NHTSA — Electronic Stability Control Problems

CarComplaints.com Seal Of This Might Hurt

CarComplaints.com 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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
118,858 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 brakes problems

brakes problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #3

Apr 272016


  • 114,575 miles


Takata recalls..I have a 2003 Saturn Ion I was driving fine hit cruise control button once I was at 55 an my car made a clicking sound started jerking like the cruise control keeps coming on...I've turned car off hit brakes which should reset it but it still happens..the car feels like its down shifting an trying to accelerate on its on the rpms hump real high wen this happens..you be driving doing 50 mph an all the sudden car jerks like its trying to stop U feel I T in gas pedal also...

- Amelia, OH, USA

problem #2

May 042013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
Slight shudder at a stoplight.. lost acceleration and power steering. Made it to shop. Code P0420 catcon was all that came up, battery and alternator(new) tested fine and vehicle started like nothing happened. I had exhaust tested and 4 hours of general diagnostics= "the car seems fine, yes that is weird, just keep an eye on it" it twice more, and consistently felt "rough" before February 2014, (two years) got new suspension, spark plugs, fuel and coolant systems cleaned, etc... my car felt almost new, a little rough so I babied it. After all, it is obsessively well maintained...immediately after recall ignition switch replaced by dealer, one month ago, the "really rough" feeling returned. Shifting hard, vibrating, it almost stalled at intersections intermittently. Dealer checked transmission (along with two other shops that love money)... all say transmission is fine, but to me it felt like it was falling apart. When I had a day off two days ago, I brought it to three transmission shops, two exhaust shops, and two tire shops (who also inspected my suspension, wheel balance and brakes) all said it was fine and that is "normal" to feel that way as I approached 183000 miles. The next day ( last night) when after ten minutes of driving, in the space of thirty seconds, I lost acceleration, power steering, radio was flashing lights, battery light and service engine warning came on along with the airbag light.. my car couldn't make it over the little hump across the intersection and I (5'3 120 lbs) was forced to push my running car across the highway that runs through town. I made it to the frontage road, barely able to turn which put me head on with another car that had to swerve around me. The car wouldn't start. Battery tested fine. Towed home.

- Grand Forks, ND, USA

problem #1

Oct 072009


  • 102,000 miles
Saturn Ion 3 has intermittent starting problems; it's been checked for problems, but to no avail. The problem appears to be with ignition switch which appears to have a short of some kind. Car starts, then shuts off, then when trying to restart, appears dead, wait 5-10 minutes and it starts again. No automotive tech could detect what the problem was.

- Greensboro, NC, USA

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