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:
15 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
5 / 0
Average Mileage:
40,925 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 seat belts / air bags problems

seat belts / air bags problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #16

Jun 112013


  • miles


2003 Saturn Ion. Consumer writes in regards to recall repairs completed and seeks reimbursement.

- Caledonia, MI, USA

problem #15

Dec 222008

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
2003 Saturn Ion. Consumer writes in regards to faulty ignition switch recall and seeks reimbursement for repairs.

- Indian Orchard, MA, USA

problem #14

Apr 012014

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
2003 Saturn Ion. Consumer writes in regards to ignition switch recall problems. The consumer began having problems with the ignition from the time, the vehicle was purchased. She took the vehicle to several dealers, but no was able to find a problem. Since, the recall was issued, the consumer is seeking reimbursement for the diagnostic fees.

- Daly City, CA, USA

problem #13

Apr 072014


  • 125,000 miles


Was driving on wet road approaching an intersection. Before entering the intersection the light turned green and traffic started moving. I slowed down to let the tuck in front of me pick up speed. As I approached a black pickup backed into traffic causing multiple cars to stop in front of me. I pushed on my breaks but could not stop causing me to strike the truck in front O me with the front of my car. Upon impact my air bag did not deploy and my head struck the steering wheel. I recently received the ignition recall notice, but the letter said parts were not available.

- Hanover, PA, USA

problem #12

Apr 012014


  • miles
2003 Saturn Ion. Consumer writes in regards to vehicle recall information. The consumer wanted to know what is the proper procedure for getting the recall taken care of.

- Tampa, FL, USA

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problem #11

Mar 032014


  • miles
Letter from senator toomey on behalf of a constituent re GM recall ( attn: Aubrey yanzito can be reached by email:, fax at 717-782-4920 or phone: 717-782-3951 or mail). The dealer informed the consumer, they wouldn't be able to replace the defective part until April 2014. The consumer wanted to know if GM was responsible for paying for a rental vehicle, until the vehicle could be fixed.

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #10

Jan 042014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 80,000 miles


In early January my mother was involved in a serious car accident while driving a 2003 Saturn iron. "I had no control over the car and it all happened so fast" my mother said. She hit a telephone pool then proceeded to roll down over a small hill and flipped, coming to a rest on a concrete divider. When responders arrived her ignition was off and the air bags did not deploy. She was hanging upside down for almost an hour until they were able to cut her out of the car. I have contacted GM and they confirmed that her car is part of the recent ignition switch recall. Please take the recall serious, it could save your L life, and others!

- Yeagertown, PA, USA

problem #9

Mar 052010


  • 90,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving an unknown speed, she crashed into the rear of another vehicle and the air bags failed to deploy. The crash was so severe that the entire front end of the vehicle was destroyed. A police report was not filed and there were no injuries. The contact was also involved in a second crash in which the air bags failed to deploy. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for repairs and the manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 90,000. The current mileage was 132,000.

- Antioch , CA, USA

problem #8

Sep 092013


  • 136,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving approximately 30 mph, the steering wheel became inoperable. The contact lost control of the vehicle and the vehicle flipped upside down. The air bags failed to deploy. The vehicle was destroyed. The contact sustained injuries to the head and left leg, and a police report was filed of the incident. The vehicle was towed to a salvage yard. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 136,000.

- Fayetteville, WV, USA

problem #7

Oct 162008


  • 83,500 miles
I was in a head-on collision in my 2003 Saturn Ion and the air bags did not deploy. The front of my car is crunched in and I have pictures of the accident. Luckily, I was able to walk away from the accident unharmed, but if I hit the other car any harder I would have been seriously hurt! I called the Saturn dealers here in syracuse and they did not seem very concerned at all with the idea of checking the safety devise that controls the air bags! what can be done?

- North Syracuse, NY, USA

problem #6

Feb 172005


  • miles


The air bags of the consumer's 2003 Saturn Ion 3 did not inflate during accident.

- Mantua, NJ, USA

problem #5

Aug 152003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While trying to find a spot in a parking lot, I noticed that there was a van backing out and about to hid the car in front of me. I hit my horn to warn both drivers. When I hit the horn, the center Saturn emblem went through the plastic air bag cover. The airbag module had to be relpaced. While this incadent did not cause any injuries, it conserns me that another emblem could fall into thee airbag module and create a flying object in a crash.

- Greenbelt, MD, USA

problem #4

Sep 152003


  • Automatic transmission
  • 3,600 miles
I purchased the car on 9/9/03, I was involved in an accident on 9/11/03 I rear ended a pickup truck. The damages to my car totaled $8400 and it was a dead-center hit to the front of my car bending both of the front frames and my airbags did not deploy. Because there were no injuries sustained in the accident and because the accident was more then 50% my fault my lawyer has advised me that there are no legal ramifications that I need to take. What I would like to do is insure that the word is out there for consumers to be aware that this is potentially a serious problem and it should be addressed. I will be contacting the Saturn dealership to insure they are aware of this problem.

- Eastpointe, MI, USA

problem #3

Dec 112003


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I was in an headon collision in my 2003 Saturn Ion quad coupe (purchased 6/3/03) and the airbags did not deploy. I was traveling at 60mph (the highway speed limit is 65) when I hydroplanned off the highway from the center lane into the median guardrail.

- Lebanon, NJ, USA

problem #2

Dec 222003

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
While driving the vehicle at 100 mph, the driver lost control of the vehicle and hit a concrete wall head on. The owner stated that neither the frontal nor side impact air bags deployed upon impact. The driver sustained severe injuries as a result. The owner has made contact with the dealership.

- New Port Richey, FL, USA

problem #1

Sep 262003


  • miles
While driving at 30 mph vehicle was involved in a head on collision. Upon impact, air bags did not deploy.

- Nicholson, PA, USA

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