Saturn Ion 3 Sedan Automatic
Roomy interior. Large trunk. Plenty of power. Nice quality of buttons and
dials. Leather seating.
Hard plastic used on dash and doors does not feel or look good. Exterior
styling is wimpy. Center mounted instrument cluster just doesn't look good.
Ion is a compact sedan with distinctive style and all the basic interior
creature comforts at a value price. The Ion is available in three trim
levels, simply names 1, 2 and 3. Pricing starts off at around $10,000 and
goes up to $15,000 for the three different models. New for 2005 model year
vehicles is a revised front fascia and grille for a more substantial
integrated appearance. Much has been done to reduce noise, vibration, and
harshness by the use of Quiet Steel among other improvements. An improved
OnStar system is capable of upgraded hands-free capability. New interior
seating greatly improves comfort over the previous Ion.
"Continuous improvement is a
major part of the Ion story," said Lori Queen, GM vehicle line executive for
small cars. "While Ion started with great engineering fundamentals, more
than 800 enhancements have been made throughout the vehicle since the
original introduction in the fall of 2002. The upgrades for 2005 bring Ion
to a level of sophistication that is competitive with the best cars in the
entry-level segment," said Queen.
"The Ion has always been a
fun-to-drive car with high levels of content and functionality for the
price," said Matt Armstrong, marketing manager for the Ion. "The
improvements for 2005 add to the overall enjoyment of spending time in an
Ion, whether you're driving or just along for the ride."
Ion 3 features a 2.2 liter four cylinder DOHC 16 valve engine. This engine
produces 140 horsepower. An automatic transmission with grade control logic
helps to keep you in the powerband. A variable assist electric power
steering system makes turning in tight areas easy and feels precise. Front
suspension is set up with independent struts and the rear setup is a
semi-independent torsion beam system. Front and rear stabilizer bars keep
this Ion under control and reduce body sway. The engine delivers a good 24
miles per gallon in the city and 32 miles on the highway.
the Ion around town and on the highway reveals that Saturn has done its
homework on the road. The Ion is very quiet at speed with a small amount of
engine hum entering the cabin only when pressed hard. The transmission is
smooth and gear changes are hardly felt. There is a good amount of strong
low-end torque for excellent off the line power. You would be hard pressed
to think there was only a 140 horsepower engine under the hood.
Styling on the outside is a bit wimpy by
our standards. The front nose is dated looking with blandly styled
headlamps. The side profile is fine until you get to the cutoff on the rear
window. The small rear hatch is also a hint at the meagerness of this car.
The exterior features Saturn's trademark dent resistant panels. We did not
like the wide gaps between body panels. This is quite noticeable in the
Ion. However, the nicely styled P205/55R 16-inch performance tires and
wheels looked great. Halogen headlamps and fog lamps do not provide enough
amount of light up front at night. We found it hard to see at night even
with the high beam on. Perhaps the type of reflector Saturn used in the
headlights is not very good at dispersing light. A stainless steel exhaust
system is also standard.
On the inside new seats on the Ion feature
a more tailored and contemporary look. Seats in leather clad trim look and
feel good but offer little lateral support. The shift lever is also large
and feels good to the touch. Chrome dials around the instrument cluster
along with glowing red needles also looked great. We did not like the half
circle design theme through the interior and exterior, it simply reminded us
of a VW Beetle rather than a Saturn. The center mounted instrument cluster
is a feature that Saturn claims is safer because you will only have to look
across, in level with rearview mirrors, rather than looking up and down. We
got tired of not seeing basic instruments right in front of us, perhaps a
head up display should be standard in this model. The steering wheel though
clad in leather with a large feeling lacked stereo controls, something we
find hard to live without. A good thing was the feel of all dials and
buttons on the dash and around the steering wheel. The soft and tight
feeling as you turn the button signified a quality built feeling we liked a
lot. The overuse of plastic on the dash and doors did not look very nice.
We feel this should all be changed. Rearview mirrors are also a bit thin
and do not provide adequate view of the rod behind you.
Interior features include air conditioning,
power lock with an anti lockout feature. Remote keyless entry with alarm is
also standard. All windows and mirrors are powered. Cruise control and an
AM/FM stereo with CD changer and MP3 player was installed in our tester.
The steering column is also adjustable and the driver's seat heated with
lumbar adjustment for added comfort. Rear seats fold down in a 60/40
fashion as well for a super large trunk area. The tiny armrest is
adjustable with a very small storage space inside. Floor mats are also
standard for the front and rear foot wells. The optional OnStar system is
also a great help for live human aid wherever you are. It also helps in
case your Saturn in stolen and so we highly recommend it.
safety and security features include dual stage front air bags. The Ion
also comes with front safety belt pretensioners. Rear doors also have child
security locks. An engine immobilizer is standard as well which is great to
have in this price range. Daytime running headlamps also add that extra bit
Our tester's standard base price was set at
$16,805. The Safe and Sound Package was added for $1,235 which contained
curtain side airbags, map lights, auto dimming inside mirror with exterior
temperature gauge and digital compass, anti lock brakes with traction
control, the OnStar system with 1 year of service, and a 6-disc CD changer
with MP3 player. Leather seating was only $700. With the destination
charge of $565, the total came to $19,305. Saturn also offers a Vehicle
Exchange Program on every car that rolls off the lot. You have 30 days or
up to 1,500 miles to exchange the car for another 2005 Saturn. The
bumper-to-bumper warranty is good for three years or 36,000 miles.
Is the Saturn a great competitor when
compared to cars such as the Toyota Corolla, Civic and Mazda 3? Well we
certainly like the interior layout and quality in the Mazda 3 better. If
you are looking for a budget car around $10,000 then this may be a great
buy, but at $19,000 this Ion 3 needs a refreshed interior with higher
quality parts and a much more modern exterior. While the ride and handling
are good we expect much more in a car priced this high, something its