Changes are few in 2002 for the subcompact Saturn coupes, again offered in SC1 and SC2 form, which depends on the engine. Floormats are now standard in the SC2 coupe, which can be equipped with newly optional 15-inch aluminum wheels. Two-tone black/gray leather replaces tan leather upholstery as an SC2 option. Coupes are built from the same front-drive design as the SL sedan and the SW2 wagon.
Saturn gained attention early in 2001 by installing a standard third door on the drivers side an industry first. Optional curtain-type airbags store in the ceiling above the side windows and inflate along the length of the passenger compartment. Curtain airbags activate during a side-impact collision. Like all Saturns, the coupes use polymer lower body panels, but the hood, trunk and roof are made of steel.
From the beginning, Saturn has been best known for the customer-friendly shopping and buying experiences at its dealerships, more than for the products themselves. Sales of the subcompact S-Series fell by 14.7 percent to 177,355 units during 2000.
Styling changes for 2001 included new lower-body panels and fresh front and rear fascias. All coupes have two conventional doors and a standard third door on the drivers side. Called a rear access door, it swings open to the rear after the drivers door is opened. An integrated design makes it nearly unnoticeable when the door is closed. The coupe rides on a 102.4-inch wheelbase and measures 180.5 inches long and 53 inches high.
Room in the four-passenger coupes backseat is significantly smaller than that of the SL sedans, which are capable of carrying five occupants. Even so, Saturn coupes have more rear space than some other sporty two-door models. The rear access door permits easier loading of both passengers and cargo a feature that has not been adopted by competitors. In addition, with an 11.4-cubic-foot capacity, the Saturn coupes trunk is large enough to hold two golf bags.
Under the Hood
Coupes carry the same two engines as other S-Series models. The SC1 coupe uses a 100-horsepower, 1.9-liter single-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder. A dual-overhead-camshaft version rated at 124 hp goes into the SC2. Both engines team with either a five-speed manual or an optional four-speed-automatic transmission.
All Saturns can be equipped with curtain-type airbags that protect the heads of front and rear occupants. Antilock brakes are also optional.
From the time they debuted in 1990, Saturns have been noisy and rather unrefined. Although the coupes have improved over the years, they continue to fall short of various rivals. Acceleration is brisk in the SC2 with its dual-cam engine, but the SC1 isnt so swift. In either form, the ride is a bit on the stiff side.
Saturns can be enjoyable to drive. They maneuver easily, and the rear access door is an undeniably clever innovation. Plenty of owners love their Saturns. But the company scores higher for the easygoing buying experience it provides than for the on-the-road performance of its products.