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New styling keeps eyes on the Sky
Saturn vehicle has the sporty looks, but lacks the power

JIM MATEJA
Chicago Tribune

Critics who insist General Motors' design staff has been in a decades-long slumber and that GM doesn't build any cars consumers want should pause for a prolonged moment of apologetic silence.

The 2006 Saturn Solstice roadster was the first clue that GM had some styling verve. The 2007 Sky roadster leaves no doubt.

It's one thing for people to stop and stare when they see a Solstice parked in the lot. But with Sky, folks stopped shopping, walked out of stores and headed to the lot for a good look.

Sky is derived from the same small, rear-wheel-drive platform as Solstice but looks like a cross between a Chevy Corvette and a Cadillac XLR -- in miniature.

Sky is high fashion, sorely needed at a GM division that specialized in bland from the day it started selling cars in 1991.

Long hood, short deck, the traditional profile of a sports car. Jewel-like headlamps, wide honeycomb grille, thinly chiseled side scoops in the doors and front quarter panels, large 18-inch radials that fill the wheelwells.

In back, "aero fairings," or what look like headrests behind the seats that run along the deck lid are a nice styling touch borrowed from Formula 1 racers.

And the clamshell hood opens forward while the clamshell trunk lid opens rearward.

Sky is about the size of a Mazda Miata. It boasts a wide stance and wheels moved out to the corners for a solid, stable look as well as good road manners.

What's important is that while Sky shares a platform with Solstice, they don't look like clones.

The only exterior features Sky shares with Solstice are the windshield and soft convertible top. Body panels are all unique.

Yet while the attraction with Sky, like Solstice, is the stunning looks, the shortcoming is that, like Solstice, performance falls short of expectations.

Like Solstice, the 2.4-liter, 177-horsepower 4-cylinder engine isn't a fire-breathing, tire-burner. Decent acceleration and decent power to pull out to pass, but the 4 cylinder is a little sedate for those who expect a roadster to act as spunky as it looks.

The mileage rating tells the story -- 20 mpg city/28 highway -- along with the fact the 2.4-liter was borrowed from the compact Chevy Cobalt.

Like Solstice, Sky also gets 2-liter, 260-h.p. The performance Sky will be called the Red Line, the Solstice the GXP.

Engineers tweaked the Sky suspension as well as the wide-profile, 18-inch all-season radial tires to focus on smooth ride and acceptable handling.

We tested the 2007 Sky with the standard 5-speed manual, which was silky smooth through every forward gear, but needed a little coaxing to slip into reverse, an occasional quirk of a prototype.

The primary appeal is open-top motoring. When the soft top is up, there are no squeaks, rattles or buffeting from the wind. The top has even more insulation than on the Solstice in keeping with its more upscale image.

The top is manually operated. Flip the lever along the windshield header and, because it's too heavy to simply lift and flip, get out and load the top into the stowage hold under the trunk lid.

But with the top stowed, there's not much room for more than a suit carrier and perhaps a pair of shoes since the fuel tank stands high in its location smack in the middle of the tiny trunk.

Need luggage for vacation? Send it by UPS.

There's no room for a spare tire, so an air compressor and can of spray sealant are squeezed into the trunk in case of a flat.

Cabin stowage space is limited to a couple net pockets behind the seats, a small compartment in the wall between the seats, and a tiny glove box.

Two cup holders pop out of the rear wall, where they are difficult to see, much less reach. A single cup holder slides out of the center console -- on the passenger side.

There's decent leg, arm and even head room with the top up. And the seats are wide and supportive and hold two in comfort without fatigue after long-distance travel. But this is a small, two-seater so your thighs will often come in contact with the door trim.

A couple of annoyances. One is that the fuel gauge is deeply recessed in the instrument panel, making it nearly impossible to see. You have to rely on a warning light to flash when the tank nears empty.

Another is that the outside mirrors are very small. Seeing anything coming up from the side is tough.

2007 Saturn Sky
Length: 161.1 inchesEngine: 2.4-liter, 177-h.p. 4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Fuel economy: 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Price as tested: $25,575
THE STICKER
• $23,115 Base price
• $795 18-inch, chrome-plated, aluminum wheels
• $750 Premium trim package with leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, steering-wheel audio controls and stainless steel pedal covers

PLUSES:
• Stunning styling usually reserved for sports cars that sell for twice as much.
• Open-top motoring.
• Decent price and mileage.
• Not plagued by wind noise with top up.

MINUSES:
• Could use more powerful engine, which is coming this fall.
• Nowhere to put luggage unless your passenger cabs it.
• Limited storage space.
 
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