Reliable, cheap, peppy, but easy to steal, so change the locks
Replaced an engine mount, battery, alternator, belt, valve cover gaskets, radiator, radiator fan relay, radiator hoses, K&N air filter, front wheel bearings, KYB Shocks, H&R progressive rate lowering springs, 7" touch screen DVD player, tint, 17" aluminum racing rims, white and pretty.
When the engine mount went bad, the engine leaned so far that the accessories where grinding against the inner engine bay wall, which is what alerted me. But it was an easy fix.
When I lived in Colorado, sub-zero temperatures for 1 straight week cracked my radiator. I had to unhook all of the AC lines to replace it.
When driving in hot weather or stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, the engine heat gauge looks as if it is over heating. The engine cooling fan wouldn't kick in until the temp gauge was in the red. My brother's SL2 did the same thing. I replaced thermostats, fan relays, new radiator, all hoses, and it still does it. Almost installed a separate T-stat with a programmable temp switch to kick start the fan. I eventually just try to avoid bumper to bumper traffic.
The car is getting close to 170,000 miles, and has no indications of quitting. So it's understandable that things will leak and fuses will pop.
I had to replace the alternator, which was a feat in contortionism. Worse alternator change ever. When the water pump finally went out, I realized it was in a similar location, and just didn't have the heart, so I took it to the shop.
My brother liked it so much that he went out and bought one. Only problem is that it had an automatic transmission. It was a slug without the 5-speed. I would run circles around him.
By the way, this car is not for anyone tall. It's so low to the ground that it's perfect for a short person like myself or my wife. Now with the lowering springs, people actually hate riding with me, because they can't get out of the car without nearly falling.
My major gripe about this year Saturn... easy to steal. The locking mechanism in GM vehicles seem to wear down enough in Saturns that any GM key will open it. I found this out the hard way after the police had recovered my Saturn from a ring of car thieves. I ask the police how they took my car with no visible signs of forced entry, so he showed me. I showed this trick to my family and co-workers who owned Saturns and Pontiacs. I was also able to open up my brothers 1994 SL2 with my Saturn key. His Saturn was also stolen a few years later. Changing the door and trunk locks ends up being about $225+ to replace.
It sounds like I'm selling it, but no way. Let's start with when we bought it. We needed a car right away, and found this newly repossessed car at the dealer filled with trash, equipped with one teddy bear rim, and so dirty Pig Pen wouldn't go near it. So I picked it up for $1000.
After a good wash, new rim, and interior cleaning, we realized that we got a steal. The car is peppy thanks to the 5-speed manual transmission, and is a dream on gas. It got better mileage than our 3 cylinder Metro, and was much faster.
The car looked better than other Saturns on the road that were similar year and make, due to the bright white paint job, no body damage and heavily tinted windows. It was a great commuter car until it was stolen.
The thieves took my car for a little ride, and abandoned it after it ran out of gas. They had it for two weeks; like I said, it gets great gas mileage. They also ran over a curb and destroyed my wheel bearings. During this time, they stripped the car of anything valuable, like my radio, amp, speakers, door speakers, daughter's booster seat, Chilton repair manual, etc. So I didn't drive it with a radio for nearly two years.
Moving to Texas. My company only paid to ship one car, sorry Saturn, but my Mustang takes precedence, so we drove the Saturn from Denver to San Antonio. It was packed with the family, dog and junk, yet did great on gas mileage.
The car never failed me, just routine maintenance and a few fixes here and there; new brakes, valve cover gaskets, Optima battery, MP3 CD radio (finally some music), etc. The wife used the car one day and left the lights on. She was trying to jump the car and crossed the cables frying a bunch of wires. Needless to say, I had to replace a few wires, fuses, relays and my radio (in came the 7" touch screen DVD player).
Since I was already replacing things, I thought I would give it a performance edge, and installed a K&N filter, KyB Struts with H&R progressive rate lowering springs and 17" aluminum racing rims with low-profile Z-rated tires at each corner. The car performed well before, now it's a serious corner carver. Next inline is the cheap OBX ceramic header and an SPS performance exhaust. "Why a Saturn?" most people asked, and I always replied, "Because I can since I have so much money left over after buying the car." My speeding tickets prove that it can keep up with the best of them. After I replace the seats, my efforts will go into the Mustang. The Saturn will be perfect, and I will have spent nearly nothing on it.
All my coworkers drive new high-end cars, and are always surprised to find out the white Saturn that buzzed them on the highway or access road was me. Coworkers who drive with me during lunch time are always shocked;1, because I drive such an old Saturn, 2, that it still looks so good considering how I drive it, 3, the performance and speed, "I didn't know Saturns were fast."
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 30th December, 2010