1998 Saturn SL Reviews - Page 2 of 16

1998 Saturn SL SL2 1.9 I4 DOHC from North America

Model year1998
Year of manufacture1998
First year of ownership2006
Most recent year of ownership2010
Engine and transmission 1.9 I4 DOHC Automatic
Performance marks 5 / 10
Reliability marks 8 / 10
Comfort marks 4 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 8 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
6.3 / 10
Distance when acquired82000 miles
Most recent distance149353 miles
Previous carPontiac Grand Am


This is your beater people, stay on top of the oil and you're golden for thousands of miles!


Let me preface this by saying almost all of the miles I have put on have been highway...

- She burns a lot of oil, more on highway... a quart 750-1K miles, burning is less in city driving.

- Wiring problem in rear tail light, resolved around 100K.

- I ran over deer carcass around 120K, car flew in air and popped a tire. I later found a cracked radiator reservoir, causing a slow leak, and it also cracked a plastic shield underneath the engine. Radiator later replaced as a preventative measure at 125K, MacGyvered the shield off one day when it started dragging on the pavement.

- Cold crank sensor failed around 127K, car towed.

- General tune up around 130K while the car was in shop, plugs, wires, coolant change, other fluids.

- Last winter in the high 130s, a bizarre 'Service' red light (with a wrench not the OBD check engine) came on and the heater/defroster quit working... this was after I stopped to use the bathroom while driving home in a snow storm. Next day, the light was gone. Has appeared once or twice since then, same symptoms. Mechanic theorizes the blower motor is going, as I do run the A/C and heater constantly, but it has yet to completely break.

- A flex pipe on exhaust fell off while driving around 149K, car towed.

- Automatic tranny has been shaky since I got her. I change the fluid every 25K, it's never given me any serious problem, it just shifts weird downhill sometimes.

General Comments:

I call her the Snow Warrior, my brother's '02 we call the Blue Battler. It's been a love/hate relationship... not because of any failure of the car, but just because of how cheap it feels... like a disposable camera. But under the hood lurks a monster.

Truthfully this car is a beast, which is a term I normally reserved for late model Caprices or other ex-police cruisers. It takes the abuse of awful Pittsburgh winters, and even worse PENNDOT roads.

She was $1500 to purchase from dear old Dad, and roughly $2000 total maintenance in 4 yr/68K... She has only truly failed me twice in this time and:

- She's driven as far west as Athens OH, as far north as Buffalo NY, as far south as Winchester VA, Erie PA dozens of times, and up I-79 daily.

- She runs over deer and flies through the air.

- She takes a side swipes at 35 miles an hour, does not dent, and only requires some acetone for $6 to remove the black scuff marks without needing body work... netting you an $800 profit in a judgment against the defendant. Yes, this happened.

- Her body will never rust.

- She's plastic and doesn't mind when you tap people in the parking lot.

- She drives 75 miles an hour, 60 miles a day without question.

- She's a 4 banger. It will do around 30 hwy on said commute.

- Her brakes and tires are very cheap to replace.

- She keep me cool every summer, without her A/C I would have melted in July.

- She lacks even the most basic options, save power steering, airbag, aftermarket CD, and ABS... but options? We don't need no stinking options!

- She only asks very regular oil changes, Lucas every 3K, and 25K tranny flushes.

This is your beater people, cheap and effective. If you can still find one that's not destroyed, look for a 96-99 SL 5-spd or auto, stay on top of the oil and you're golden for thousands of miles!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 31st August, 2010

25th Feb 2011, 15:44

96-99 have to be the worst years for Saturn engines; their 1.9 SOHC engines had bad cylinder heads on them that crack below 100k.

Their DOHC engines are good though, although I wouldn't advise running auto in one, because they're weak.

1998 Saturn SL from North America

Model year1998
Year of manufacture1998
Engine and transmission Manual
Performance marks 10 / 10
Reliability marks 10 / 10
Comfort marks 8 / 10
Dealer Service marks 10 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 9 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
9.4 / 10
Distance when acquired180000 kilometres
Most recent distance314000 kilometres


Great Little Car!


Dimmer switch stopped working so you had to disconnect battery to turn lights off. $500 to fix.

Oil mixed with coolant and caused car to overheat (probably a cracked head gasket..)

General Comments:

This was an absolutely wonderful vehicle! It was given to me by my parents after they had been driving it for years, and I drove it for 4 years and packed a lot of kilometres onto it.

I had very few problems with this vehicle, and cannot complain about it at all.

A very quick little car, great driving car.

My only issue was where the cupholders were located, as if your cup was too big you couldn't shift into first or fifth (depending where your cup was).

It was very reliable, and always got me where I needed to go.

My mechanic still laughs about how I cried when my little car finally died. However, at 314 000 Km... it was time to let her go. So long Red Rocket!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 2nd August, 2010

Average review marks: 6.9 / 10, based on 50 reviews