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2007 Saturn VUE Green Line Road Test

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Rob Rothwell
A Budget-Minded, Politically Correct SUV
A Budget-Minded, Politically Correct SUV

VUE Green Line logo.
Driving a typical, climate-changing SUV amidst the tree huggers and wool-attired environmentalists of the West Coast can lead to feelings of angst and betrayal; there's no argument that we all want a cleaner world with less reliance on fossil fuels. I get it, and now many car companies get it. The latest such manufacturer is Saturn.

For 2007, the compact Vue SUV is offered as a hybrid in addition to a conventionally powered unit. In the Vue's case, the hybrid technology is labeled as "mild," meaning it's not the highly sophisticated "full hybrid," system found in gas/electric vehicles that can be driven solely on their electric power until the need to initiate the gas engine is detected.

Similar to full hybrids though, the Vue's gas engine will switch off when the vehicle is stopped. Unlike full hybrids, which generally accelerate to 30 kph or so before their gas engine fires-up, the Vue's engine re-ignites immediately upon release of the brake pedal. Consistent with full hybrid technology, the Vue's gas engine and electric motor combine to improve acceleration and driving performance.

This vehicle uses a mild hybrid setup.
A major advantage of the Vue's less sophisticated, mild hybrid setup over that of full hybrid technology is its lower cost. Unfortunately, the flip side of "mild" is a smaller gain in fuel efficiency in contrast to a full hybrid arrangement. The full hybrid powerplant available in the Ford Escape - that in Canada sells for approximately $5,000 more than the $28,795 Vue Green Line - achieves greater fuel economy in city driving than the mild-hybrid-powered Vue.

The Escape also benefits from what feels like considerably more hybrid-produced oomph. Although its gas engine is only rated at 133 horsepower, Ford claims that the combination of its robust electric motor and gas engine impart power sufficient to match that of a V6 powerplant. Despite the Escape's real or perceived power advantage, Saturn assures us that the Vue Green Line nets a 20% gain in fuel economy and a 27 horsepower bump in output over a conventionally powered, four-cylinder Vue.

To be precise, Saturn pins the 170 horsepower Green Line at 8.8 and 6.7 litres of regular fuel per 100 kilometres of city and highway driving respectively (27 / 35 mpg US). By only a small margin, the Green Line's city-driving fuel economy isn't the best in the hybrid SUV segment, which is in my view (or Vue) acceptable given the vehicle's significant price advantage over the competition.

The VUE Green Line is only offered in a front wheel drive configuration.
Keep in mind though, the Saturn Green Line is strictly a front-wheel drive (FWD) SUV. If serious winter traction or competent trail performance is important in your world, the all-wheel drive (AWD) Ford Escape and Toyota Highlander hybrids may better address your needs. If however your priorities include SUV practicality, miserly fuel consumption and the lowest price of entry among any hybrid SUV currently available, the Vue Green Line is the clear winner.
Rob Rothwell
Rob Rothwell
Automotive expert