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Few cars on the market go a decade without a major redesign -- for a reason.
Dealer sales and service experience, composite dent- and rust-resistant body panels.
Poor seating position and comfort, flimsy interior materials, weak standard equipment list.
Available S-Series Models
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Saturn has redesigned the body panels and cockpit of its S-Series SL Sedan and SW Wagon this year. GM's OnStar communications system will now be available as a dealer-installed option across the Saturn line.
Saturn's small cars have enjoyed quite a following over the years, proving both fun to drive and reliable. And Saturn dealers have almost single-handedly sparked a retail revolution that emphasizes the ownership experience over sales commissions. Unfortunately, we want more from Saturn, such as more comfortable seats and better quality switchgear and interior trim.
For 2000, Saturn is freshening the looks of its SL Sedan and SW Wagon, and holding off on changes to the SC Coupe. The ding-, dent- and rust-resistant polymer exterior panels have been restyled from the beltline down, giving SL and SW models a contour line that runs the length of the vehicle for a more angular appearance. The SC Coupes, which are scheduled for a facelift early in 2000, still come with the driver's-side third door, providing better access to the back seat.
Inside, the small sedans and wagons get a new, one-piece instrument panel cover, eliminating miscolored plastic pieces and ill-fitting seams, as well as a redesigned console for improved ergonomics. Other changes aren't as noticeable, such as the adoption of some componentry from the new L-Series cars to reduce costs through parts commonality. Unfortunately, the seating position remains low to the floor, while the seats themselves feel too flimsy for long-haul comfort.
Two engine choices are on the S-Series roster, a 100-horsepower, 1.9-liter four-cylinder or a twin-cam version of the same that generates 124 ponies, with either a five-speed manual or four-speed auto box. Long accused of having buzzy engines, Saturn redesigned the reciprocating internals in '99 to bring some refinement to these otherwise acceptable powerplants. We find the twin-cam engine makes for a less-pedestrian sedan or wagon, and is a must if you plan spirited driving in your SC2 Coupe. Sadly, Saturn last year moved to rear drum brakes on all models, replacing the rear discs that had been available on upmarket versions with the optional ABS.
Sedans can be had as a base SL, midrange SL1 or uplevel SL2; wagons are available as the standard SW1 or high-end SW2. Coupes come as the basic SC1 or sportier SC2. Be aware that the standard equipment list is short on all base versions and that features are not packaged well enough to sell you on the midrange models. That means you may be forced into pricey, high-end versions to get the kind of equipment you really want, which puts the price near some imports. Packaging aside, Saturn's excellent dealer network, money-back guarantee, customer-first philosophy and reputation for reliability make it hard to go wrong with the S-Series cars.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.