1998 Saturn SL SL2 from North America


A true piece of garbage, a marvel of Russian engineering I guess


Saturn's are very poorly made cars. All I would like to say is do yourself a favor and do not go near a Saturn, don't even drive-by a Saturn dealership. I bought this car for being different, it is different alright! I should have flushed the money down the drain myself. The heap of plastic which it is starts rattling at less than 25,000 miles, the dash board, the door, door panels, body panels etc. I have changed brakes on this car almost every 3 months, with every oil change! I am on my second transmission, which is also about to go. I always maintain my car according to the manufacturers manual, and never install non-manufacturer parts. I have had a 81 Celica, 92 Ford Tempo, 93 Civic, 96 Accord, 93 Accord, 94 BMW 3 Series, 95 Town Car, and never had transmission problems, never had oil burning/brake/engine/battery/02 sensor/thermostat/cassette player issues. This environmental friendly, different kind of car by a different kind of company has given me nothing but headaches and pocket aches! I have decided NEVER to buy another Saturn, for that matter never to buy another GM car at all.

General Comments:

Do yourself and your kids a favor, tell people to stay away from Saturn's. This car is nothing, but trouble for yourself.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 6th August, 2004

1998 Saturn SL 2 1.9L 16-valve DOHC from North America


Affordable, unbreakable compact with the soul of a sport sedan


Starting at 80k miles or so, after 5+ hours of hard nonstop driving, the car would abruptly experience extreme power loss. The culprit turned out to be an electronic sensor (I forget which one) which was replaced for <$100. I then had the car tuned up for good measure (new spark plugs & wires, new air & fuel filters), and the problem has never returned.

Water pump finally now leaking at 115,000 miles (Japanese makes have you replace it as part of the normal service at around 70k miles, so this is not bad!).

Interior light on this model year has dodgy switch; picked up new one at dealer.

General Comments:


Shopping for a newer sporty 4-door compact, I haven't found one that even remotely approaches the Satty's combination of 8.5 second 0-60mph time and near-40 mpg highway fuel economy. The thing goes like hell, and uses practically no gas doing it.

What's more, the light body weight, plus 4 wheel independent suspension and big 15" wheels with 60-series tires, with power steering that reduces assist as speed rises, provide excellent handling, with a pleasantly firm-yet-supple ride.

Reliability has been excellent; the thing just doesn't break. Coming from a Volkswagen, which had larger monthly repair payments than this vehicle has car payments, that is impressive to me.

These cars are very inexpensive to buy!

Exterior paint and interior plastic have stoutly resisted fading, cracking etc.

Plastic body does not rust or dent! Shopping carts and even cars have bumped into my Satty, and it just gently bounces them off without a dent.

Crash test scores are good.

Headroom is astonishingly good; I'm 6'1 and have many inches to spare. Low height of interior components lend a spacious feel to the small space. Large instruments and fat steering wheel give a little hint of BMW.


The SL2 complaint everyone knows: loud, unpleasant drivetrain noises. The engine has a pleasant braap under heavy throttle, but a scratchy whine at idle that'll have you playing the radio when toting passengers in the city...and a ferocious clatter on high-speed overrun that'll have you apologizing to any neighbors living on a hill that you must descend in low gears. Still, 1998s & later have less interior noise, and 1999s & later less engine noise, than earlier models.

The engine's decent low-speed torque (2000-2500 rpm), strong midrange power (2500-4000 rpm) and rocketlike high rpm power (4000-5500 rpm) are offset by devastatingly poor torque right off idle. Combine that with clutch's near-total lack of feel (though it is commendably light), and you find launches from a stop demand great finesse to avoid the sort of bucking and bogging you thought you'd got beyond in Driver's Ed.

Absurdly high-effort turn signal stalk, prone to accidental engagement of opposite flasher when turning one off.

Seat cushion too close to floor; seats not so comfy for long drives.

Stock headlight bulbs weak; replaced mine with PIAA bulbs.

Brakes are sufficient, but not outstanding. Like most cars these days, SL2 has thin front brake rotors which can heat-warp a bit too easily, resulting in that "pulsing" brake feel.

Window seals begin to let gusts of air in at high (>80mph) speed or in high wind.

Visors do not block sun from entering above rear view mirror! Had to stuff a newspaper in there on a long trip.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 20th July, 2004