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:
45,094 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 lights problems

lights problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #10

Dec 182014


  • 100,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the front driver side turning indicator failed to illuminate. The vehicle was taken to a dealer. The technician was unable to find a failure. No repairs were made to the vehicle. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 100,000. Updated 7/16/15

- Denver, CO, USA

problem #9

May 072012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 64,000 miles
Saturn Ion 2 model year 2003 was serviced for 2004 turn signal recall back in 2005; in the past 16 months I have had the driver side turn signal bulb changed 4 times because it stops working, and have changed it 2 more times before the most recent series of incidents. As of today I changed it a 5th time and it still does not work. This is a hazardous condition particularly since it fails repeatedly. Now I have been told that the body control module might have a problem may need to be replaced. This is an issue for hundreds of Saturn owners; the recall should have fixed the re-occurence of the original problem but has not.

- White Plains, NY, USA

problem #8

Jul 312012


  • 140,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the turn signals were defective and were inoperable. The contact took the vehicle to the dealer for a diagnostic test which proved a defective body control module that needed to be replaced. The contact did not have the body control module replaced. The failure mileage was 140,000.

- Waterford, MI, USA

problem #7

Jul 222009


  • 126,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact called the manufacturer to have her vehicle repaired according to NHTSA campaign id number 04V547000. She was informed that her vehicle was included in the recall, but it could not be repaired because the warranty expired. The current and failure mileages were 126,000.

- Lansing, MI, USA

problem #6

Apr 052005

(reported on)


  • miles
2003 Saturn Ion has problems with daytime running lights.

- Unknown, DC, USA

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problem #5

Nov 012004


  • miles
There was a problem with the turn signal lamps and daytime running lamps on Saturn Ion.

- Yucaipa, CA, USA

problem #4

Jul 312004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles


The front left light of my 2003 Saturn Ion has gone out repeatedly. Upon careful inspection, the bulb itself is not burnt out. When signaling left, the blinker in the vehicle and the left tail light blink very rapidly. As the front left turn signal light is also the daytime running lght, I have a burnt out left daytime runnung light which is a possible saftey hazard. The vehicle was brought in to the dealer three times. The first two times I was told that the bulb was defective and that they had just replaced it. I know this is not true as I tried to troubleshoot the vehicle before bringing it to the dealer by taking the right "good" buld and seeing if it would turn on in the left light assembly. It did not. The third time I brought it in the service manager told me they would just replace thw whole assembly as they have been having problems with them. After four months the problem re-appeared and I once more had to bring it into the dealer. Being that the warranty is not expired, I had to pay for the repair. As this seems to be a reoccouring saftey failure, please investigate and advise.

- Tracy, CA, USA

problem #3

Oct 012003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 6,692 miles
To date, vehicle has has multiple problems which dealer/service department has been unable to resolve. 10 service visits in less than 6 months and no end in sight. Problems include: Daytime running lights/blinker lights inopperable (repaired 6 times); outside temperature guage malfunctioning (repaired 3+ times); air conditioning inopperable and compass malfunctioning.

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #2

Oct 072003


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Problems with vehicle left front blinkers and rear blinkers.

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #1

Sep 292003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 4,248 miles
I have had repeated problems with the exterior front lighting on my new 2003 Saturn Ion which is a safety hazard. On 5/15/03 I took the vehicle to the albuquerque Saturn dealership to fix the front driver side running light and left turn signal. They replaced the bulbs, but I had to take it to the dealership again on 7/18/03 after having driven it less than 100 miles for the same problem. This time they replaced the entire headlamp assembly. Then again on 9/29/03 I took it back to the dealership to have the passenger side front running light and turn signal replaced. I talked with the sales manager ben vigil and the service manager justin greenberg. I complained that I've spent more time at the dealership for unscheduled maintenance than routine maintenance, and I was concerned I had bought a lemon. I told them that if my turn signals aren't working properly, that is a safety issue. Mr. Greenberg told me that he probably gets two customers a day with the same problem (which shocked me). He said Saturn has sent out new bulbs to the dealerships which they claim will solve the problem. We'll see.

- Albuquerque, NM, USA

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