Pros: comfortable ride, spacious interior, great winter traction w/AWD
Cons: many mechanical issues that don't befit a vehicle with less than 100K on the clock
After struggling up one too many snow-covered Northern Michigan hills with my '99 Dodge Stratus, I decided to look for a vehicle with better all-season traction. Given my budget, the legroom demands that my 6'3" frame creates and my desire for decent fuel economy, a car-based SUV with all-wheel drive seemed the most sensible choice.
I'd heard good things about the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4. But the devil was in the details. CR-V didn't offer the needed legroom, Escape was too pricey at that time when configured with the equipment I wanted, and the RAV4 simply seemed claustrophobic. So, I decided to take a chance with a newer entry in the field, the Saturn VUE. After all, those little S-Series cars that Saturn had been selling for years had a pretty good reliability rep, right? Surely, the VUE would perform similarly, right?
Not necessarily. By the time 65K miles rolled over, it was getting hard to keep track of how many trips this SUV had made to the shop. There were little glitches -- like the windshield washer nozzle tips that were knocked off the car early in its life, and a failed suspension link which resulted in a loud creaking sound -- which were covered under warranty. Then, the warranty expired, and some big repairs had to be covered on my dime. There were the two front wheel bearings that needed replacement, the failed rear module for the all-wheel-drive system, the need to replace another bearing in that same general area, and a link that went bad at the other front corner and caused another loud creak. From what I've found in online research, many of these glitches are rather commonplace on early VUEs.
It's a shame. When the VUE is functioning properly, there's much to like about it--a spacious interior, smooth ride, decent fuel economy by SUV standards (18-20 city, 24-27 on the highway) and great traction on snow.