Saturn Ion

Though the Saturn Ion is dead (good riddance), it still has one fan in the galaxy… Tek Jansen:

The Saturn ION is a compact car sold by General Motors’ Saturn marque. It uses the GM Delta platform. The ION replaced the Saturn S-series in 2003. As of 2006, the ION is the longest compact car sold in North America.

Saturn Ion 2003-2004
The 2003 ION came standard with a 140 hp (104 kW) DOHC Ecotec I4 engine. The ION’s instrument panel is mounted on the top center of the dashboard, rather than behind the steering wheel. The ION is available in sedan and coupe forms; the coupe is called a “quad coupe” due to the two smaller rear-opening “suicide doors” behind the front doors.

A Getrag F23 5-speed manual or an Aisin AF33 5-speed automatic transmission were available. The 2003 and 2004 IONs were available with the VTi continuously variable transmission.

In 2004, Saturn introduced the high-performance Redline variant of the ION, featuring a 205 hp supercharged engine, and a stronger F35 5-speed manual transmission. Dyno testing would often show an excess of 205 hp at the front wheels in this setup. Stiffer springs with a lowered ride height, performance sway bars, revalved shock absorbers, Recaro racing seats, and a special ground effects package were also included. This model used a 2.0L version of General Motor’s Ecotec engine, termed the ‘LSJ’, developed with GM’s Performance Division and track tested at Germany’s famous Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Saturn Ion 2005-2006
Facelifted 2005 Saturn IonIn 2005 the Aisin 5-speed automatic, along with the VTi CVT used in the quad-coupes from 2003 to mid-2004 were both discontinued for various issues, with reliability being the main issue for the VTi; the Aisin had a common documented problem called shift-flare, which also was somewhat common in other manufacturers that used Aisin transmissions (i.e. Toyota, etc). GM’s 4-speed 4T45-E replaced both transmissions and is the only automatic transmission available. While less technologically advanced than the previous offerings, it is a long term proven design.

Also in 2005, the ‘hockey puck’ style steering wheel was discontinued and the design used in the 2004 Redline model became standard on all models. In mid-2005, the seats in the base ION1 model were upgraded with new fabrics and a height adjustment feature. 2005 also saw the introduction of “quiet steel” multilaminate technology for sound reduction. The front fascia of the sedan was upgraded as well with a much larger grille opening.

The ECU was switched from a speed density system to a mass air system. An acoustic engine cover was added to reduce engine noise.

In 2006, the long-rumored 170 hp 2.4 L I4 engine with variable valve timing became available for the ION3.

Saturn Ion 2007
The 2007 Saturn Ion’s 2.2 L Ecotec engine will have an increase in power from 140 hp (104 kW) to 145 hp (108 kW) at 5600 rpm and an increase in torque from 145 ft·lbf (197 Nm) to 150 ft·lbf (203 Nm) at 4200 rpm. The 2.4 L Ecotec will have an increase in power from 170 hp (127 kW) to 175 hp (130 kW) at 6500 rpm and an increase in torque from 162 ft·lbf (219 Nm) to 164 ft·lbf (222 Nm) at 4800 rpm. The Recaro seats on the Redline will be replaced with black leather-appointed seats with passenger sensing system.

Saturn Ion 2008
In March 2007, the ION will be discontinued, and will be replaced by the European-built Saturn Astra, which is a rebadged Opel Astra. Another ION replacement will be the Saturn Corsa subcompact, which will likely be built in Mexico.

2,189 cc 2.2 liters in-line 4 front engine with 86 mm bore, 94.6 mm stroke, 10 compression ratio, double overhead cam and four valves per cylinder L61
– Unleaded fuel 87
– Fuel economy EPA highway (mpg): 32 and EPA city (mpg): 24
– Multi-point injection fuel system
– 13.2 gallon main unleaded fuel tank
– Power: 104 kW , 140 HP SAE @ 5,800 rpm; 145 ft lb , 197 Nm @ 4,400 rpm



The ION is Saturn’s entry level sedan and quad coupe that replaced the original S-Series for 2003. The quad coupe is unique with its industry-first dual rear access doors.
New for 2007


The 2007 Saturn Ion receives a five horsepower increase to its base Ecotec 2.2-liter engine to 145 and its optional 2.4-liter engine available on the Ion 3 with the Enhanced Performance Package to 175. Also new exterior color Deep Blue replaces Laser Blue.

The Ion has an acceptable ride and capable handling, but steering feel is inconsistent. The noisy engine returned less-than-exceptional fuel economy. The cramped interior feels cheap. Reliability has been average. IIHS side-crash results were poor even when tested with curtain air bags. It will be phased out in 2007.
2004 Saturn ION Performance
-2,189 cc 2.2 liters in-line 4 front engine with 86 mm bore, 94.6 mm stroke, 10 compression ratio, double overhead cam and four valves per cylinder
-Unleaded fuel
-Fuel economy EPA highway (mpg): 32 and EPA city (mpg): 24
-Multi-point injection fuel system
-13.2 gallon main unleaded fuel tank
-Power: 104 kW , 140 HP SAE @ 5,800 rpm; 145 ft lb , 197 Nm @ 4,400 rpm

2004 Saturn ION Handling
-Two disc brakes including two ventilated discs
-Spacesaver steel rim internal spare wheel
-Strut front suspension independent with stabilizer bar and coil springs , torsion beam rear suspension semi-independent with stabilizer bar and coil springs

2004 Saturn ION Exterior
-Body color front and rear bumpers
-Day time running lights
-Driver and passenger power black door mirrors
-External dimensions: overall length (inches): 184.5, overall width (inches): 67.2, overall height (inches): 57.4, wheelbase (inches): 103.2, front track (inches): 58.8, rear track (inches): 58.4 and curb to curb turning circle (feet): 35.4
-Front fog lights
-Complex surface lens halogen bulb headlights
-Metallic paint , black paint , gloss paint
-Fixed rear window with defogger
-Roof rails
-Tinted glass on cabin
-Windshield wipers with variable intermittent wipe

2004 Saturn ION Interior
-12v power outlet: front , 12v power outlet: rear
-Air conditioning
-Fixed mast antenna
-Peripheral anti-theft protection
-Manufacturer’s own audio system with AM/FM, CD player and cassette
-Cargo area light
-Cargo capacity: all seats in place (cu ft): 14.7
-Full dashboard console , full floor console with covered storage box
-Delayed/fade courtesy lights
-Cruise control
-Front seats and rear seats cup holders fixed
-Door pockets/bins for driver seat, passenger seat and rear seats
-Floor covering: carpet in load area
-Driver and passenger front airbag intelligent
-Bucket driver seat with height adjustment , bucket passenger seat
-Height adjustable 3-point reel front seat belts on driver seat and passenger seat with pre-tensioners
-Front seat center armrest
-Glove compartment
-Two height adjustable head restraints on front seats
-Headlight control with time delay switch-off and dusk sensor
-Internal dimensions: front headroom (inches): 40, rear headroom (inches): 37, front hip room (inches): 49.5, rear hip room (inches): 49.6, front leg room (inches): 42.2, rear leg room (inches): 33.3, front shoulder room (inches): 53.7, rear shoulder room (inches): 52.8 and interior volume (cu ft): 93
-Low fuel level warning
-Remote power locks includes trunk/hatch
-Vehicle speed proportional power steering
-Front power windows with one one-touch
-3-point reel rear seat belts on driver side, passenger side and center side
-Three asymmetrical bench front facing rear seats with zero adjustments
-Rear view mirror
-Remote control remote trunk/hatch release
-Front seat back storage
-Upgraded cloth/velour seat upholstery with additional upgraded cloth/velour
-Seating: five seats
-Four speaker(s)
-Plastic multi-function steering wheel with tilt adjustment
-Driver and passenger vanity mirror
-Ventilation system with recirculation setting and micro filter

What’s New for the 2006 Saturn ION?
Saturn endows the 2006 Ion with a few new rings this year, including an optional Enhanced Performance Package that features a 170-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-four-cylinder engine; a sport-tuned suspension; traction control, and ABS-assisted brakes. There’s a redesigned center console and center stack, a new family of radios with an auxiliary input jack for portable audio players, a fresh five-spoke alloy wheel design on the Ion 3, and revised 17-inch alloys on the Ion Red Line. OnStar’s dual-mode hardware with one year of Safe & Sound service is now standard, as is the GM Passenger Sensing System (except on the Red Line). Also, the OnStar antenna has been merged with the XM satellite radio mast. Finally, the color pallete sees a few changes as well: Cypress Green replaces Dragonfly Green and Golden Cashmere replaces Golden Wheat on sedans; Fusion Orange is added for quad coupes; and Laser Blue is added for Ion 2, Ion 3, and Ion Red Line.

Advantages of the 2006 Saturn ION:
No-hassle buying experience
Clamshell-style doors of the quad coupe allow for easier access to the rear seat
Dent- and rust-resistant plastic body panels
Red Line model is genuine fun to drive
Objections to the 2006 Saturn ION:
Unimpressive fit and finish
Loud, unrefined powertrain
Uncomfortable rear seats
AutoSite’s Advice:
The Saturn Ion replaced the 13-year-old S-Series in 2003, and was heralded by its maker as a wonderful new standard-bearer in the economy car class. It is anything but. We find the Ion to be poorly executed, a perfect example of the domestic automobile industry’s arrogance. Standard-issue Ions ride and drive like they’re decades old, with a beam rear axle and drum rear brakes. The electric power steering is devoid of road feel, and it’s hard to make the small course corrections that all cars require, resulting in plenty of unsettling lane hunt as you travel down the road. The rear seat is uncomfortable and suffers a severe lack of legroom when tall front seat occupants have made enough space for themselves. Refinement is also lacking, in terms of powertrain, assembly quality and the materials used to construct the cabin. Saturn claimed to have made improvements to the interior in each successive year since introduction. Apparently, what they changed didn’t work because more updates are offered on the 2006 model. Frankly, we don’t think anything short of a trip back to the drawing board will help the Saturn Ion. The single exception is the sport-tuned Red Line model, which lacks powertrain refinement but steers, brakes, and handles beautifully.