2006 Saturn ION Review | Edmunds.com

2006 Saturn ION

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Saturn ION Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.2 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 140 hp @ 5600 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 23/32 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2006 Saturn ION

  • With its solid performance and affordable pricing, the 2006 Saturn Ion is worth a look if you're shopping for an economy sedan or coupe. Bear in mind, though, that newer peers are more refined and more fun to drive.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Low price, customer-focused dealers, large trunk capacity, coupe's innovative rear access doors, solid ride and handling dynamics.

  • Cons

    Limited rear legroom, center-mounted instrumentation takes some getting used to, below-average interior materials.

  • What's New for 2006

    The entry-level Ion 1 trim level has been dropped for 2006. Wheel designs have been revised, OnStar is now standard across the board, and air conditioning has moved to the options list for the Ion 2. Upgraded performance is available via an optional Enhanced Performance package, which includes antilock brakes, a sport-tuned suspension and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 170 horsepower.

Full 2006 Saturn ION Review

What's New for 2006

The entry-level Ion 1 trim level has been dropped for 2006. Wheel designs have been revised, OnStar is now standard across the board, and air conditioning has moved to the options list for the Ion 2. Upgraded performance is available via an optional Enhanced Performance package, which includes antilock brakes, a sport-tuned suspension and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 170 horsepower.


A replacement for the aged S-Series, the Saturn Ion arrived as a new model in 2003. It's built on GM's "Delta" vehicle platform, which is shared with the Cobalt. Compared to the S-Series, the Saturn Ion benefits from its increased structural stiffness, an ability to accommodate multiple engine/transmission combinations and a larger overall size. Styling is increasingly important in this vehicle class as manufacturers court younger buyers, so Saturn engineers came up with a few innovative tricks to catch the attention of potential buyers. Interchangeable trim panels that reside along the exterior roofline and around the instrument cluster allow owners to quickly and easily transform the look of their Ion to suit their mood. Ion "coupes" actually have four doors -- two traditional openings in front and a set of rear-hinged doors for easier access to the rear seats. Both the sedan and coupe offer spacious cabins and one of the largest trunks in the class at 14.7 cubic feet. Unfortunately, as roomy as the cabin feels from the front seats, legroom is pretty tight in the backseat. A center-mounted instrument cluster gives the interior a unique look as well as offers more room for the driver to adjust the steering wheel, but in terms of functionality we prefer the "old-fashioned" location -- in front of the driver. Like other Saturn cars, the Ion offers buyers the no-hassle buying experience, a pull so strong it keeps almost half of all previous Saturn customers coming back. And in a society that seems to have forgotten about the idea of customer service, not having to dread each trip to the dealer is a feature no army of engineers could have possibly tackled.

Unfortunately, the Ion hasn't turned out to be the slam-dunk Saturn had hoped for. The car suffered from too much engine noise and vibration, a poorly calibrated electric power steering system, cheap interior materials and uncomfortable seating. Interestingly, Saturn listened to the complaints and did something about it. Most dramatic were the changes for 2005, which the front and rear seats were redesigned for long-haul comfort and interior materials were upgraded. Additionally, the Saturn Ion was fitted with noise-dampening steel for the dash and plenum, an acoustic cover for the engine, and a new exhaust down pipe to reduce noise and vibration. Finally, engineers retuned the electric steering for better feel and did some work on the car's suspension.

As a result, the 2006 Saturn Ion is now up to par in most areas, and it's worth a look if you're shopping for a budget sedan or coupe, particularly if a low out-the-door price is your main priority. Unfortunately, competitors like the Spectra, Mazda3, tC and Civic keep raising the bar even higher when it comes to value, performance, features and refinement, so you'd be wise to explore your options before buying one of these Saturn cars.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The Saturn Ion is available in two body styles: a regular sedan and "quad coupe" that combines coupelike styling with dual rear-access doors. The sedan and quad coupe are available in two numerical trim levels -- 2 and 3. The Ion 2 includes basic comfort options like power locks, OnStar and a CD player. Add the Preferred package to get power windows and mirrors, cruise control, a driver-seat height adjuster and keyless entry. The Ion 3 takes a sportier step forward adding 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, full power accessories and an anti-theft system. The Enhanced Performance package includes a more powerful engine, sport-tuned suspension, antilock brakes and traction control.

Powertrains and Performance

Both the sedan and coupe feature a standard 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine rated for 140 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 170 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque is included in the Enhanced Performance package. Both Saturn Ion models come standard with a five-speed manual transmission, with a four-speed automatic available as an option.


Antilock brakes with traction control are optional, as is a side curtain airbag system that unfolds from the roof rail to provide head protection for both front and rear outboard occupants. GM's OnStar communication system, which can summon aid automatically if the airbags deploy, is standard on all models. In government crash testing, both the coupe and sedan earned a perfect five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts. In side-impact testing, an Ion sedan without side curtain airbags earned three stars for the protection of front occupants and four stars for the rear; the coupe received four stars across the board. In IIHS testing, the Saturn Ion earned an "Acceptable" rating (second highest) for frontal-offset crash safety and a "Poor" rating for side-impact protection, even with the optional airbags.

Interior Design and Special Features

The speedometer and other related instruments are housed in a center-mounted pod, freeing up space in front of the driver for better sight lines and more steering wheel adjustability. Nevertheless, this unusual layout of the Saturn Ion takes some getting used to. The quad coupe's additional dual rear-access doors open rearward to make it easier for rear passengers to get in and out. Unfortunately, rear legroom is tight in both the coupe and sedan, so passengers aren't likely to be happy back there for long.

Driving Impressions

The engine provides adequate, if not entirely refined, power throughout the rev range. The four-speed automatic transmission is responsive, but the manual box is still a little rough through the gates. Built on a completely different platform than its S-Series predecessor, the 2006 Saturn Ion displays commendable ride and handling characteristics. It's soft enough to soak up rough roads, yet it still handles itself well in tight turns and freeway off-ramps. We've previously criticized the Ion's steering, which never seemed to provide the right amount of power assist, but recent revisions have yielded much improved road feel.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Have an '06 quad coupe.........

by on
Vehicle: 2006 Saturn ION 2 4dr Coupe (2.2L 4cyl 4A)

This has been a fairly good vehicle. The anti-theft system is always a 'cloud over our heads'. Never know when it's going to engage and have to be reset. Wife driving-39-41 MPG, my driving at 80-85 MPH down to 32 MPG. The rear suspension is a joke! The same beam axle as the Citation of years ago. NOT independant rear suspension, ride in cramped rear seat not good. Front seats A-OK. A Chevrolet Cobalt in drag, and more money. The local Chevrolet dealer has performed all the campaigns (ign switch, power steering motor).

8 of 14 people found this review helpful

Good commuter car

by on
Vehicle: 2006 Saturn ION 2 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 5M)

I've owned my '06 Ion for 4 years, purchased used from a Saturn dealer with 22k on the clock. It just passed 80k the other day and thus far has been a good car. Average 33mpg, over 40 on trips. Issues thus far: AC compressor failed (replaced under warranty), power steering motor failed (out of warranty, dealer wanted $1300 to fix, I bought a used ps motor off eBay and did it myself for $80 bucks), ignition module failure (twice, $82 part at AutoZone), and now the front right wheel has a bad bearing and is causing excessive road noise. Most of the problems are easy and quick to fix, no car is 100% failure proof and I think this car is a good trade-off. People have unrealistic expectations.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

Beware: horrible car!!!

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Vehicle: 2006 Saturn ION 2 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 4A)

My 2006 Saturn Ion has been nothing but a money pit. Sure the first couple years were great...no problems. Then, the issues started. My car now has 59,000 miles on it and I have had to replace the track in the driver's door because my window actually fell down into the door and wouldn't come back up. It has no A/C because no one can figure out what's wrong with it. I have also had to replace the brakes numerous times, replaced sensors because the lights would stay on (the car thought the doors weren't shut) and now I have an issue where the car doesn't want to start on cold mornings. This car just is not worth it anymore. I'm frustrated, poor and just can't take much more!!!

I love this car

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Vehicle: 2006 Saturn ION 2 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 4A)

i got my saturn about 7 months ago it had 116k miles on it and now its got 127k miles and runs absolutely great.. it gets around 21 on city and 32 on the highway which i get combined 29-30ish which aint bad.. the only thing i had to replace was the powersteering motor.. it had a little leak from the rain once but a lil silicone fixed the problem.. I also put a custom exhaust on it which sounds awesome.. overall this car is great i love this car..

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Happy with car, but...

by on
Vehicle: 2006 Saturn ION 3 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 5M)

I bought a 2006 Saturn ION 3 with 5 sp manual transmission back in Aug 2010. I love the car when there are no problems, but boy, when there are problems, there are problems! I had to replace the ignition switch 'cos of a bad sensor. The PassLock system wouldn't let me start the car because of this. It "thought" the car was being stolen so the engine wouldn't start. 2 days ago, the power steering light came on & I lost my power steering. The book said to take it to the dealer, so I did. That is when I found out that there is a recall from GM. Fortunately, my car has less than 100k miles, so the price of the repair was covered under the recall.

Really happy!

by on
Vehicle: 2006 Saturn ION 2 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 5M)

Might as well start with the problems. AC compressor went, but was under warranty, the alarm is activated in cold weather due to thick lubricant in the ignition cylendar (common problem) and the clutch that is auto adjusting is set too close to the floor for my liking. Now the good stuff. Good looking car. Better looking than the comperable Japanese models in my opinion. Good gas mileage. I upgraded my plugs, keep it well maintained, use Lucas products, adjusted my driving habits and get about 20% better mileage than the EPA rating. Comfortable with plenty of room in the back for my kids. Lots of trunk room. Lot's of pep in the city and on the highway when you need it.

Talk About The 2006 ION

2006 Saturn ION Discussions See all Started By

We purchased a pre-owned 2006 Saturn Ion (2.2 Engine) for my college daughters in TX. They have been driving it for over one year, but recently it began having a problem with random/intermittent loss...

I bought a 2007 Saturn ION Coupe the end of December 2006. I have had the car 4 mos and keep experiencing a wobbling when driving between 4-10 mph (traffic). They have balanced and aligned my car 4 ...

i have a saturn ion 2006..i took out the lock cylinder because the did not turn....so i stuck a screwdriver in it so i can turn on and i broke the inside plastic piece that turns inside...anybody know...

Gas Mileage


  • 23
  • cty
  • 32
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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