I've always been a fan of Saturn because I like the idea of a no-haggle car dealership. We bought a used Saturn when we first moved to St. Petersburg and our little sedan is still going strong over 5 years later. I had also bought a Mercury Sable in 2005 so that the daily commute to Tampa would be more comfortable (the little Saturn no longer has a/c but still runs great). But sedans have little cargo space, and with a new house, we spend a lot of time hauling furniture, home improvement items, etc.
So when gas prices started spiraling out of sight this summer, I dithered between the hybrid SUVs and the Saturn VUE. After lots of comparison shopping on the web, I settled on the VUE. I test-drove several VUEs and settled on the 4-cylinder stick shift model since it gets the best gas mileage (estimated 30 mpg highway, comparable to hybrids).
The VUE is really a "car-SUV" because it is built on a car chassis. THe 4-cylinder doesn't have the pickup and power that driving the Mad Max-style commute across Tampa Bay seems to require, but I've settled into the middle or back of the commuter pack and that seems to work well. I like the VUE. It's comfortable, the price is good, the mileage is good and it holds all our stuff.
Saturn is coming out with a hybrid VUE for the 2007 model year and that's worth a look. If you prefer more power, try out the other models that have more -- I think there is a V-6 and a V-8.
As for Saturn of St. Petersburg, one of the reasons I traded in my used vehicle and went back to Saturn was because of the customer service. When we bought our used car, we were treated like royalty and every time we went back for regular maintenance, it was outstanding. I was very unhappy with the Ford dealership I was using and decided to make us a 2- Saturn Family. After all, after we bought our used car, the saleswoman regularly called or dropped us cards to ask us how we were enjoying the car and invited us to see her again in the future if we wanted to buy another car. Each time I visited for service, she would come out and personally greet me. This for a relatively inexpensive used car!
I've got to say, things have changed over the years. I bought a NEW car at the same dealership (and not cheaply, either) and was not treated very well at all. I got a wet-behind-the-ears salesman who did not know his job (he was surprised to hear that the VUE was built on a car body -- he did not know anything about the product he was selling me!) and he acted bored and tired throughout the whole transaction. Then he had the nerve to tell me to "be sure to give me a good review when Saturn contacts you about this sale." Yeah, right, Skippy. I did not even bother to fill out the survey when it came in the mail. The salesman NEVER contacted me personally to ask how I was liking the new car, nothing, zip, nada.
I would've complained to the manager, but a call to the manager on another matter treated me to even more brusqueness (if not outright rudeness) so I am not quite the enthusiastic Saturn customer I once was. However, I chalk it up to a management change. The service department continues to shine for their outstanding customer service -- I just hope that they go back to their previous sales floor management style.