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.


fairly significant
Typical Repair Cost:
No data
Average Mileage:
111,000 miles
Total Complaints:
2 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (2 reports)
2003 Saturn Ion engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #2

Sep 232013

Ion 2.3L

  • Manual transmission
  • 160,000 miles


While driving down the road all of a sudden the car lost all power and wasn't getting any gas, like 2 minutes later the car stalled and hasn't started since.

- , Millersburg, OH, USA

problem #1

Apr 082009

Ion Quad

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

I called the dealer the day the car engine stalled and stopped. Told him this was symptom of the transmission defect with 2003 Ion. He said it doesn't sound like a transmission problem. I told him the class action suit brought against Saturn regarding the VTI (Believe this is the proper acronym) transmission begins with the car's engine cutting off in mid-travel. I told him to put this in my file and document it, because this is most definitely a safety factor. It has Stop sign. I fully intend to have this current transmission replace. The trade-in value has dropped so badly that I would get -0- dollars for a trade-in without another transmission. I bought this Ion brand new and it is paid off...Economically another car payment is not in my best interests right now. I am pretty much stuck with a defective Saturn...but it is good-looking and I;ve done my best to take care of it. Kinda like being in love with a handsome man who has no character.

- , Copperas Cove, TX, US

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