1997 Saturn SL 1 1.9L SOHC from North America


The Saturn SL1 is unexpectedly robust and reliable


Needed alignments relatively often.

Moonroof track broke at 151K.

Door seals started letting in water at 170K.

Shifter cable bushing went at around 179K.

Driver's door lock switch (plastic) broke at 199K.

Shifter cable needed to be completely replaced at 203K.

Drank a steady quart of oil every 1000 miles for as long as I owned it.

Motor mounts needed replacing at time of sale.

General Comments:

Though I thought I was buying a cheap American heap of GM, I was very much surprised by this car's quality and reliability. There were very few issues that I could not easily attribute to age and normal wear.

The manual transmission gave it enough zip as not to be entirely dull. It provides for very good take-off, and acceptable passing power at high speeds.

Handling is average. The car is responsive and solid on the road, but tilts a lot in corners.

Uneven wear on the front tyres was a constant issue, even after replacing struts and alignment.

The seats were robust and more comfortable than those in comparable small cars.

At 204000 all electrical components were functioning like new, with no problems worse than a blown fuse that was my fault anyway. Even the exterior lights only got replaced due to age, not failure.

The turn radius for a car its size is ludicrous. On most ordinary streets, where any monkey can turn around a small car without mounting the curb, the S series requires a three-point.

The plastic body panels make the car look very good, even at an advanced age.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 23rd March, 2013

1997 Saturn SL SL2 1.9 DOHC from North America


Good cheap car!


At 180,000 miles, the fuel regulator went out, but it still drove across the country with it broken til I got home, (like 2,000 miles). That was roughly $150 to have fixed.

At 190k the O2 sensor went out. I replaced that in the driveway in about 5 minutes (I'm not a mechanic, I googled how to do it, and it was easy). If you do it yourself, make sure to have a flexible ratchet, as the access is a little too tight for the conventional kind. I was quoted $250+ at several shops; I did it for $80.

There is a seal leaking transmission fluid that requires a lot of labor to fix, so it's not a big deal, and I check the fluid levels weekly to keep it full.

Somewhat shaky at idle relating to a collapsed engine mount.

The AC compressor is on its way out, and will need to be replaced before the coming summer.

I also have experienced the phantom "service engine soon" light; it had been going on and off randomly. Since the replacement of the O2 sensor, the light has never come back on, and that was about 10,000 miles ago.

General Comments:

It's a great car, I've been driving it for 2 years with no major issues. It's certainly not a sports car, but it takes me from A to B with no problems. On the cross country trips I've taken, it gets roughly 35-40MPG on the highway (including through mountains). My car does not burn oil, but we run full synthetic in it, which has made a marked improvement in MPG, and in the engine temp, it stays at about the 1/3 tic, as opposed to the 1/2 from conventional oil.

It's infinitely more reliable and cost effective than my older Audi Coupe GT. We only paid $700 for it, and it's been the most reliable car I've ever had, I've definitely gotten my moneys worth. Our 04 Galant (ES) is much more responsive and comfortable, but the cost savings make up for any of the car's handling quirks. I expect that we'll get many many more miles out of the car, since it's still running like a champ.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 22nd October, 2011