Decent basic transportation, but not comparable to a Honda
Ignition module failed at approx. 93,000 miles. Repair cost was $650.
Water pump failed at approx. 95,000 miles, which I understand to be common for high mileage Saturn SL. Repair cost was $305.
The car presently has 118,000 miles, and has used about 1 quart of oil per 1000-1200 miles since it reached 100,000 miles. I assume this is a combination of minor leakage plus engine wear that would be typical for the mileage, and does not seem to be getting worse.
Several reviewers have commented on ignition and lock problems. This is due to the keys wearing out; an honest dealer saved me from more expensive repairs. The solution is simply to have the dealer cut new keys from code.
I had owned a base model 1998 SL and a 2001 SL1 prior to this 2002 SL2, with a few other cars in the mix. In all fairness, it's been more reliable than other American cars I have owned.
Gas mileage is excellent. I am getting 35-38 mpg. highway with the 5 speed manual, and combined city plus highway mileage is seldom much below 30 mpg.
Gearing of the 5 speed SL2 is much too short. The car is turning 3100-3200 rpm at typical interstate speeds in the low 70s. The engine is noisy and high-strung at 3100 rpm. The SL and SL1 prior to this were a little slower off the line (100 vs. 124 hp) but more relaxed at cruise speed (about 500 rpm fewer). Although the DOHC SL2 engine is a little quicker at all driving speeds, the difference is not enough to warranty the extra racket at cruising speed.
Resale value is a real weak point. While trade in values are always a challenge with dealers, this one has been especially lacking. Therefore, I'm still driving this Saturn with 118,000 miles, and it's been reliable (but it definitely had it's challenges in the 90,000-95,000 mile range).
This Saturn design dates to 1996, and wasn't as sporty or refined as the Honda Civics or VW Jettas of the same era. The much lower realistically available purchase price helped, but the lower resale value hurt when I was ready to drive a newer car and couldn't get a decent trade value.
Finally, any Saturn SL, despite the inherent limitations, is a much better design than the Ion that followed. I hope the soon-to-follow Opel designed Saturn Astra will give me reason to try another new Saturn.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 30th September, 2007