I think the primary selling point for this vehicle has always been the price. While the car can hold its own when it comes to looks, a base model sedan fresh off the lot is not much to get excited about. That being said, for cars of comparable price the ION delivers almost the total package. There are things I absolutely hate about this car at times, but the good outweighs the bad 10 times over.
Great performance (5-speed) for such a reasonably priced vehicle, it's hard to find many cars under $12,000 new that pack 140 hp. Great fuel economy. Reasonably good looks. Awesome interior space, headroom especially, and front seats that allow for tons of leg room. Giant trunk volume, and overall reasonably well balanced ride. Cool center mounted gauge console (which, I'm sorry, but if glancing 6 inches to the right is a truly challenging task for you while maintaining control over the vehicle, you shouldn't be driving in the first place.)
Terrible interior. The interior is decked out with a myriad of interlocking half circles and other geometric shapes that come off as simple and childish. Cheap dash with very basic knobs. TERRIBLE seats which are completely non-supportive and uncomfortable (ION 1). Often uncomfortable driving position due primarily to lack of support in side bolsters of seats, and lack of center armrest. Ride often feels unstable at a) high speeds, b) during hard cornering. and c) in unfavorable weather conditions. Remedy: Bigger wheels and tires, and lower suspension. This is really the only problem with the actual "ride" regarding the ION, is that it feels unsure of itself when you really push it. This isn't a result of poor car design, or that it can't handle hard driving, it's simply that the stock wheels (ION 1) are dinky 14" narrow-width rims which leave a terribly small footprint on the ground. This, paired with terribly cheap all season tires, and a jacked up ride height make for an often unsteady ride during hard driving. Simply put, this car is too big and too high to be sitting on a pair of wheels that look like they belong on a child's tricycle.
In a nutshell, if you're looking for an awesome value in a car with good looks on the outside, a strong engine, and great reliability, the ION is a wise choice. I have since put around $2000 worth of upgrades into the car, and now it's becoming a blast to drive. If you simply want an decent car to commute in, it'll handle the job nicely, if you need a daily driver with a bit of kick, be prepared to drop some cash and you'll be happy with the end result. My personal recommendations, at a minimum buy an ION2. The ION1 is a ridiculous value, but comes with smaller, unstable wheels, no a/c, terrible seats not used on the ION2 and 3, and a very plain dash that lacks the silver accents present on the 2 and 3. Cheers.