SO I SAW A SATURN AURA at the mall last night, and I have to say that it’s a very attractive car — especially the interior fit and fiinish, which has been a perennial GM weak point. The materials aren’t especially expensive, but they’re very well put together, and very tastefully done. (Good taste shouldn’t cost more.) I don’t know how good a car it is — it won an award at the Detroit Auto Show, but the Popular Mechanics folks were a bit lukewarm — but I thought the look of the interior was really, really good for the price, on the level of an Infiniti or some more upscale brand. Maybe there’s hope for GM after all. There’s going to be a hybrid version.

Because Saturn’s website is lamely Flash-dependent, I can’t link to any pictures directly, but if you go here and look though the photo gallery you can see what I’m talking about.

UPDATE: Reader William Girardot emails:

Perhaps you didn’t intend to, but you seemed to pooh-pooh the award won by the Saturn Aura this year. The Car of the Year award is not just “an award” but is the award most coveted by the automobile manufacturers. It reflects the judgment of 48 automobile journalists who in years past seemed to routinely confer the award on the Toyota and Hondas of the world. Here in Detroit, we are very proud that Saturn won the award (and that Chevrolet took Truck of the Year). For a city that continues to suffer so terribly we at least want the enjoy the small props we earn…

I didn’t mean to pooh-pooh. I’ve been disappointed with Saturn in recent years, but this car looks really good. I’m going to try to post some pics and video later. Hey, maybe I’ll even try to drive one.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Brian Weigand emails:

I read your post on the Aura. It is sweet-looking. As part of my job, I test-drove one of these over the summer (just another day in the salt mines). The driving experience lived up to the looks. The model I tried had shifting paddles on the steering wheel, ala Formula One. Very fun. It seemed to be that you got a lot of car for under $30k.

It seemed that way to me, too. Contrary to some readers who’ve accused me of having it in for the domestic car industry, I’ve actually been wanting them to succeed. It’s just that they haven’t given me a lot to work with.

UPDATE: Video posted here, background here.