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:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
24,187 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 - interior problems

accessories - interior problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #3

Dec 202008


  • 45,562 miles


When below 32 car will not start. Then security is enabled and have to wait 10 minutes to try again.

- Chiocago, IL, USA

problem #2

Jan 172007


  • miles
Car will not start at random times. I wait 20 minutes and the car starts right up.

- Delata, PA, USA

problem #1

Jun 162005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 27,000 miles
At the time my Saturn was involved in an accident it was under 30,000 miles and still under warrenty. I was driving on a busy highway and my accelerator got stuck. At the time I could not see what was holding down my accelerator. It was a piece of panel that came off partially that was holding the accelerator really hard and it was stuck making my pedal stuck almost all the way to the floor. I tried to slow the car down with both feet on the breaks and the emergency break to no avail. I didn't turn the ignition off because I had cars on all sides of me going 50-70 mph. It was when I came to a red light that I realized my car wasn't going to stop and I had no other choice but to hit an SUV and my car kept trying to accelerate and push the SUV out of the way. That is when I turned off the ignition. I had to turn off the ignition before another accident occurred. The SUV was damaged. My car was damaged. I haven't been able to get my car fixed because I am waiting for Saturn to acknowledge the manufacturing defect which caused the accident, so that they could lend me a rent-A-car while it is in the shop. But, I cannot get them to give me a call to make an appointment to get my car in the shop or supply a rent-A-car. A forensic investigator inspected my car on Friday and agrees that I didn't cause the accident. He supplied the information to Saturn and still three days later I can't even get a courtesy call. The accident was on June 16, 2005. I couldn't get them to call me to speak about what my options were until the week of July 1, 2005. Then an investigator July 8, 2005. They have not made one effort to work with me about getting the car into the shop. They have not given me the time of day to make an appointment with a Saturn shop location to get my car fixed and so that they could supply a rent-A-car.

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

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