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
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
62,976 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

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Saturn Ion:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #11

Jan 022015

Ion 4-cyl

  • 141,232 miles


Fuel system - fuel line rusted out under carriage - just in front of left rear tire. Causing gasoline to leak out thru hole in fuel line while engine is running. Entire fuel line must be replaced, cannot just replace section rusted causing hole for fuel to leak out. The cost for this repair is in excess of $600 ( parts & labor). This problem has been reported happening to numerous other vehicle owners, with no solution issued by GM; nor reimbursement to owners.

- New Windsor, NY, USA

problem #10

Jun 302014


  • 130,000 miles
NHTSA campaign number: 04V003000 fuel system, gasoline vehicle was repaired due to several recalls. Shortly after the vehicles fuel filter system was replaced: May, 2014, there is a hole in the fuel line and is leaking fuel.

- Verona, WI, USA

problem #9

Dec 122013

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
2003 Saturn Ion. Consumer writes in regards to reimbursement for faulty ignition recall repairs. The consumer stated upon returning to her vehicle, she discovered she was unable to use the remote, so she used the key, instead. She attempted to place the key inside the ignition and discovered the slot was not in the off position. The vehicle would not start due to the ignition not being in the off position and enabling her to pull the key out, as the battery was dead. It wasn't until January 7, 2014, she began experiencing problems again with the ignition, and the battery died again. After the vehicle was jump started, the consumer smelled gas. It was determined the rear fuel line had corroded, which formed holes and gas was pouring out the holes on both sides.

- Taylor, MI, USA

problem #8

Jun 092014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 105,000 miles


Key came out, but car was still running. Put key back in managed to get turn off engine, however key would not release for over 15min! this keeps happening to me. Scheduled appointment with chapman Chevrolet tempe, AZ to repair according to recall instructions that I submitted to their customer service dept. They say they will notify me when the parts come in, but it has been approximately one month or more already. I believe my family and my self are in danger of a fatal accident or something; sometimes the car will not surrender the ignition key for in hour. Already had new key made at chapman Chevrolet which makes starting somewhat easier, before, it would take, often times, 10min or more just to get the key to turn. Please help chapman Chevrolet get the parts they need or stop ignoring my request for the honoring of the recall work I requested of them. Im afraid this will not hold up much longer as is.

- Mesa, AZ, USA

problem #7

Dec 302013


  • 77,000 miles
While driving noticed increase of speed. Checked accelerator pedal, not stuck. Tapped accelerator with no change. Depressed the brake and slowed down and stopped. Shut vehicle off and verified the throttle body was in idle position. Restarted car and vehicle RPM went up to 4000 and starved for air and surged up and down at that level. Shut vehicle off again and contacted GM. Same vehicle also has passlock problems.

- Brooten , MN, USA

Search for these popular complaint phrases...

problem #6

Mar 022009


  • 50,000 miles
Car won't start when it gets cold out.(under 50) ignition turns and then engine stalls out. After a few attempts and waiting a half hour or so, it starts. (usually with a fuel smell and a backfire)apparently this is a widespread problem and I am concerned as this model has already had fuel filter assembly recall..mechanics say its the starter but when replaced, problem continues.. I have not had mine replaced yet because I'm not sure I want to go to that expense when it doesn't seem to fix the problem for others. The fact that I smell gas when it does start up concerns me and I am frankly concerned for my safety.

- Lake Worth , FL, USA

problem #5

Jan 182009


  • 92,200 miles


Failure of GM to notify me of 3 recalls on 2003 Saturn Ion. It is possible that this work has already been done, but I cannot tell at this time and would like this problem investigated. Recalls are: NHTSA campaign id number: 04V547000 NHTSA campaign id number: 04V003000

- South Hadley, MA, USA

problem #4

Nov 112008


  • 74,300 miles
Beginning in the fall of 2006 I began to have a problem with the car revving up when the heat was on. At times this problem would stop after an oil change. I have taken the car to the dealership several times to have them take a look at it, but they can never seem to recreate the incident and have not found any thing with diagnostic testing. Most recently I replaced the fuel pump because the car was having other problems. I am no experiencing a safety issue. When the car is on and has been running for at least 5-10 min. The engine reves up and the car idles very high 3 or 4 rpms. When I stop at a light or stop sign or for whatever reason the car stops fine but continues to idle high. The car has begun to lung forward when the engine idles high. I have had the brakes inspected and this is not the problem. I am not sure where else to go the dealership has not been able to help me and I am afraid that someone will get hurt because of this problem.

- Fort Wayne, IN, USA

problem #3

Feb 192007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 23,000 miles
I purchased a 2003 Saturn Ion level 2 brand new for Saturn of la crosse. Approximently 25 times since I purchased this vehicle, the car will not start, and I have to wait approximently 10 minutes before the vehicle will start. I have not contacted any dealership at this point, but did find multiple people who are experincing the same problems. I am upset that Saturn is not taking this matter more seriously and making a recall notice. Does it have to start on fire or someone die before something is done?

- Saint Paul, MN, USA

problem #2

Jan 122005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I have a 2003 Saturn Ion coupe. When I would drive for a little while and let the car warm up, there are intermittent occasions where I will slow down suddenly, for example, the changing of a stop light, and when I either come to the stop or when I accelerate again, the car would in essence stall out and turn off. However the car would start right back up when I put it back in park. It happened once, maybe twice B4 I had a chance to realize it was a serious problem. On the 12th of January it stalled as I was making a right hang turn at an intersection and because of this, I lost power steering and hit the median and a rock bed on the median. There has been substantial damage to the vehicle and it is currently still in the shop. I do not know at this point in time the exact reason for the stall. Just that I have done nothing but take good care of this car and see no reason for it do this.

- Sugar Land, TX, USA

problem #1

Jan 152004

(reported on)


  • miles
Consumer having problems getting two recalls performed on the vehicle. When the consumer tried to make an appointment, the dealership told the consumer he had heard of the recall but was not familiar with what it said, the consumer wanted to make an appointment for the weekend, but was told the most skilled mechanics worked weekdays. The consumer felt the dealership had only been minimally informed of the recall.

- Wilmette, IL, USA

Not what you are looking for?