on top of the normal one.
Fine, but then something else happened to the car where it quit and they ended up replacing the entire engine to be safe. Under warranty of course.
It’s been approximately another 130,000 trouble free miles since then (knock on wood). Recently there has been a service engine soon light that has popped up. I have read the codes to find it relates to the transmission. It looks like some sensor is faulty or failing. Research shows this is approximately a $1,000 correction. Others have had this problem as well. So again with the car running great and potentially in line for replacement, I’m watching it carefully for any additional symptoms.
Believe it or not, we JUST put the first set of brake pads on the car a couple of months ago. We routinely had them checked, but they were fine. How we got 168,000 miles on front brake pads, I’ll never know. I asked my wife if she ever got them replaced before and she says “no”. Go figure.
We have been through a couple of sets of tires on this car. It looks like a couple need to be replaced due to pot holes that looks like they might have shifted a belt in them. I can hear a bit of rumble or ever so slight thumping in them. At least one of them has a telltale lump in the sidewall.
So overall, though we had some initial issues of reliability, the car has been pretty rock solid since. We do not hesitate to put the car on the highway for extended travel as we know the car and the routine maintenance that we have provided it.
I recall upon switching to this car we had hoped for a bit better gas mileage. We expected that since this car was smaller than the previous Buick Rendezvous we’d get better mileage. Not so. We got approx. 20-21 mpg .
Folks on the forums had mentioned this and were also a bit disappointed. It was blamed on bloat as usual and that THIS model of Vue had a steel body as opposed to the plastic body of the previous Vue.
The last time I filled up, I calculated we got approx. 23.8 mpg on a tank of fuel. Again, we’ll live with it, but will look for better in the future.
Life with the Vue
Over the years we’ve enjoyed the Vue. It has made a great addition to the household and still looks great. The looks are not timed like some cars. The other day a woman came up to me and asked about it and how we liked it. We gave her a good report as any early issues on these cars should have been sorted by now. She loved the looks.
We talked about how the looks and platform is good enough that when GM stopped making Saturns, they carried this same vehicle over in the form of a Chevrolet Captiva. It’s the same vehicle with different badges.
Our Vue has survived two-minor rear-end collisions, two front-end collisions with the local deer population. Thankfully non-lethal.
One of the deer incidents happened when I was driving. I was on a dark, hilly and winding road with other drivers behind me. I know this area and around dusk you typically don’t want to be the lead car in a line of traffic due to the deer. Luckily this area was winding enough that you had to slow to about 30mph.
I had just entered the tight downhill right curve when a small deer entered my headlight beam from the left. I hit the brakes as he did too. He hit just under my left headlight and bounced back into the middle of the road. Luckily I wasn’t going fast at that point. He got up and bolted back off to the left.
Everything seemed okay with the car. Upon getting home, I noticed the front left side marker reflector was hanging out, but could be popped back in. A few days later, my wife mentioned she needed washer fluid. Upon refilling the windshield washer tank, I noticed the fluid ran straight to the ground.
It appeared the washer fluid tank was behind the fog-light on the left front bumper. Though the front bumper cover was perfect, it obviously flexed enough not only to pop the reflector out, but obviously break the washer tank. I replaced it with parts from the local dealership without much fanfare.
I’m not sure about the other deer incident my wife had, but that one required a time in the collision repair shop. Not sure about the deer as I wasn’t in the car, but my wife said he got up and ran. He did leave a substantial patch of hair in the bumper though.
Having two college-aged kids have meant we have had the opportunity to pack this car to the absolute gills with “stuff”. I can recall going to pick up my son and daughter where the only space we had left over was the driver’s seat. As a passenger, I had to hold things on my lap coming back from a semester. The Vue handled it like a champ.
I can say that after a few years, I can qualify this ultra-long term and continuing road test a success. I without question feel this is a suitable car as a daily driver. We’ve done it.
This is a perfect car for a college student. My daughter has swapped cars with my wife on occasion and took the car to school with her before. It works perfect.
It is more of a “girl car” at least in this color, but I don’t have a problem driving it around. I think you’d be surprised about the length of ladder that I’ve had hanging out of the back of this vehicle.
So we’re sorry they don’t make this anymore, but it’s been great and hopes it continues for at least a little while longer. It looks like a champ and drives the same. It is now pretty reliable and you can’t beat it for the money. Well done!