With a curious preschooler on our hands, more often than not daily interactions typically evolve into behavioral lessons. This week the folks from Saturn came to pick up the VUE hybrid we test drove for Boston Mamas. Laurel’s repeated inquiries about why the green car would be gone by the time she got up from her nap evolved into a conversation about sharing, and how our turn with the car was up. Here’s our review of the 2007 Saturn VUE hybrid, first addressing general then mama related priorities:
As the parents of one child, it’s easy for us to espouse the virtues of small cars. But driving the VUE hybrid SUV was pretty luxurious in comparison. The elevation and lateral space felt roomy and safe, and strangely enough, the actual footprint of the SUV wasn’t that much bigger than our sedan. The adjustment to driving the car thus was surprisingly quick, with the exception that I had difficulty getting a sense of the vehicle length and figuring out by the mirrors how much room I had in back. So I largely avoided tight parallel parking situations (and I should say that I typically don’t shy away from parallel parking, having learned on a behemoth woody wagon).
One of our favorite aspects of the VUE was the noise reduction associated with the car powering into eco mode. I’m not sure whether this is common to all hybrids, but when we slowed to a stop, for example, the car essentially went silent. Jon and I tend to be very sensitive to sensory pollution and I was so excited about the noise reduction that I almost called a former colleague to borrow a sound level meter so I could quantify the decibel difference (pretty nerdy, I know!). Beyond the auditory experience, we didn’t feel a functional difference on the road; the car always felt powerful.
From a mama perspective I was thrilled with my first interaction with the car, which involved installing the car seat. The LATCH side anchors are in plain view (no jamming your hand between the seat cushions looking for the connection); the seat installation couldn’t have been easier. The back storage area also was spacious, and included a pop up organizer and recessed side wells to keep items in place.
One area that could stand to be improved (and perhaps the 2008 model addresses this) involves the internal ergonomics. The dash/stereo interface was a tad clunky and not altogether intuitive; the worst offense (insert drum roll) involved the cup holder. It might sound silly to complain about cup holder ergonomics in the context of an eco SUV, but all moms know that cup holders can make or break stroller purchases (or at least cause considerable grief afterwards if you opt for a stroller without one...the doctors instruct you to stay hydrated after all...). Anyhow, at first I thought it was novel and interesting to have the cup holders between the seats (instead of in front of the gears), but I learned quickly during a day trip that my coffee drinking was severely compromised by the ergonomics. I had to bug Jon to pick up or put down my cup every time I wanted a sip since the holder was out of my peripheral vision and since the placement of the arm rest (which Laurel insisted be in the down position) made the reach awkward.
In sum, we enjoyed the test drive. The Saturn VUE hybrid feels safe and spacious, the mileage is good (estimated 27/32 city/highway mpg), and of course we love the eco angle and associated global and immediate sensory benefits. Now if only they’d fix the cup holder!