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:
4 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
91,042 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 body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #6

Jun 242016


  • miles


While driving on an interstate at 65 mph the hood's latch arm broke off causing the hood to fly open and strike the windshield. The metal around the arm appears to have rusted enough to cause the failure.

- Liverpool, NY, USA

problem #5

May 252016


  • 201,000 miles
My hood flew open and smashed my windshield because the part of the hood that goes into the latch broke off the hood. As a direct result of my hood flying open while driving, and filing a claim with my insurance my car was determined a total loss due to the extent of the damage. I have suffered emotional distress due to the trauma of my hood suddenly flying open and smashing my windshield. When my vehicle came to a stop I was inches away from a telephone and was barely missed by a semi-truck that was directly behind me due to having to slam on my brakes because the hood was on my windshield. I am also suffering financial difficulty due to this accident because I am still paying on this car, the insurance has totaled my car, and I have no means to purchase another vehicle. There is no reason why this should have happened. The car is in reasonable condition with no rust except at that part of the hood.

- Quincy, MI, USA

problem #4

Feb 242016


  • 156,250 miles
The hood catch detached from the hood while driving the vehicle on the highway. Speed was approximately 70 mph. The hood slammed back into the windshield, cracking the glass. The hood was rusty around the mounting points of the catch and the catch broke free without warning. The catch remained in the hood latch. I drove the vehicle off of the highway without accident or injury.

- Cleveland, OH, USA

problem #3

Dec 142015


  • 102,000 miles


Engine cradle left front rusting and holes now not passing Vermont state inspection and I have had and lived in the salt belt for 11 years. Why is this not a recall secondary to safety issues"?"

- Hartland, VT, USA

problem #2

Jul 142014


  • miles
Couple months ago I brought my can to GM because of the ignition switch recall. Last week I got a call from GM that my car was done and ready to be pick up. I noticed that the power of my car wasn't there, the passenger window was going down (when I dropped it off at GM it wouldn't go down), and my car charger wasn't working (when I dropped it off it the car was charging my phone same charger same phone). 2:00am today I hit a deer on my way to my parents house (im okay but don't know about the deer) but the air bags didn't deploy.

- Pequot Lakes, MN, USA

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problem #1

Sep 252013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 87,000 miles
I was driving down a boulevard, I was doing 40 mph there was a police car in front and there was maybe about 2 car length distance from him. The light hit yellow and I saw him brake so I started braking as well but my car would not brake. The acceleration continued increasing, I didn't know what to do. I was slamming on the brakes but my car did not stop. My car slammed into the police car within seconds. My car was destroyed. My hood was bent in half, my front bumper scratched & peeled. The bumper stood on the car only because I kept trying to brake and the car went in an angle where it went under the cops car. Both my side fenders cracked and my front light was destroyed. The whole car frame is destroyed and I was held at fault of this accident. My insurance went up, I didn't get no money to help fix my car nor check the problem. If there is way I can get any type of help I would truly appreciate it. 5 months later the same situation happened again thank god I was not driving my vehicle it was parked. It was just accelerating on its own, I didn't know what to do. I left it parked for a week and when I turned it on it was fine. Im scared that this will happen again, please help me out.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

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