At 164,394 miles, this car has had absolutely no work done on its major mechanical parts. The clutch, transmission, engine, suspension, alternator, A/C, water pump, etc. work flawlessly.
Tune-up at about 135,000.
Was involved in a single car accident at about 110,000 with a bridge. Hit a patch of black ice going on the freeway at 65MPH and slid sideways. The front of the car scraped along the bridge support and guard rail, and it toasted the radiator, headlights, right front quarter panel, and left half the bumper embedded in the guard rail. There was no frame damage and was really as minor of an accident as you can have at 65MPH.
Car goes a long way on a set of tires, but it is driven gently.
Seats are reasonably comfortable, and we survived numerous trips of over 12 hours in them.
Rear seat room is a little tight, but this is a small car after all. Trunk is good sized, and fold down rear seat allows for large objects to be carried.
Shifts nicely. I have driven other Saturn SLs, and this one has a more accurate shifter.
Brakes well, even without ABS.
A/C is still nice and cold. Heats up moderatley quickly in winter.
Plastic panels are intact, and only a few scuff marks on the paint. Bumpers work like bumpers should, too.
Keyless entry is nifty, but I could do without the security system. It works like it should, though.
Cigarette lighter outlet is blocked if you put a cup in one of the cupholders. This problem was solved in the 2000 redesign, though.
Dealer does a good job, but is just too expensive for repairs.
Dashboard layout is nice, and all buttons are easy to reach.
Factory cruise works well. It is not a typical GM cruise control stalk, but is buttons on the steering wheel.
Gas mileage is about 37-38MPG in most driving. My commute is about 1/3 city and 2/3 highway, and it gets the same mileage at 75MPH on the freeway.
I bought this car after I totaled my 1994 Saturn, which went 185,000 miles with one single mechanical failure (broken rocker arm), and two have my relatives have bought a Saturn recently with no troubles. I recommend the S Series Saturn, but the ION is questionable and does not get that great of mileage (32 highway for a small car-a Buick Park Avenue gets 29).