The Saturn Aura Hybrid was discontinued when General Motors shut down the entire Saturn brand in 2010. The company produced and sold about 1,600 Aura “Green Line” Hybrids, from its first sales in spring 2007 through the end of 2010.
The new Saturn Aura got off to a rip-roaring start when it won “Car of the Year” at the 2007 North American Auto Show in Detroit. The judges raved. Matt DeLorenzo of Road and Track said, “The Saturn Aura is a breakthrough car for General Motors. The road manners are solid, the interior is beautiful, and the overall fit and finish is top-notch.” John Davis of Motor Week called the Aura, “a striking and entertaining family sedan alternative to Camry and Accord.”
If you’re thinking about buying a Saturn Aura Hybrid, you might also consider a Toyota Camry Hybrid or Ford Fusion Hybrid. Compare these vehicles.
That was the buzz from Detroit, and before the Green Line version was introduced. As the Aura Green Line made the rounds to the auto reviewers, the story changed. The styling continued to receive high marks, but a chorus of auto journalists dinged the Aura Green Line for “anemic” performance and a “stripped-down” feel.
Why did the Aura Green Line get accused of being cheap? Because affordablity (a.k.a. cheapness) was General Motors’s goal in producing Saturn hybrids. The company argues that consumers won’t buy a hybrid if they can’t justify any extra costs with a quick return. So, all of the company’s first hybrids, including the Aura Green Line, use a less expensive gas-electric system that calls on electric power mostly to prevent the vehicle from burning gas during idle, and only occasionally to give the car a minor boost during certain driving conditions. This technology, commonly called “stop-start“ is a no-frills system for improving fuel economy by about 10 percent.
While Saturn manages to keep the additional cost of the Green Line version within a couple of thousand bucks of the conventional four-cylinder Aura (especially when considering the hybrid tax credit), its real competition is not the standard Aura—but the Toyota Prius and Civic Hybrid. Unfortunately, the bare-bones entry-level versions of those cars are about the same price as the Aura Green Line. And those vehicles beat the Aura Green Line’s fuel efficiency ratings by 13 mpg and 16 mpg respectively. To make matters worse (especially for those calculating the environmental impact of driving), the Aura Green Line is rated as a Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV), four steps below its competitors, which score the Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle rating.
The new look of the Saturn Aura caught reviewers by surprise, mostly because its predecessors were so bland. The design is now sharper and sportier. The wheels are pushed closer to the corners and more sculpted lines and body creases sweeping from headlights to taillights.
The Aura Green Line is hard to distinguish from the conventional Aura. The only differences are the hybrid badges on the front doors and trunk, and 16-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires.
The midsize sedan provides a spacious interior, with good legroom and decent comfort. The adjustable reclining front bucket seats provide firm support. The quality of the interior design, and fit and finish, is greatly improved from previous Saturn models—but the materials and finishes have not completely shed their cheap plastic feel.
The instrument panel, which flows smoothly around to the door panels, is modified for the Aura Green Line to indicate the level of charge and assist from the hybrid battery. The “auto stop” light shows when the engine is shut off during idle. These features pale next to Toyota’s hybrid dashboard display or Honda’s blue backlit instrumentation.
The hybrid system is designed to maintain use of accessories when the vehicle is stopped. But if the air conditioning or defogger is blasting when the car is stopped, the gasoline engine may continue to burn fuel—rather than using the no-idle feature. Saturn provides a “hybrid” AC setting, which may reduce passenger comfort in exchange for maximum fuel savings.
The Saturn Aura Green Line entered the hybrid field as the least expensive of the pack—which includes a number of family-sized sedans such as the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, and Nissan Altima Hybrid.
Given that the Saturn brand has been nothing to cheer about in recent years, and that the technology employed in the Aura is the ultra-mild belt alternator starter, is there anything newsworthy about the Aura Green Line? Actually, yes. It’s the first hybrid that essentially costs no more than its conventional counterpart. The long-standing argument that hybrids are not worth the extra money—and that the so-called “payback period” could be five years or longer—is eviscerated with the Saturn Aura Green Line.
In broad and simple terms, the Aura Green Line, which starts at $22,695, costs about two-grand more than the Aura XE. When you subtract a $1,300 federal tax credit, you’ve whittled the premium down to a few hundred bucks. In exchange, you bump your city mileage from 20-mpg to 28-mpg, and the highway fuel efficiency from 30-mpg to 35-mpg. Depending on how much you drive, the fuel savings could erase the cost of the hybrid system within a few months. From there on out, it’s all gravy. And with gas prices back in the three-dollar range and continuing to head north, wouldn’t it be nice to have the 30-40 percent boost in fuel economy?
“The 2007 Saturn Aura Green Line succeeds in its mission statement of being a cheap hybrid. While its stripped-down cabin disappoints, its entry-level drive train technology delivers decent fuel economy gains over the V-6 gasoline model.”
“Possibly the biggest thing the Aura Green Line has going for it is that it’s a Saturn Aura. The Aura is a handsome car that handles and drives more like a European sedan than a typical GM car. But with its 4-cylinder engine and smaller wheels wrapped in low-rolling-resistance tires, the Aura Green Line loses much of the power and pleasure that marks the top-line Aura.”
“At $22,695, the Aura Green Line is the cheapest hybrid on the market, at least until the stripped-down 2008 Prius arrives later this month. However, to get to that price, GM cut some corners. Not enough to turn Picasso into Cezanne as in years past, but still enough to make you scratch your head.”
“The Saturn Aura Green Line is a handsomely styled, midsize sedan with anemic-feeling gasoline-electric hybrid power and lackluster fuel economy vis-à-vis its Japanese competitors. And starting in 2008, the Aura Green Line no longer is the lowest-priced hybrid production car. The Aura Green Line, which is priced higher than an Aura with V6 and weighs about the same as a V6 Aura, gets only 164-horsepower from its 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine with electric motor assist. And the lower power is noticeable and disappointing.”
“My biggest gripe with the regular Aura was its cabin, which has fit-and-finish issues that are hard to ignore. Unfortunately, the Green Line isn’t an improvement in this regard; it has some glaring panel gaps you wouldn’t expect to see in a brand-new model. Still, if you’re looking for a hybrid on the cheap and want a sedan, the Aura Green Line, which starts at $22,695, is a sensible choice that doesn’t ask the owner to make any significant compromises.”