Saturn CV1

Car of the Day #104: 2000 Saturn CV1

Saturn CV1
Saturn CV1 • via GM,

If Saturn had survived, it's a good bet an MPV like the CV1 would be in its lineup. 

Saturn didn't survive in case you missed it.

The brand was a casualty of General Motors infighting and the mistaken belief that what GM really needed to fight imports at home was another brand, one with Fisher Price-style plastic body panels and drab-but-chunky styling. 

In the classic sense of being reliable and well-made, Saturns were never really all that terrible because (apart from those damn ignition switches) they at least had the resources of a multi-billion dollar company to lean on for research and development.

While the brand quickly earned fans, years of mismanagement and decline gives little for owners to rally around, apart from those past recalls.

To be a Ferrari fan is to be one of ten thousand all-in-red moving, chanting, somewhere along Monza's pit straight, swilling wine and carrying an enormous Cavallino Rampante flag during post-race victory celebrations.

To be a Saturn fan is to get the closest-to-the-door parking spot at the local CVS pharmacy.

Saturn started out quite impressively, of course, but by the early 2000s I thought I'd start to see them sold alongside walkers, mobility scooters, and diabetes testing kits. That sound harsh, but with the last Saturn I drove (an Ion), I marvelled at how the interior plastics matched my grandfather's hearing aids and that the interior plastics seemed just as rugged as the yellow capsule inside a Kinder Surprise egg.

The CV1 is the ultimate specimen to illustrate Saturn's decline.

Even Saturn designers probably hadn't realized that they'd designed its interior to match the washrooms in a long-term care home, or that the seemingly ingenious folding and sliding doors would look right at home on an oversized utility shower.

It had rear-facing jump seats for two children, sure, but the pair of provided perches look as inviting as a truck stop diaper change station.

That said, the team of engineers in charge of its powertrain must have included a relative of Nostradamus, as its spec sheet could be confused with many CUVs from recent memory: 2.2-litre 4-cylinder engine with 137 horsepower, all-wheel-drive, and a continuously-variable transmission.

Open the hood, and its "Service Guide" station features colour-coded areas to highlight different fluid filling areas and warning lights for any that need attention.

If the CVS…er, sorry, the CV1 is so dreadful, why bother writing about it? 

Saturn CV1 • via GM,

I think it's an important example of a vehicle designed solely to be as practical as possible — damn the aesthetics.

Is any of that such a bad idea?

Or is the CV1 so unpalatable because of our unwillingness to consider ourselves getting older and needing huge grab handles, shelves in the centre console, a waterproof user manual under the hood, and upholstery more stain resistant than a stretcher's vinyl pad?


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Drew M., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam G., Sam L., Wiley H.