Skip the hybrid, and Aura looks like a reliable used bet
History/Description: It’s a bittersweet thing that Saturn launched the Aura just a few years ahead of their ultimate demise as a brand, because by many accounts, the Aura was a fantastic midsized sedan. Built on a GM Europe-designed Opel platform, the Aura offered great ride quality and handling reflexes.
Look for the Aura with four- or six-cylinder engines, an available hybrid model, and a bright, fresh look that spoke to the youthful and dynamic feel of the Saturn brand.
Higher-end XR models got a premium audio system, automatic climate control, leather-wrapped surfaces, OnStar, satellite radio, remote start and plenty more. All Aura models got an automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
What Owners Like: Many Aura owners report a quiet, solid and smooth ride, premium driving feel, good overall design and good fuel mileage. Owners of V6 powered models say they enjoy plenty of power, and styling is rated highly on all models.
What Owners Dislike: Some Aura owners wish for more comfortable seats, a rear-seat armrest, more at-hand storage and bigger cupholders.
Common Issues: On a test drive, ‘feel’ the Aura’s brakes for signs of pulsation during moderate brake application, which could indicate warped brake rotors. Check for signs of moisture in the footwell carpeting on sunroof-equipped models, which could indicate a leaky drain tube.
A clunking or grinding sound or rough sensation while steering could indicate a well-known problem with a steering shaft. This issue has popped up in numerous other GM models, and a dealership performing a pre-purchase inspection will be familiar with the problem and how to check for its presence. Listen for any squealing or ‘clicking’ sounds during steering at low speeds, which could also reference this issue.
Additionally, squeaking sounds while travelling over bumps could be caused by suspension bushings that are worn out.
Ensure the electronic keyfobs lock and unlock the doors as expected, and note any ‘check engine’ or ‘airbag’ lights that may be present in the instrument cluster. Also, double-check for proper operation of the stereo, satellite radio, and OnStar systems.
Engine and transmission problems look few and far between, though a scan of the Aura’s computer by a trained Saturn mechanic can reveal any potential problems that may be waiting for you within the electronics. Note that excessive gear hunting, rough shifting or slippage from the transmission is likely the result of a bad control module, and can typically be remedied by reprogramming it.
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