Notes: The Saturn Ion was a compact bundle of hurt wrapped up in a cheap, plastic shell. With so many defective components and a safety rating that a bicycle would be ashamed of, it’s a blessing this car only lasted five model years.

The 2003 (and 2004) Ion was cursed with GM’s flawed attempt at a continuously variable transmission, known as the VTi. It had such a high failure rate that a class-action lawsuit was filed against GM, eventually prompting a settlement and a warranty extension. GM discontinued the VTi for the 2005 model year – surprise, surprise.

The 2003 Ion was also part of one of the largest and most controversial recalls of all-time. A defective ignition switch in millions of GM vehicles could accidentally turn the car off and disable important safety components like the power steering and airbags. The problem resulted in at least 13 deaths, but what made it worse was that GM knew about the issue for 10 years before doing anything about it.

So was the transmission warranty extended? Yeah. Was the ignition switch recalled? Eventually. Is this car safe to drive? Not really. Honestly, you’re better off looking elsewhere.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
107,000 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Saturn Ion accessories - exterior problems

accessories - exterior problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #3

Oct 262015


  • miles


My car feels like a death trap. To start off with only one of my windshield wiper motors work. When I first bought the car from a single individual the passenger side wiper appeared to shake a little more than the driver side. As if it was working a little harder to keep up with the other wiper.. and then less than a month after purchasing vehicle it stopped working all together. Now I only have the driver side wiper that I use. Also when I go to turn on the blinker, go over a railroad track, make a turn iorn vehicle, or sometimes just sitting still. The wiper will start working without me having turnned it on. At first it would just come on for 3 or 4 swipes and then automatically stop again. But now its doing it more frequently and sometimes it will not stop swipping whichis very aggravating causing scratches on my windshield and wearing my one wiper down faster than it should be. Along with these problems my car has also been idleing extremly high upon cranking and while changing gears it acts as if it gets stuck between 1rst 2cd and 3rd. Also when I try to increase speed for passing or to make turns it sometimes just causes it to bog down more instead of increasing my speed it sounds as if its gonna blow up the engine.

- Rome, GA, USA

problem #2

Jan 052015

Ion 4-cyl

  • 161,000 miles
While going down the interstate at 75, my wiper motor linkage blew apart because of the plastic. I couldn't see because of the snow, and had to reach out and grab the wipers, they cut my hand.

- Perry, OK, USA

problem #1

May 232010


  • 160,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact was driving 25 mph when the power steering seized. In addition, the windshield wiper failed and the front windows driver and passenger side windows could not be opened or closed. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer for inspection or repairs. The manufacturer was notified who advised the contact that the vehicle should be taken to the dealer and they would decide if they should offer any assistance. The failure mileage was 160,000.

- Matawan, NJ, USA

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