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:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
5,834 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 #5

Oct 082007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


When it rains or snows, my driver seat and floor gets wet. There are no water stains around the sun roof nor is there any water damage on the drivers' door. In new england, the car is non-functional in the winter and spring because of this problem. I have taken it to the local Saturn dealership and they have refused to fix it. 2) I have had to replace my front turn signals 3 times in 1.5 years. I am almost convinced it is a socket problem and not a lightbulb problem. 3) I have had to replace the brakes and rotors twice within a 12 month period. In that time. I have only driven 17,000 miles. Once is understandable. Twice is expensive and ridiculous.

- Dorchester, MA, USA

problem #4

Nov 292007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 0 miles
Hood latch broken, ignition switch sparks and the car doesn't start, loud clanking noise in front end, transmission is quirky while shifting(automatic) do not have any of the parts.

- Owosso, MI, USA

problem #3

Nov 202004

Ion 4-cyl

  • 15,165 miles
While driving. Upon stopping the vehicle. The consumer got out to take the child out of the vehicle with the ignition running. The doors locked, and the consumer could not get her child out of the vehicle. Consumer contacted the dealer. However, the problem still exist. Doors locked automatically upon exiting driver's side. Additional service include, the A/C and heater funtion failed due to faulty connection from switch to resistor card, collapse of horn cover causing loss of airbag. Ignition switch failed. The signal and running lamps were inoperative.

- Leola, PA, USA

problem #2

Jan 242004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 14,000 miles
2003 Saturn Ion 1. during cold weather the passenger side window frosts. The controls are set for defrost, air on and blower medium high. Even with the blower on high there is very little air coming from the passenger side defrost outlet. A co-worker has a similar problem with his Ion. The dealer said the system is operating as designed. 2. the hood latch freezes and the hood canT be opened to add window washer fluid. Sometimes you can get the hood open but you canT relatch the hood completely without pushing the hood release handle down. A co-worker has a similar problem with his Ion. 3. some the edges on interior plastic parts on the are very sharp. The worst is the compartment door to the left driverS leg. This popped open and had a sharp rough edge. As I exited the car I cut my leg. I fixed this myself by filling the edge.

- Fairport, NY, USA

problem #1

Jun 122003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 3 miles
I purchased my 2003 Saturn Ion quad 3 on 6-12-2003. I've had nothing but problems with it since the beginning. The transmission slips constantly. A tech from spring hill says this is normal for this type of transmission. Trying to turn left in front of oncoming traffic is a nightmare. This car is in the shop as we speak. The rear quarter panel is cracked and being replaced. The rear bumper is being painted because of scratches from the trunk rubbing. The front bumper is being painted because of runs in the paint. None of the body panels seem to match up. They're attempting to fix a popping noise in the front end. They're replacing the dr side glass because it is severely scratched. It sometimes runs rough at first crank.

- Bartlett, TN, USA

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