"I bought this car as my first car when I was 16. It was a great first car, it was sporty enough yet fit all my college junk. However, I did have some problems with my sunroof, but they were a very easy fix. It started leaking, however, I found out that there are tubes that drain down that were clogged. Periodically you need to clean them out. Also, I had some transmission problems, or what I thought were transmission problems. There is actually a speed sensor that may need to be replaced. Its not too hard but what happens is a lot of lights come on on the dash and your traction control will turn off and you won't be able to use your cruse. It slams into gear and has a hard time getting up to speed. Its only like $20 part. I, on the other hand, was afraid to take it somewhere to be fixed because I thought with transmissions they are always expensive so I drove my boyfriends truck for a month. yikes on gas mileage. Just an easy fix. Other than that it was a good first car, but I wouldn't trust it with a young family. The plastic doors scare me when it comes to winter and you get stuck on an inch of snow. It runs great though and I never had any other problems with it."
"Bought this car new in January 2003 and have enjoyed it ever since. Note to a couple of other reviewers: "feeling every bump" could mean a bad bushing, common on this car as is the faulty ignition cylinder, which can fail in a couple of ways. My battery lasted about 120,000 miles, but its in-trunk placement meant I didn't see the corrosion that was breaking down the case. In three ways, my opinion is unusual even for Ion owners: I like the instrument cluster facing me from the center, the steering is light but awesome in tight turning circumstances, and the seats have been great for my back. The car has not ever left me in the lurch anywhere, has handled well in snow and rain, gets better than advertised gas mileage (5-speed manual), loves Hankook tires, responds well to new struts and shocks, handles 600 miles in a day with no heartburn. Keep your shift points at around 2200 rpm and you'll handle most cars your size, but the engine-transmission combination does not launch the car, it moves it comfortably. Jacking the seat in its full-up position using the lever confers excellent visibility all around. The only component to fail was the radio and I hated to see it go.
In fact, that's my final word. I'm selling the Ion to make room for a 2007 Scion Tc our son has given us (because he lives in a city) and will miss it for many reasons. I spent less than $17,500 to buy it, have put in much less in repairs that would make me unhappy, and enjoyed the car in all conditions and at all speeds. The only reason for a 7 in the recommend bar is my concern that parts will be harder and harder to get. Otherwise, at least a 9."
"Between my wife and I this is the third Saturn we've owned. All were purchased brand new and every one of them had their own little glitches but this is to be expected in mass produced vehicles. My loaded 2003 Saturn Ion 3 has been a great little car to own. Great mileage, great performance, goes fantastic in Pennsylvania snow. It's no performance super car, but that isn't what I bought it for. I've owned it for seven years now and it has 175,000+ miles on it. Aside from the cold weather starting issues, which seems to be the major complaint about this vehicle, which, interestingly, seems to have subsided once I got beyond 170,000 miles, it has been a great little car to own. I plan on holding onto it as long as it will run."