2003 ION New Car Test Drive
Out with the old S-Series, in with the new Ion.
It's been 12 years since GM's Saturn division first appeared on the automotive scene in an attempt to compete more effectively with Japanese imports. Unlike Japanese manufacturers who change a car's design pretty much every four years like clockwork, the basic Saturn sedan, coupe and station wagon model, known as the S-Series, remained essentially unchanged. Until now.
It didn't seem to matter terribly as people have chosen Saturns as much for the hassle-free buying experience as the car's actual character and performance. In fact, Saturn has been the only non-luxury make to ever top the J. D. Power and Associates Sales Satisfaction Index and was often ranked with such illustrious makes as Lexus and Infiniti.
For 2003, there's an all-new sedan and coupe. This time, Saturn has given its entry models a name: Ion. The Ion replaces the S-series and sports all-new styling. It's built on an entirely new and bigger platform and it's powered by a new engine. It still has an unmistakable Saturn look, however.
The Ion is available as a four-door sedan or as a quad-door coupe. Both models are powered by a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. (It's the same engine introduced in the Saturn Vue sport-utility late in 2002.)
The base Ion 1 sedan comes with a manual transmission and starts at a competitive price of $11,510, but does not include air conditioning or even a radio.
The Ion 2 model with air conditioning, power door locks and an AM/FM/CD stereo starts at $13,510.
Ion 3 adds power mirrors, remote keyless entry, and cruise control for $15,010. Ion 3 is distinguished by 16-inch alloy wheels.
An optional five-speed automatic transmission adds $900 to the cost of each model. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) with traction control add $595, and we recommend them highly for their ability to help you maintain control in a panic situation and avoid an accident.
The Ion Coupe is offered in much same variations as the sedans described above. The optional automatic, however, is a continuously variable transmission, or CVT.