As much as we loved driving the 2007 Saturn Sky for its design, ride, and interior execution, we were annoyed by quirks that made living with the roadster inconvenient. Still, we’re anxiously awaiting the Sky Red Line.
Driving the 2007 Saturn Sky is a beautiful weekend romance that ends in stilted silence and uncomfortable pauses. That’s harsh, true, but as much as we loved the Sky for its sweet looks, its ride and handling, and its interior, we hated the little things that made the experience of living with it less pleasant than what we thought it would be like.
Ultimately, the Sky is to blame. Sitting in the seats, enjoying the design and appreciating the quality and creativity that went into the making of this vehicle, raises expectations that the car simply can’t live up to in every way. The result is an experience that is part sublime, part sub par. The interior is a perfect example: it is here where drivers will be pleasantly surprised – and simultaneously annoyed. It’s as if designers focused so intently on building an upscale interior that they passed on some nuts and bolts elements that open top drivers appreciate. Yes, the instrument panel is stylish and well-built, and the speedometer and tachometer gauges are big and beautiful, but the digital readouts fade considerably in the sun and there’s no temperature gauge. You can flick through the driver control center and get a temp readout, but most drivers – especially drivers who like to put in a sporting effort – want to see that little needle floating on a gauge.
These sporting types also like good, firm seats, and the Sky delivers. They’re excellent, period, among the car’s best attributes, holding occupants no matter what kind of road, and quite refreshing throughout a long, hot day behind the wheel. You could drive for many a mile in these seats with no backache or leg fidgeties. In fact, the only negative about the seats comes when you wish to make an adjustment: limited room between the seat bottom and the door panel means that you must stop, open the door and make the change. That seems to be a theme on how the interior of the Sky is oriented, with plenty of room between driver and passenger, yet not enough room between people and doors. It’s as if designers used the available track width to preserve personal space rules.
The design of that space is smartly executed, with a wide center area and those substantial seats as the centerpiece. Even with the top up, there’s plenty of space between occupants. It’s on the outside where space is compromised. The high beltline creates a feeling of protection when the top is down, though if you like to put your elbow on the top of the door it feels awkward. With the top up, the high beltline serves to make the cabin slightly narrower, and confining.
Getting out of the Sky is easier than one would expect, with light doors and a relatively easy step out. That’s a little surprising, because you sit low in the Sky, and it feels as though you would have to drag your carcass out of the cabin. Getting in lacks some of that ease, and most people will find themselves stutter-sliding their derrieres to avoid contact with the steering wheel. The door itself is easy to handle, nicely upholstered and made of quality plastics, but the controls are located halfway up the armrest. Using the switches requires a person to contort her left arm, in a sort of Emu the Elephant pose.
There are three cupholders, and all are barely useful. The dual holder at the back of the center console is awkward, especially when driving. One can imagine Sky drivers knocking a latte while underway, which sure would be an unpleasant experience. The other cupholder, up front on the center console on the passenger side, is a sliding unit that pops out. That’s a nice design, and works great when one is driving solo, but it protrudes into the available passenger legroom. And it’s not as if there’s a lot of legroom to go around. Even though the Sky is bigger than the MX-5 Miata, it offers slightly less leg room, a constraint felt most when trying to stretch out: those with a long inseam will find their piggies pushed right up against the firewall. There’s plenty of room side-to-side, however, and in that way it’s a comfortable ride, even during aggressive maneuvers. Those who like to brace themselves against the center console will appreciate how it gives very little ground.
That type of driving will likely be a rare thing in this low-wattage version of the Sky. This is a roadster built more for a fun cruise than a spirited run up a mountain road, though with the five-speed manual transmission the Sky delivers just about as much fun as most people expect. The short throws, combined with the easily manipulated clutch pedal, make for a spirited driving experience, though the 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine is just barely up to the job of lugging around this 2,933-lb. roadster. You can tell because the engine sounds and feels pretty unrefined when you dig into the throttle, though it does behave nicely when you’re tooling around town, or just not pushing it all that much. That’s the first and best reason to wait for the Sky Red Line, assuming that you can afford the $4,000 premium. If, however, you’re looking for fun – as opposed to Miata-munching, baldy-dome making fun – this Sky, with the manual transmission, should be enough. Just be sure to pass on the five-speed automatic transmission. The lag in acceleration, the wanting for more torque, the screams that come from the engine as you pound the throttle in search of more power…yeah, stick with the standard.
It’s yet another example of the Sky tease, because the rest of its performance is admirable. Steering is responsive and nicely weighted at all speeds, and GM’s new three-spoke steering wheel feels good in hand. You feel in control of the Sky at all times thanks to that steering, the Sky’s wide track, a compliant suspension, a stiff chassis, and some big 18-inch rubber underneath. It’s hard to shake the Sky loose even during hard cornering, though a little bit of oversteer is detectable when pushed hard. Throughout, however, the roadster keeps its poise, firmly planted on the road and very enjoyable.
That’s where the Sky’s at, even more so than the Solstice. For us, the most noticeable difference is the ride quality. Where the Solstice is a bit harsh, the Sky is compliant, soaking up more road irregularities and returning a smoother ride. This feels like a touring roadster with a penchant for fun, one perfectly suited for commuter traffic or a weekend getaway. Either way, the wind will probably be the first thing to fatigue its occupants, though even though it’s well-handled. You can have a perfectly nice conversation inside the Sky with the top down, and the stereo comes through clearly at a normal open-top volume setting. Buyers may want to spring for the wind screen accessory, however, as there is a fair amount of buffeting. Top up driving is quiet, thanks to the cloth top’s inner lining which comes standard on the Sky and optional on the Solstice – though with the top up the Sky feels small. Top up, road noise is muted, and the interior is nicely buttoned down, but given the flimsy build of the glove box it’s easy to see some squeaks eventually developing in that area.
That’s the good side. By now, we know that the bad side of the Sky is lurking, and sure enough, there it is, waiting for you to change your mind and put the top down, and then back up. It’s not hard. But it’s inconvenient and takes longer than most would like. First, you’ve got to pull over to a safe location – no stoplight switches in the Sky – then pop the button in the glovebox, get out, and on each side of the car push the top up (or down) and snap the rear corners into place. That’s the price of beauty, indeed, along with the lack of trunk space. Here again: your partner will love cruising down the highway in the Sky, headed for a romantic weekend trip, but will positively hate the Sky’s limited trunk space.