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:
64,667 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 #3

May 202014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 138,000 miles


On May 21st 2014 fidelity fleet and finance in portland or knowing sold me a 2003 Saturn Ion which is involved in the GM ignition recall. When asked if the vehicle was part of the recall the response was clearly represented as the car is not part of the recall and it was safe and mechanically sound. The dealership uses deceptive practices and sells unsafe vehicles including those linked to deaths and thousands of injuries. The dealership has also failed to register the vehicle in over 70 days since the purchase.

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #2

Nov 092008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. When the contact arrived home and parked the vehicle, the seat belt failed to unlock. This was the first time the failure occurred. After several attempts to unfasten the seat belt, someone had to cut it in order to free the contact from the vehicle. She took the vehicle to get repaired and was informed that she would have to pay for the repair. She felt that the failure was due to a manufacturer defect; therefore, the repair should be free. The current and failure mileages were 56,000. Updated 12/1/08 the dealer replaced the set belt and buckle. Updated 12/05/08.

- Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #1

Mar 182004


  • Manual transmission
  • miles
Subject: Loose Saturn seatbelt bolt I wanted to share with you what has occurred with my 2003 Saturn Ion 3: I had to have the front passenger seatbelt changed shortly after purchasing the car in March 2003. This past weekend I was putting my son in his carseat in the backseat and noticed my foot jiggling something on the floor. When I looked closer I realized it was the restraining bolt for the front passenger seatbelt, and the bolt was so loose that it came out of the hole into my hand when I touched it. I was shocked and scared. To think that this is what had been keeping my husband and I "safe" when driving down the road!!! I took my car into Saturn of salem today and had them completely go over the restraint system for the vehicle. They told me that lock-tight had been put on the bolt when the new seatbelt had been installed but the bolt must not have been tightened enough (to Saturn's specs). As far as I am concerned, there is no excuse for that! I am talking about the health and safety of my husband, myself and my child, and the service tech seemed to act as if the whole situation was no big deal. I am appalled. I do not know if anyone else has raised this concern, but I wished to inform you of what happened to me. Sincerely, dawn young 503-485-8642 (work)

- Keizer, OR, USA

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