Hatchback Hello: GM to Plug Astra With Test Drives to Win Friends

Some skeptics say the hatchback will never return en mass to the states. Others say high gas prices will release demand for such odd-door models, just like during the great hatch invasion of the late-1970s. Of course, the new (for the US) Saturn Astra is no bargain-basement hatch; GM announced it'll start at nearly $16,000 and likely break 20 grand with not many swipes at the options list. To stack the odds in its favor, GM's taking the Astra on a coast-to-coast driveathon to win friends and influence same to take one home. It's the latest tactic supporting the General's strategy of raiding Opel's drawing room to fatten the Saturn catalog. We're standing by. If this works, the odds may be better that we'll get a version of the hotter, Opelfied OPC version. Then, the insertion of hot hatchness will be complete. Viva!

Press Release:

Saturn Astra Test Drive Event Coming to a City Near You

Saturn Astra - the all-new sport compact car with European-bred driving dynamics - arrives in dealerships early next year. But enthusiasts who want to be among the first to see, feel and drive the Astra can participate in one of 14 test drive programs held this fall across the United States, between Oct. 12 and Dec. 13.

By visiting Saturn.com/AllNewAstra and clicking on the "Rethink the Test Drive" tab in the lower left corner, you can sign up - including one guest - for the nearest city's event. There, participants are allowed to get in, crawl through, push buttons and gaze under the hood of the all-new Astra, while product experts answer any and all questions.

After being familiarized with the Astra, participants are encouraged to put it through its paces on a closed course designed to highlight the car's comfort, performance and overall feel. It's a fun, safe and personal way to experience an exciting new car before anyone else in your area.

The Astra is available starting Jan. 2. It is offered in three- and five-door models, with a starting price of $15,995 (including destination). Astra is packed with a wide range of standard equipment and safety features, including six air bags. Power comes from a 138-hp 1.8L Ecotec four-cylinder that is both energetic and economical.

Cities and metropolitan areas included on the test drive tour include:

* San Francisco - Oct. 12
* Los Angeles - Oct. 17
* Phoenix - Oct. 22
* Chicago - Oct. 24
* Orange County, Calif. - Oct. 25
* Seattle - Nov. 1
* Detroit - Nov. 8
* Houston - Nov. 15
* Dallas - Nov. 20
* New York - Dec. 3
* Philadelphia - Dec. 6
* Orlando - Dec. 10
* Atlanta - Dec. 13
* Miami - Dec. 13

Test drive locations and directions are available when you sign up at Saturn.com/AllNewAstra - you supply the enthusiasm and Saturn will supply the orange cones.