With gasoline prices climbing again, the Saturn Vue Green Line is being viewed hard again.
Hybrid vehicles like the Vue become even more attractive when the gas pump dons a black mask. Included are both the so-called "pure" hybrids and newly dubbed "hybridized" wheels.
The difference is in the fuel economy. Hybrids that run on electric motors and/or small gasoline engines are the ones with the spectacular miles per gallon figures. They also cost the most.
The semi-hybrids employ an electric engine to help out but the vehicle doesn't run on one. For that, it's the old reliable gasoline banger.
That's what General Motors has done with the Saturn Vue compact sports utility. The combination provides 27 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway. That's another way to figure out which type of hybrid system a vehicle employs. If the city mpg is higher than the highway, then the electric motor is doing the work in stop-and-go traffic.
The Saturn Vue Green Line gets 20 percent better fuel economy than a regular Vue at a cost of $2,000 or so. Then it's time to get out the calculator and figure out if the premium will be offset by fuel savings. It really depends on how many miles you drive and how high a gallon of gas goes.
The 2.4L four cylinder engine cranks out 170 horsepower and the electric adds about another 20. That gets the Green Line to 60 mph in a leisurely but adequate 10.5 seconds. A non-hybrid 3.5L V-6 Vue does it in 8.7 seconds.
Here's how it works. Under hard acceleration, the electric hybrid motor turns on to assist the 2.4L. When slowing down, fuel is cut off to the internal combustion engine to save gas. Under braking, that energy is recaptured and charges the battery.
In an economy setting or with the air conditioning off, when the vehicle is at rest, the system puts the engine into auto stop for two minutes. The Saturn also restarts when the brake pedal is released.
The Vue does all of this seamlessly. There are lots of gauges to track the processes. Without them, it's hard to spot the transitions.
The base Green Line Vue is $22,370 and as tested it's $23,750. For that you get power windows and locks, audio controls on the steering wheel, cruise control and a compass.
The driving position is excellent with nice seats and plenty of legroom. The gas pedal is placed commendably to the right. The ride is nice and smooth.
The Green Line, like all Saturn Vues (and other Saturns, too), can be towed flat -- on all four wheels -- behind a motor home. That's an advantage because no modifications have to be made to the vehicle. A tow dolly that puts the front wheels on a little trailer isn't needed either.
Of course, a large motor home gets a whopping 8-10 mpg.