I bought a SL2 new in early 1999.
I went with the 5-Speed manual with a power package, ABS with traction control, alloy wheels, and the AM/FM cassette w/EQ.
Overall, I had a good experience with the car.
It was reasonably fun to drive, got excellent fuel mileage; 40 MPG on the highway regularly, and I never had a problem.
When I had to replace the tires at about 40k I got slightly wider 60 series (rather than the stock 65 series) tires and that improved handling significantly.
The manual shifted crisply and the engine was happy at higher RPMs.
I put 68k miles on the car in 3 years and traded it on a new 2002 Mazda Protege ES, which was a much better car for about the same price.
Great gas mileage, smooth shifting manual transmission, totally reliable for the 3 years/68k miles I owned the car, and reasonably priced with the options I wanted.
I bought the Saturn over a number of imports because I really wanted to buy American.
I was happy with the car overall, and I don't regret the purchase.
I really liked the fact that the engine had a timing chain rather than a belt, no costly replacement necessary at about 60k.
If I found a SL2 manual for the right price in decent shape now, I'd consider it for a back and forth to work daily driver.
I did not like the location of the power window controls between the seats and the front seats lacked support and didn't go back far enough for me to be really comfortable on long drives, for someone taller than my 6 feet, this car would probably be a no-go.
The change from rear discs to rear drums on the 99 was not an improvement, and the stock 65 series tires lacked grip, making the car less fun to drive than it could have been.
The ABS/traction control was optional, and I had a hard time finding a manual transmission car so equiped, so I had to settle for a second choice color.
ABS should be standard on all vehicles.
I still have the window sticker from my old '99 SL2, so just for grins I ran a CarFax report on the VIN.
As of October of 2010 (the last record CarFax had-registration renewal & inspection) the car was still on the road and had 185,000 miles.
Not bad at all for the little car.
I need a small car for a short drive back and forth to work that I can also transport my kids in, and I'm seriously considering getting a used SL,SW, or SC for that duty.
† Edmunds.com received the highest numerical score in the proprietary J.D. Power 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study℠. Results based on responses from 3,381 responses, measuring 14 companies and measures third-party automotive website usefulness among new and used vehicle shoppers. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of owners surveyed from January 2014. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.