I just acquired a Saturn Ion Quad Coupe 2, and so far, I am very happy, pleased, and impressed by this vehicle all around.
According to Consumer's Reports, the Saturn Ion has had excellent reliability since it's release. J.D. Power and Associate's also touted the Saturn Ion as having a very high customer retention because of consumers being pleased with Saturn's customer service, and the quality of the Ion. The Ion is a vehicle that shows the world the GM is making world-class products again.
Exterior Walk Around:
From the outside, the Ion Quad Coupe (especially in my color, CHILI PEPPER RED), looks intimidating, aggressive, and sporty. The front fascia is very stylish, featuring "cat-eye" halogen headlamps, and no "definite" grille (the grille is just a space between the hood and bumper, in the RED LINE edition, there is no space). The front bumper's gap between it and the front quarter panel is flush, tight, and clean. As you walk around, you notice that the Ion's doors are made of polymer plastic. This helps you when you are in, for example, a parking lot and somebody's door hits you; with a standard metal bodied vehicle, there would be a scratch or dent; not in the Ion. The other plus for the plastic panels is that they will not rust ever. However, it is also noteworthy to state that the hood and trunk are made out of galvanized, standard metal. The doors open wide (since it's a coupe), and rear access is made possible by a "suicide" swing-out door similar to that of a Chevrolet Silverado Extended Cab pickup truck (hence the name "Quad Coupe"). The rear looks stylish with European style tail lamps with jeweled embossments, and the rear is devoid of over-used badging and ostentatious trim.
However, my vehicle came equipped with the spoiler package, and it is quite large (the RED LINE edition's is even larger). This feature should bode well with the younger, under 21 drivers. The paint looks first rate, and doesn't exhibit any orange peel or groove effects. The overall fit and finish of the vehicle could also be described as "world-class." All of the seams, gaps, and panel spaces were all cleanly and neatly even, tight, and taut. All gaps seemed to be unilaterally tight and even.
Interior Ergonomics, Features, and Controls:
As soon as you sit down in the front seat, you notice the instrument gauges sitting in the middle of the dashboard. You think to yourself, "This is kinda odd." But, in reality, this feature is smart on Saturn's part, and helpful to the consumer. The center cluster eliminates the standardized cluster of the automotive world that blocks your sight-lines when driving. This is also ergonomically friendly because when you use your peripheral vision, it is quite easy to see all of your gauges. The gauges are clearly laid out, easy to read, and include a speedometer, tachometer, temperature, and gas gauges.
The steering wheel is tilt and is a nice size. It is comfortable because it has spaces where the driver can put his or her hands, and is stylish, yet not obtrusive; a simple "Saturn" logo sits there, no fonts at all on the badge. As you look around, you notice how nicely laid out the controls are. Ergonomically speaking, the radio, climate controls, gear selector, and arm rest are all positioned and spaced nicely. The radio, I purchased anyway, featured a 200 watt amplifier, surround sound speakers, and a CD player with XM Satellite Radio (for a fee of $10 dollars a month). The audio system is crisp, clean, and free of any static. It is easy to use, and the fonts in the digital readouts are stylish, modern, and look pleasant. The climate control system is also easy to use with only three "knobs" for selecting fan speed, direction of the air, and temperature, and three buttons for the air conditioning (optional on Ion 1 and 2, standard on 3), rear window defroster, and recirculation (air is recirculated through a cabin air filter, which will help those who have allergies during the spring and fall). The gear selector is surrounded by chrome and stylish plastics. It is comfortable, and unobtrusive. The cupholders are nicely sized, and are positioned so that your hands can take a mug of coffee out without you having to take your eyes off of the road. The arm rest, while it may appear to be very short, actually has a sliding top for an extension for those who have longer arms. The rear seats are designed to mimic "stadium" or "theater" style seating with an elevated angle, that is comfortable and lets one have a myriad of legroom. Headroom in the rear is also very good, and the seats are comfortable. Two large adults can sit in the back in relative comfort for a long trip. Even though the exterior may seem "compact," that is deceiving.
In reality, the Ion feels as big as a GM W-Body platform vehicle inside, and is quite roomy and comfortable. A notable last mention, the sunroof I purchased, is quiet when closed (unlike many sunroofs), and is very easy to operate. Overall, the controls and ergonomics in the Ion are in the top of their respective class.
Interior Materials, Fit and Finish, Quietness, and Safety Features:
For 2005, Saturn decided to upgrade the interior materials to meet the wants of consumers. The new plastics on the dashboard, doors, and center console, are all now grained (like leather), low-gloss, and feel like they are high quality. The headliner is made out of a woven fabric, and has a sense of quality also. The fabrics have also been upgraded, and my vehicle has tight, "sport" styled fabrics that are comfortable, doesn't produce static as easily as velour, and seem as if to be stain-resistant. The seats are European in feel, and are very comfortable. The fit and finish inside the cabin is also first rate; everything fits with precision, and the gaps are tight, taut, and even. Quality control in the GM products has met or surpassed its' counterparts in fit and finish, and materials choice.
The Ion is also very quiet thanks to a new feature in the GM Delta vehicles known as "QuietSteel." QuietSteel is the firewall of the Ion, and features two pieces of laminated steel with an acoustic asphalt material absorber in between the two panels.
The Ion is consequently very quiet, and engine noise is barely audible except when the engine is being revved at higher RPMs. Overall, the interior is very quiet, and gives off an aura of a more upscale vehicle.
Safety is another aspect of GM's attention to improving their products. The Saturn Ion comes with standard dual-stage dual front airbags. Anti-lock brakes are optional, as so are side-curtain airbags (for side impact crashes, the front and rear passengers are safe), and seat belt pretensioners. The steel spaceframe for the vehicle was designed to be very strong and safe for crashes. I feel very safe in my Ion when driving, even though I am still in a car classified as "compact."
Engine and Drivetrain:
The Saturn Ion 1, 2 (mine), and 3 all come standard with the GM 2.2 Liter Ecotec four-cylinder. This engine is thoroughly modern and features all aluminum construction, dual overhead camshafts, dual balance shafts (to reduce harshness and vibration), and four-valves per cylinder. The engine's output is 140 horsepower and 150 pound feet of torque. Even though these numbers seem small, the vehicle drives with a lot of "gusto." Since the torque comes at a lower RPM (4400), you get a feeling of a lot of low-end push for great takeoffs in the city, and plenty of highway passing power. I have never felt inadequately powered when driving my Ion. The Saturn Ion REDLINE comes standard with a 2.0 Liter version of the Ecotec, and features an Eaton Roots supercharger, that has an output of 12 psi. The engine churns out 205 horsepower, and 200 pound feet of torque. The "rumor" is that the engine has a much higher output in both of the respective areas than the conservative GM would like to admit. The engines are both very refined, especially the 2.2, and they equal or surpass, in power and refinement, Toyota and Honda's base four-cylinders on the Corolla and Civic; the Corolla comes with a standard 130 horsepower engine, and the Civic comes with a standard 115 horsepower engine.
The engine has an LEV EPA rating, and features 24 city and 34 highway, according to the EPA. For tuners, GM has produced and published a book that tells a "backyard-mechanic" the know-how and how-to of "building up" or "souping up" the Ecotec engine. This is very easy, and GM has been touted for producing Ecotecs' that have an output of over 1000 horsepower, using many stock parts (i.e. block, pistons, camshafts, etc.), for sanctioned race events. This book, and the easy ability for the Ecotec to be modified, should boud well with the "tuner" crowd. All in all, I am very happy with the Ecotec engine.
The transmission is a standard five speed manual, or a available four speed automatic; I chose the latter. The four speed automatic is very smooth, and shifts with great patterns. It appears that the transmission adapts to all different types of driving habits; it downshifts quickly and without drama on the highway, and upshifts cleanly in the city. The powertrain combination on the Ion has me very pleased.
How it Drives/Suspension:
The Ion is based off of GM's new Delta global platform. The GM Delta platform is shared between the Ion, Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, and the Canadian Pontiac Pursuit. The Delta platform features MacPherson struts in the front, and a semi-independent rear suspension with trailering arms, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar.
This is a very modern architecture, and it makes the Ion handle, ride, and drive nicely and easily. There is very little body lean in turns, and the Ion is very easy to handle in all situations. The Ion comes standard with power electric, rather than hydraulic, steering.
This is a variable assist system, and it tightens up during high-speed travel, yet loosens up for parking lots and low speeds. The Ion parks very easy (usually with one hand), and is very impressive in all types of situations that one may encounter while driving. The ride is a bit stiff, but not punishing. However, the tradeoff for the stiffness of the ride, is the world-class handling that the Ion features.
Overall, the Saturn Ion has proven to me that GM produces world class products, at lower prices, feature more content, and are just as competent as it's counterparts. I would recommend the Saturn Ion to anyone who is looking for an easily driveable, attractive looking, nicely priced, and feature-packed vehicle. A Saturn Ion 1 Sedan starts at less than $11,000 US, and a top of the line Ion 3 features heated leather, and all the amenities of a luxury vehicle.
Thanks for reading this article.