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:
7 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
16 / 0
Average Mileage:
11,529 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

problem #7

Oct 162007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles


After crash airbags did not deploy.

- Saginaw, MI, USA

problem #6

Jul 092005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 19,000 miles
My daughter (17 years old) had an accident four days ago. She hit a tree - head on going somewhere around 40 mph. Neither air bag deployed. Emergency personnel - again - were in a state of shock and awe. This is our fourth (4th) GM vehicle involved in a "total loss" accident where the air bags did not deploy.

- Stone Mountain, GA, USA

problem #5

Nov 062004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 28,000 miles
I crashed into the side of another car head-on in my Saturn in (2003). The front of my car was completely destroyed up to the windshield, yet the airbags did not activate. It was crushed so bad that the insurance co. Totalled my car, yet with a wreck so bad the airbags did not activate??

- Signal Mtn., TN, USA

problem #4

Nov 072004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,000 miles


I hit another car in its left side hard, it smashed my front end completly to the windshield, the front of my car was smashed so badly that it was totalled by the insurance co. Yet no air bags was activated.

- Signal Mtn., TN, USA

problem #3

Mar 152004


  • 9,400 miles
After rear ending another vehicle at 45 mph front air bags did not deploy. Consumer sustained minor injuries. Dealership was notified, but did not resolve the problem.

- San Lorenzo, CA, USA

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problem #2

Nov 192003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I was the driver of a 2003 Saturn Ion 2 involved in a front end collision with a parked vehicle, and the airbags did not deploy. We did have seat belts on. The approximate speed was 30-35 mph. None of the injuries to the occupants were serious.

- Appleton, WI, USA

problem #1

Jul 022003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 300 miles
The vehicle was involved in a collision and the airbags did not deploy. The vehicle was totaled. Dealer notified.

- Duluth, GA, USA

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