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
Typical Repair Cost:
No data
Average Mileage:
150,000 miles
Total Complaints:
1 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (1 reports)
2003 Saturn Ion engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #1

Oct 312013

Ion 1 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles


This car has been OK. UNFORTUNATELY! I bought it new 14 years ago. First edition of the Ion. Previously had owned 2 other Saturn's which were better but did have trans problems. This Ion right off the bat had recall on the daytime tuning lamp turning signal,staining of seats sucks,can't even spill water. Transmission big problem! Sometimes it would get stuck accelerating,and you couldn't Even brake to slow down! Seals on doors windows suck! CD player only worked for awhile and I had the high end stereo system. Front suspension felt Iike it was falling off. The worst was when it just completely died out! Almost got into an accident! Heard there's a recall on this.

- , New Lenox, IL, USA

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