2004 Saturn ION 2.2 liter from North America


Super reliable and low maintenance costs per mile, a plain jane commuter


I replaced the alternator at 225k miles. No other major maintenance has been done to it.

It had some factory recalls to the ignition system that were free fixes to problems I didn't experience.

General Comments:

The rear leg room is poor.

The body and electronics have held up very well.

At 324k miles it burns a quart of oil between changes.

Most cars at 20 years old have things that don't work anymore or have been fixed, like power windows and power door locks, cruise control, CD player, etc. On this Ion, everything still works and nothing has had to be repaired.

I have yet to recharge the AC freon.

The battery is 11 years old, the in trunk design has greatly helped battery longevity.

It has a OHC timing chain that never needs adjustment or replacement. The clutch has plenty of life left.

No power steering pump, electrically driven.

Saturn hit a home run on this model's engineering. It's a bit of a plain jane car, but for my purposes it's been great. No sign of getting tired at 324k miles thus far. I plan to drive it into the ground.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 4th October, 2023

2004 Saturn ION 2 2.2 Ecotec from North America


Another "it could have been" car from GM


Writing this review from the perspective that 16 years later in 2020, one can find many examples of these vehicles on Craigslist for less than $2,000. Is it worth buying and fixing up as a gas efficient, reliable mode of transportation? Answer is "yes" (if and only if) you are handy and can perform repairs yourself:

Sway bar bushings.

Sway bar end links.

Sunroof drain lines disconnected from both foot wells, major water damage.

Clutch master cylinder (frustrating to bleed).

Broken clutch pedal (poorly designed).

Loose, sloppy 5 speed shifter (no adjustments).

Cloudy, dangerous to use at night headlights.

Horn (poorly designed airbag contacts).

Large tears in seat fabric (notoriously flimsy fabric).

Pressure plate is gone and will need replacement (pops out of gear).

Struts and shocks are stone age and will need replacement (understandable).

Door locks that stick.

General Comments:

Bought this car to use as A to B transportation for my work commute because the purchase price was less than a new bicycle!

I have owned many Japanese model cars and wanted to give an American car a chance at reduce, reuse, recycle (anti-new car) philosophy. Anyone who has turned a wrench will instantly know how "cheaply" built these cars are. They are poorly designed, poorly executed examples of cost cutting from GM (one upper strut mounting nut!). The good news is that because the car is so crudely put together, opening and accessing interior components is quite easy.

It may not make any sense, but I decided to make my commute more enjoyable by upgrading the cabin with modern conveniences like GPS Bluetooth head unit, backup camera, heated seats, steering wheel controls, mood lighting, amplifier and speakers, and more.

The engine bay has a simple layout where hands and arms can actually fit all around to reach parts. Repair and replacement parts for typical 100K failures/maintenance are extremely cheap if you can plan ahead and order on eBay or Amazon ($31 starter, $45 set of ignition coils, $47 radiator, $25 crank sensor, $15 intake temp sensor, etc.).

This engine paired with a manual transmission has no problem getting up to speed on merge ramps. It can hit 55 mph in second gear. It cruises at 75-80 mph on the highway with no problem. Wind noise and road noise is actually better than other (Japanese) cars from the same era.

Driver's seat padding feels "flat" and not very supportive. I am 5'8" medium build and neither of my elbows has a comfortable, natural resting point. The rear view mirror and side mirrors are too small in my opinion. Forward visibility is good, and I do not get the over-sensation feeling of speed on residential streets. No dead pedal sucks for your left foot. Back seat leg room is tight, even for skinny 10-year-olds. The trunk is spacious, but the fiberboard trunk floor is warped.

Overall, I think I will keep the car to teach my oldest child to drive stick-shift and then leave it on the roadside with "FREE" sign in window.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 17th January, 2020

19th Jan 2020, 04:28

You bring up many valid points.

The Ion was evidence that Saturn lost their mojo.

Other than decent acceleration, the rest of the car was mediocre, and quality was subpar.

19th Jan 2020, 09:23

"The good news is that because the car is so crudely put together, opening and accessing interior components is quite easy."

That was great. Your writing made me laugh. Fantastic review!