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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
No data
Average Mileage:
183,305 miles
Total Complaints:
1 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replacing engine (1 reports)
2003 Saturn Ion engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #1

Sep 132015

Ion 3 2.2L

  • Manual transmission
  • 183,305 miles


click to see larger images

engine knock

Driving to Sudbury, ON in my 03 Ion (Loved it so dearly) Until it started knocking about 100KM away from home. Went another 100KM (Made it to Sudbury) and the knocking obviously started getting worse. I pulled the dipstick and there was tiny metal fragments in the oil. Today (the 14th) I pulled the valve cover to check the cam's and timing chain and there is nothing out of the ordinary besides slightly worn lobes. So the knock is coming from the crank. Seems to be a mildly common problem with the ecotec 2.2L. I'll be looking for a replacement engine now.

- , Mindemoya, Ontario, canada

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