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:
109,991 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 fuel system problems

fuel system problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #13

Jun 012016


  • 152,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the odor of fuel was present outside the vehicle. The cause of the failure was not diagnosed. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The VIN was invalid. The failure mileage was 152,000.

- Morrisville, NC, USA

problem #12

Apr 042016


  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. When the contact started the vehicle, he smelled fuel and noticed a significant amount of fuel on the ground. The manufacturer stated there were no recalls available. The vehicle was not diagnosed. The failure mileage was 130,000.

- Greenbelt, MD, USA

problem #11

Mar 202016


  • 103,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle had an abnormal odor and was leaking fuel from underneath. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer or independent mechanic to be diagnosed or repaired. The contact referenced NHTSA campaign number: 04V003000 (fuel system, gasoline) however, the VIN was not included. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 103,000.

- Pontiac, MI, USA

problem #10

May 292015


  • 201,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start and fuel was leaking from the rear driver side of the vehicle. The failure recurred several times. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The contact was made aware of NHTSA campaign number: 04V003000 (fuel system, gasoline); however, the VIN was not included. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 201,000.

- Mullica Hill, NJ, USA

problem #9

May 082015


  • 49,200 miles
Ran out of gas. Inspection indicates that fuel is leaking from rusted fuel line in front of left (driver's side) rear tire. Further inspection shows heavy/extensive rust on the fuel lines along the entire length of the undercarriage. Problem appears identical to another incident previously reported as #10668929.

- Columbus, OH, USA

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problem #8

Oct 232014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 98,586 miles
The fuel lines between the gas tank and engine have rusted out. They are rusted due to the brackets holding them to the frame as well as a water soaked insulating blanket that had been put around the fuel lines to protect them from the exhaust pipes heat. This only sped up the rusting process. They are rusted to the point that the gas is spraying on the exhaust pipes causing a possible fire or explosion. The leak is only within a foot from the gas tank making it even more dangerous. Upon my research I have found that Saturn has addressed this same problem with their 2004 models but not the 2003 model. (GM recall no. 04053) the difference in the model years has not made this any less of a hazard. In a call to Saturn they told me that nothing can be done with my 2003 but if I owned a 2004 this would be covered on a safety recall. This reasoning sounds rather foolish to me and the hazard should be fixed regardless of the year vehicle. A fire or explosion doesn't know what the model year it is. Why did Saturn not make these fuel lines out of stainless steel, a material that would not have rusted and become a safety hazard? I would appreciate any updates on this matter. Thank you

- Methuen, MA, USA

problem #7

Oct 272014


  • miles


Vehicle was in for recall on ignition switch, at the dealership changed oil and conducted multipoint inspection of vehicle. Eight weeks later vehicle was returned for service for smell of gas, dealership reported all gas lines corroded and leaking gas and need to be replaced, dealership states not releated to fuel filter corrosion recall (nthsa 04V003000) even though recall service not performed. Corroded, leaking gas lines make vehicle unsafe to operate and have the potential for fire. Believe this should be a recall as operating the vehicle with leaking gas lines put me and my family in danger. Not mention the $1000 plus repairs vehicle.

- Old Bridge, NJ, USA

problem #6

Jun 162014


  • 165,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated after driving the vehicle for a few miles there was a fuel odor throughout the vehicle. The contact stated that after the vehicle was parked, the fuel odor increased. The failure recurred on a regular basis. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The failure mileage and current mileage was 165,000.

- Easton, PA, USA

problem #5

May 302014


  • miles
Smelled gas fumes. Noticed leaking gas on ground. Upon further inspection, noticed the fuel lines are completely rusted out, causing gas to leak out onto the ground. There is no other area on the car with rust. Researching this issue, I came across many others experiencing the same problem with fuel lines rusting out. The fuel lines that were put in were wrapped with a heat resistant covering which caused water to stay and moisture to build up, eventually resulting in corrosion. Furthermore, the gasoline leakage occurred within close proximity of the exhaust system, which could cause fire or explosion. The fuel lines are inadequate, and dangerous. Potential fire hazard. This issue needs to be addressed immediately as it is very dangerous left unattended. Could cause serious bodily harm or death.

- Methuen, MA, USA

problem #4

Apr 022014


  • 178,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that a fuel leak was present from the driver's side rear wheel area. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, who diagnosed that the fuel supply line was defective and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 178,000.

- Ypsilanti, MI, USA

problem #3

Feb 282013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 117,601 miles


Significant rust and stress fractures on fuel line resulting in noticeable fuel leakage with the potential of incendiary incident in the case of collision. After vehicle message board queries this problem seems to occur with unusual frequency in Saturn Ions spanning 2003-2007. Paid out of pocket to have the fuel line replaced; was told that no recall exists for this problem so I wanted to report it.

- Lathrup Village, MI, USA

problem #2

Oct 052012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 153,500 miles
Detected smell of gasoline. Checked recalls. There are some recalls for this car but not this VIN. Took to dealership and had rusty gas line replaced. Paid for parts and work done.

- Corydon, IN, USA

problem #1

Jun 102012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 82,000 miles
Car was parked when strong gasoline odor was noticed. Moved car to hard surface and discovered vehicle was leaking rather large amount of fuel from area behind driver side rear door. Took car to dealer where it was diagnosed as a cracked fuel pump housing. Noticed 2007 model has been recalled for fuel pump issue. Further study should probably be done to determine if this is a widespread problem in the entire Ion line. The amount of fuel released after part failure is a significant fire hazard.

- Oak Lawn, IL, USA

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