Constant attempts by multiple Saturn dealers to collect funds for warranty service. I bought the service plan with this car because I was in the Navy and wanted my wife to be able to get it fixed while I was deployed without getting ripped off. Every time I took it for an oil change they would present the bill and ask how I wanted to pay. I would have to tell them it was under warranty, and then they would act surpised, but then say "o yes, its on the bill here". Then why where they asking for payment? I am suspicious that they are in the habit of charging both the customer and the warranty plans. Lesson, always ask if this is covered under warranty or service agreement.
Driver's window regulator (power window motor) failed in down position, 25,000 miles. Dealer replaced in warranty.
All window motors still make annoying clunking noise while moving the windows. It sounds like they are all about to break, but they on keep working.
Electrical problem. 52,000 miles. The battery spontaneously died while at a baseball game. My wife insisted she hadn't left any lights on. Had car towed home. Alternator tested good. Replaced battery and did not have problem for another year.
60,000 miles, one year later. I drove the car home from a restaurant, stopped at the store for ten minutes, and when I came out the battery was super dead. Usually if the battery is dead, it clicks when you try to start it. It was so dead, it clicked when I turned it to 'on'. When I turned it to start, it was went all black, no dash lights, no radio, nothing. I got a jump and drove it home. After, replacing the alternator (first time, $120, 2 hours labor) and the battery (second time, 30$.5 hour labor), and it was still draining the battery according to a volt meter.
It turns out there was a.1amp short from the coolant fan fuse to chassis ground in the main fuse block in the engine compartment that was sucking down the juice. It was not rainy on that day, and it didn't go away like the last time. I disconnected the battery and sprayed the block with electrical cleaner and it appears to be working normally now.
Coolant leak. 36,000 miles.
This problem happened with two days of taking the car to a dealer for the 30,000 mile service, which was also pretty much the last warranty service. It had never leaked before, and then suddenly developed a problem after a service. My wife took it back and they replaced the radiator hoses for $150. It still leaks fluid today. It's only about a pint every two weeks or so.
Motor mount. 30,000 miles. I had my wife take the car in because the headlights were vibrating/shaking which bothered me. They did not do it when it was new, but at a light they shook annoyingly. The dealer told her it was normal. She had the headlights aligned and checked for body damage another time, and they never mentioned a motor mount problem, just said it was ok.
Finally, at about 60,000 miles the shaking was getting so bad that it shook the plastic around the radio, and anything in the cup-holders. I took it in to a new dealer (still Saturn) and asked them to check the harmonic balancer because it was vibrating horribly and was on the verge of self destruction. The told me it was only the top motor mount. After replacing it the headlights are fine and interior doesn't vibrate anymore. Apparently, the motor mounts went through three changes, and were a very high failure rate item. Dealer cost $80. It took me one hour to install.
This car is overall very nice. It's small size makes it very nimble.
It doesn't have the most power, but it isn't horrible for a four cylinder go-kart engine. It's only 125hp. (I'm used to V8's) If it had a V6 I would love it more. It has enough go to annoy super street Honda's, and it's stock.
It's pretty comfortable on the highway and handles very well.
The gas mileage is pretty good. 24 city, 28-33 highway.
It has a pretty good premium sound system. Although the base sounds like it would blow the speakers if you pushed it very hard.
The plastic doors and fenders take a beating and keep their shape.
Very reliable. Only 2 breakdowns in 5 years. No major repairs needed.
It's a little noisy. You don't notice so much when you drive all the time, but when you switch back and forth, you can tell it has a lot more wind and road noise the some other cars.
Lots of room in the trunk. And 60/40 fold down rear seats make a lot of room when you need it.
Nice body. I think this is the best body style for Saturn SL's. We had to get the SL2 for the painted bumpers. (stupid cheap Saturn.) This car still looks current with its soft rounded top instead of the ugly square lines on the '98 and older.
Lots of interior room for such a small car. Plenty of room in front and back seats. Shoulder belts in rear.