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
Typical Repair Cost:
No data
Average Mileage:
96,560 miles
Total Complaints:
2 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (1 reports)
  2. replace transmission (1 reports)
2003 Saturn Ion transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #2

Nov 122015

Ion 2.2L

  • CVT transmission
  • 93,000 miles


They put in crappy trannys, and no recalls on them because the cost would be enormous. They told me to go to a GM Dealer to verify the trans was shot. I had already had Aamco tell me it was shot. They wanted a genuine GM Dealer to say it, like they were going to help with the cost of fixing or anything, They deceived me. They, after paying $125 for nothing, said, we can't do anything for you. Then why did they act like they were gong to do something, Why tell me to go to a GM Dealer to verify it was shot and cost me money for nothing after buy a used car with a very well known bad cvt tranny. They should replace all the cvt trannys for free. Put a recall on them now..

- , New Smyrna, FL, USA

problem #1

May 082014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,120 miles

will not backup in reverse

I started the car, which went fine but when I started to back out of the garage the car wouldn't back up further than 6 inches. I was able to drive forward, but when I tried to back up again the same thing happened. I pushed down on the gas pedal a little bit and the front drivers side started to raise up like there was something preventing the tire from moving backwards. I put the car into neutral and it lowered itself back down.

I am unable to get the car to back out of the garage without it raising up on the drivers side after only 6 inches of backing up. I have no idea what the problem could be.

- , Appleton, WI, USA

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