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New Car/Review


Saturn SC2 (2001)

SEE ALSO: Saturn Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 16,505
     Price As Tested                                    $ 19,485
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 1.9 Liter L4 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 116 cid/1901 cc
     Horsepower                                   124 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               122 @ 4800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  102.4"/68.2"/180.5"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     2704 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  12.1 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                           195/60R15 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Four-passenger/three-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.33


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            25/36/30         

     0-60 MPH                                       10.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          18.5 seconds @ 82.0 mph
     Top-speed                                            99 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Saturn's years of being the darling of the automotive industry are over. For years dealers had to live with one line, the S-Series, but they did it successfully through a "Listen To The Voice of The Customer" approach to retailing and good customer service. A larger Saturn, the L- Series, has been creating new curiosity, and an upcoming SUV should pull lots of newcomers to Saturn showrooms. This week we test the SC2 coupe.

OUTSIDE - The new SC's exterior sports a new look. Larger headlamps, turn signals and daytime running lights give the front end a bolder look, while the rear end features new tail lamps and back-up lamps. Saturn's famous dent-resistant plastic body panels remain, though a sweeping character line now runs the sides from the base of the front bumper to the tops of the rear quarter panels. And while it may look like it's a hatchback, it's not. It has a fully usable trunk that offers a sizable amount of cargo capacity. One of the best features of this little coupe is its third door, which swings open "suicide" style on the driver's side to allow simple access to the back seat. Our test car came with optional directional alloy wheels and grippy performance tires.

INSIDE - The interior is well-appointed, with deeply scooped bucket seats that have good side bolstering and lots of adjustment. The rear seats are typical of a compact car in that there is just barely enough room for two adults. Thankfully, the extra side door make climbing in back easy, though a fourth door on the passenger (curb) side would be even nicer. New this year are optional side curtain airbags on all Saturn vehicles. There is a fair amount of storage scattered about the cabin, and the clean, simple dashboard design locates the ventilation and audio systems together, separated by a shallow compartment for a wallet, sunglasses or other small items. A set of analog gauges resides under the lip of the dashboard top, while easy-to-use rotary knobs and a thumb-wheel control temperature and fan speed. SC2's come standard with an impressive array of features. Among them are air conditioning, power door locks, windows and mirrors, keyless remote entry, an AM/FM/CD stereo system, intermittent wipers, a 60/40 split rear seat and a rear window defroster.

ON THE ROAD - The entry-level SC, the SC1, comes with a 1.9 liter single overhead cam four cylinder engine. Its 100 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque won't win any races, but it gets up to 40 miles per gallon on regular gasoline. Our SC2 came with the same size engine, but it has twin cams atop its cylinder head to boost power up to 124 and torque to 122 lb-ft. This is the same powertrain it has had for a while, and it does an adequate job for the price. New this year are added sound-deadening efforts to quiet engine noise at higher speeds. Power is just enough to avoid white-knuckle experiences when launching into highway traffic, while the optional four-speed automatic transmission kicks down smoothly into lower gears in passing situations. A five-speed manual is standard and does a good job of making things a bit more sporting, though most SC2 buyers will opt for the automatic. Traction control, which limits wheel spin, is a desirable option in icy climates.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The front suspension is of the MacPherson strut type, with a thick stabilizer bar, coil springs and tube shocks. The rear suspension consists of a tri-link layout with two unequal-length links and one longitudinal link, along with a stabilizer bar in the case of the SC2 model. A quicker-ratio rack-and-pinion steering system than that of the SC1 is also standard and features a variable-assist system that gives light effort and good on-center feel. Braking is handled via front discs and rear drums, with a four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) offered as optional equipment. ABS comes bundled with traction control. Overall, the Saturn SC2 is a bargain sports coupe.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, side-impact door beams, daytime running lights and child seat tether anchors are standard. ABS, traction control and side curtain airbags are optional.

OPTIONS - ABS/traction control package, $695; leather upholstery, $700; power sunroof, $725; alloy wheels, $350; floor mats, $70.