2005 ION New Car Test Drive
More refinement is among the list of improvements to the Saturn Ion for 2005. The 2005 Saturn Ion is smoother, quieter, and more comfortable than last year's models. And a new grille improves the looks of the sedan models. The changes raise the 2005 Ion to the level of being a compelling choice in a strong class of compact cars.
The Ion was redesigned and launched as an all-new model for 2003. It received some updates for 2004, but the changes for 2005 are more substantial.
For starters, the 2005 Ion sedans and coupes are more comfortable, with new seats that are larger and more supportive, addressing a big complaint with last year's models. Adding to this comfortable new seating position is a larger steering wheel, a surprisingly important feature.
The 2005 Ions ride better than last year's models. They're smoother and quieter, making them more pleasant in daily use. Handling is sharper, making them more enjoyable to drive. Extensive mechanical improvements to the 2005 models include revised suspension settings and improved steering feel. A new four-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission in the coupe and the five-speed automatic in the sedan, both of which had been problematic.
The 2005 Ion sedans look better that last year's models, with a new front-end treatment that gives them a classier, more elegant, more mainstream, more upscale appearance. The Ion sedans offer four-door practicality. The front seats offer lots of headroom, and the back seats are roomy. A well-equipped Ion sedan retails for just $15,000.
Ion quad coupes feature innovative dual rear-access doors, small doors like those on an extended-cab pickup that maximize the usefulness of the interior space by making it easy to load and unload cargo. We found we could stuff large objects into the back seats that will not go into a traditional two-door coupe.
Enthusiasts will gravitate to the high-performance Red Line coupe, which features a 205-horsepower supercharged engine. Saturn says it's good for 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds. We found it fun to drive, with strong throttle response and a sporty exhaust note. It comes with Recaro seats for comfortable support in corners.
Surveys of buyers indicate the Saturn Ion is easy to buy and have maintained. Granted, Ion's quality is not up to those of the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, according to ratings from J.D. Power and Associates surveys, but Saturn buyers tend to be happier with their dealers, citing hassle-free sales and service. Saturn was ranked well ahead of Honda and Toyota and was outranked only by luxury brands in J.D. Power's 2004 Sales Satisfaction Index, which surveys buyers of new vehicles on the purchasing experience. Maintaining one is a satisfying experience as well. Saturn ranked No. 2 in a 2003 J.D. Power survey on customer satisfaction with dealer service, outranked only by Infiniti and well ahead of Honda and Toyota.
The 2005 Saturn Ion is available as a four-door sedan or an innovative coupe. Saturn calls the coupe a Quad Coupe for its unusual reverse-opening rear doors. Picture the door arrangement on an extended-cab pickup, but with a lot more style.
All Ions (except the high-performance Red Line) are powered by a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 140 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard. Automatic transmissions are optional ($980).
Three trim levels are available, called Ion 1, Ion 2, and Ion 3. The sedan is offered in all three. The coupe is available in the upper two levels.
The Ion 1 sedan ($11,430) comes with a four-speaker AM/FM stereo, tilt steering, an immobilizing anti-theft system, 185/70 tires on 14-inch steel wheels, and not much else. The windows wind and the mirrors adjust manually. Air conditioning costs extra ($960).
The Ion 2 sedan ($14,380) and coupe ($14,930) also come with air conditioning, a CD player, a more deluxe interior with a driver's seat that adjusts for height, and 195/60 tires on 15-inch aluminum wheels. A convenience package ($825) adds cruise control, power windows, mirrors and locks.
The Ion 3 sedan ($15,905) and coupe ($16,680) add an MP3 player and better speakers, cruise control, selective locking and unlocking with remote keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, and other niceties, plus 205/55 tires on 16-inch aluminum wheels. Leather upholstery ($700) is optional.
Safety features include dual-stage driver and front-passenger frontal airbags. Optional curtain airbags ($395) are designed to improve head protection for front- and rear-seat passengers in the event of a side impact or rollover. The Ion has received five-star/five-star ratings, the highest attainable, in the federal government's (NHTSA) crash tests. We recommend the optional ABS and traction control ($400) as it can help you avoid a crash. Always wear your seatbelts as they are your first line of defense in an accident. OnStar ($695) is available on Ion 2 and 3, an option that enhances safety as well as convenience, with operators that will direct emergency crews to your exact location should the airbags deploy.
A CD player ($290) and CD/MP3 systems and XM Satellite Radio ($325) are available on Ion 2 and 3. The Travel Package ($200) includes a map light, outside temperature gauge, compass, and auto-dimming inside mirror, all useful features A power sunroof ($725) is available for all models except the base Ion 1.
The Red Line coupe boasts 205 horsepower from a supercharged and intercooled 2.0-liter engine. To manage the additional power, the Red Line coupe gets a heavy-duty five-speed manual gearbox from Getrag, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, a recalibrated suspension with a lowered ride height (by 10mm), and 215/45R17 tires on 17-inch wheels. The Ion Red Line is distinguished by unique front and rear fascias, side sills, a rear wing, and Recaro sport seats.