With its competitive price and high (estimated) gas mileage, the 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line is likely to hold its own by attracting customers who want a practical SUV with a hybrid badge, but without a hybrid sticker.
Our test car was equipped with the baseline audio system made up of a single-disc CD player with MP3 playback capability controlled via basic, but intuitive head unit controls. To our digital delight, the stereo does come with an auxiliary input jack, in front of which we found a conveniently located holder for our Creative Zen MP3 player.
The Vue Green Line's instrument cluster contains four clear and bright dials, two of which give clues to its hybrid identity: instead of beginning at 0 rpm, the tachometer has a setting called Autostop, which serves to shut off the engine when the car is stationary; and a charge/assist meter, which lets the driver know when the car's hybrid system is being either charged (by regenerative braking or deceleration), or discharged in response to increased engine load-demand.
In the Vue Green Line, the BAS system integrates a 36-volt NiMH battery--mounted beneath the rear cargo area at the expense of a spare tire--with GM's 2.4-liter, four-cylinder variable-valve-timed Ecotec engine.
The Vue Green Line's HVAC controls are basic but usable and get a special addition in the form of a green "economy mode" button, which switches the A/C to a reduced power setting to minimize fuel consumption.
Unlike "full hybrids" that can run entirely in electric mode, GM's first hybrid SUV features a simpler hybrid technology known as Belt Alternator Starter (BAS), which is a low-cost approach to getting a coveted "Hybrid" badge on its model line.
The Vue Green Line comes with more than 30 cubic feet of storage space, and includes a "rear cargo organizer"--a unique plastic fold-out crate in the cargo area that can be snapped into place to prevent grocery bags from spilling over when driving out of the mall parking lot.
The Vue Green Line's dual-propulsion system enables the battery-powered electric motor to assist the gasoline engine when accelerating from standing or when load demand is suddenly increased (for passing or merging, for example).