Pros: Very affordable, good pickup (V6), great, quick steering, roomy.
Cons: Some accessories should be standard.
I bought my Saturn VUE 2003 after toying with the idea after I first test-drove the 2002 model. I decided to wait until 2003 for two reasons - I wanted a leather interior and I wanted to see if there were any major kinks that needed to be fixed. I previously owned a 1997 SL2 and was pleased with it. I thought I'd give Saturn another try.
My salesperson (LA/Marina Location) was a dream. He made sure I got everything I wanted on the car and it was delivered on time. I received 0% financing from GMAC with no money down. This was a great incentive. My sticker price is what I paid. You can get a very decent model for under $24K with features that compare to the other SUVs in that price range.
THE FEATURES I GOT: automatic transmission, V6, leather interior, premium sound package (excellent sound), 17" alloy wheels (very nice), sunroof, front guard, roof rack, fog lights, side curtain airbags, ABS with traction control, extended warranty with full service for 5 years and no deductible, A/C (standard), and much more that comes standard with the VUE. The extended warranty with service is great. I just take my car in when it needs an oil change or any other service and that's taken care of. There is no charge to me. It also comes with roadside assistance for 5 years.
I got all of this for around $30K (the sunroof, special alloy wheels and warranty do add up) which includes the tax, title and license for CA, otherwise the price would have been about $27,000. Now, for Saturn that may seem like a lot, but take all of these features and try to get them on any other SUV if they are even offered(Ford Escape, Honda, Toyota RAV4) and you're going to pay well over $27K! If you are comparing the Kia or Hyundai SUVs, they may be cheaper, but you just will not find all the features offered by Saturn that I was able to get on my SUV. Also, keep in mind that you may not need/want all of the features I chose and your price will be much lower!
WHAT I LIKE: the VUE drives and handles like a car. It has a fairly smooth ride. The steering is very quick and responsive, though it sometimes has a rattling sound that Saturn claims is due to the fact that it is computerized (okay!). It is very comfortable (I took a road trip to Vegas and it was a dream). The rear passenger area is very roomy and the interior overall has a lot of space. The leather is nice, especially the seat warmers in the winter. I have tons of cargo space, but it doesn't come standard with a cargo cover (a problem, but it can be ordered). I recently moved and I stuffed the car like a sausage without any problems. The sound system is great - 6 disc in dash CD player, AM/FM radio, and cassette with tons of speakers. Gets great highway mileage and decent street mileage (see below). Great visibility from driver seat. The controls are all within reach for a person of average height (5' 2"). They make sense to me. I don't have to guess what each control is for. That may also be because I previously owned a Saturn. Also, I have had passengers of various heights from under 5' to over 6' and everyone is comfortable in the passenger seat and rear seat. The front seat belts are adjustable for different heights as well.
THE DRIVE: This car is very responsive, both the steering and the pickup. When I push on the gas, it gets moving. Even with the A/C on full speed, the car still has enough power to maneuver California's mountains. I can make quick turns and cuts when some idiot in front of me stops on a dime, which happens frequently in LA with all the people driving and talking on cellphones. The engine is incredibly quiet. So much so that I have actually driven up on people and they didn't realize I was there. It's a lot of fun to drive and has made my morning/evening commute more bearable. The gas mileage is good, but I cannot complain since it gets mileage as good as my Saturn SL2 (20 street/25 hwy) and runs exclusively on 87 octane gas, usually the cheapest at the gas station. I get this mileage and routinely drive over 65 mph!
WHAT I DON'T LIKE/WOULD CHANGE: the dent resistant doors are a nice novelty, but it makes for a fairly loud interior when you are driving. It's time for Saturn to let that go. The center console is too low unless your arms are 4 feet long! It needs to be higher so that the driver isn't reaching around for things. The suspension could be better to give a smoother ride. Some accessories should come standard, particularly if you buy the top of the line model with leather and all the trimmings (which I did). Engine could have more horsepower for the V6.
OVERALL, I great car and I am pleased with my purchase. But, if you want a car that drives like a Lexus, get a Lexus. For what it offers, it's a great value and a great car. Plus, you get a lot more than you would expect and it's fun to drive.