I mistakenly put this earlier review (12/2006) under the Ion car year 2002. I wanted to add a few comments, so here is my original plus current:
We got this car kind of as a last resort. The Rodeo just died and we needed something economical and quality to get us by. Before buying a Saturn if you asked us if we would get one our response would have been "no way" and laughter. But my wife's cousin worked at a dealership, so we thought we'd talk to him, since he'd be more honest with us. And we are very glad we did.
The car is quick, amazingly quick for a 4 banger. I was and am very impressed with the power and gas mileage combo from this car. (However keep in context, this is a 4 cylinder)
The turning radius is excellent; at first I almost started to think I'd turn the wheels completely sideways and rip the tires off the rims, love it in tight spaces.
Good gas mileage, our latest trip at Thanksgiving and driving 5 hours with the car literally packed with us and two kids got us 34 mpg. Impressive.
(update 2/11/08) //start
We took this guy and stuffed ourselves and two boys into it and drove out to Estes Park CO from Grand Rapids MI for two weeks. With all our stuff jam packed, we averaged 32 MPG on the highway, kept cool in blazing July heat on the American plains, and had zero problems mechanically. It did just fine in the mountains, no problems running up Longs Peak to I believe 12,000 ft, and all over Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park.
(The Ion almost had a knock-down drag-out fight with an Elk, which I'm sure would have easily went the way of the Elk, but that's another story.)
Zero problems so far, I've changed the oil and that is it, no maintenance.
Pretty comfy for a small car, I'm 6'3" and I fit in it well.
Nice fit/finish for the type of car & price range.
LOUD. Holy crow this thing has road noise. It's ridiculous how loud this is when everything else seems so nicely done. Were the testers deaf? Blasting their radios? Seriously, what happened here?
(update 2/11/08) //start
This thing is horrid in the winter, especially for a front wheel drive. I've had two similar sized/weight 5-speed cars that put this Ion to shame in winter time.
In college I had a cantankerous 86 Turismo that should of been put down years prior, that thought it was a 4-wheel drive truck. I swear it ran on 3 cylinders most of the time, but blasted through snow like nothing (in the UP of MI) and refused to get stuck, or stop running for that matter. I ran a steady stream of parts through that junker, but I could always count on it finding a way to get me home. I bet it forced the car crusher to blow a hose or cylinder before it finally succumbed to it's fate as a cube.
I also had a 89 Corolla that did really good in snow too with Kelly tires. Don't remember the exact tire, but I know I got them for highway driving, as the Michelin Destinies (a highly rated tire) for the Ion. The Destinies made a world of difference in wet weather driving, but no difference in winter weather.
I would guess that the 2.2 GM uses is and the car overall is lighter then the other two I mentioned, but wow, for a front wheel drive vehicle, it's pathetic in wintertime.
All in all we got a deal, a dependable car with good performance and good gas mileage, which is what we needed until we can afford a bigger vehicle.
Would I buy again?? Umm... probably not the Ion, unless saddled with the same financial/loss of car situation. We need bigger cars with a family, maybe the Vue? But I certainly wouldn't shy anyone away from checking the make/model out for those wanting a smaller, economical, and IMO quality car.