2006 Saturn ION Review

Pros & Cons

  • Low price, customer-focused dealers, large trunk capacity, coupe's innovative rear access doors, solid ride and handling dynamics.
  • Limited rear legroom, center-mounted instrumentation takes some getting used to, below-average interior materials.
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Saturn ION for Sale
List Price Estimate
$1,106 - $2,225

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Edmunds' Expert Review

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.

Vehicle overview

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.

2006 Saturn ION models

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.

2006 Highlights

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.

Performance & mpg

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.

Safety

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.

Driving

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.

Interior

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.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2006 Saturn ION.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

300,000 miles!!!
Hilary,10/31/2015
3 4dr Coupe (2.2L 4cyl 5M)
This car has lasted me so long still in fantastic condition. No major problems at all. Drives smooth, gas milage is amazing. I live in Michigan and it has got me through some tough winters too! I would recommend this car to anyone. I got it at a great price with only one prior owner. Just keep up on regular oil changes and such and this car could last you a lifetime
SATURN
walter,09/26/2015
2 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 5M)
Great car, i have 225k miles still goin strong and looks good doin it!!! It is a car way ahead of its time!!
i love this car
ucantcme0220,04/18/2011
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..
14 good years
LittleK,09/15/2018
3 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 4A)
I regret that Saturns are no longer available. The ION is my second new Saturn purchase. The Saturn dealerships completely transformed the car buying, ownership, & maintenance experience for me in particular & the auto industry in general. This vehicle can get amazing highway mileage - I have gotten as much as 38-40 mpg. City driving in the northern climates in the winter was as low as 20 mpg but generally is around 25 in southern climates. Mixed driving typically is around 30 mpg. Vehicle has been highly reliable with regular maintenance. Though one popular consumer magazine did not like the center-mounted instrument panel, I have really liked this feature. Good car for one or two people. The back seat is tight if the front seats are not well forward. Turning radius a bit large for the size of the vehicle. Roof pillars somewhat restrict visibility when checking for cross-traffic before turning. Fuel line & tank had to be replaced during year 14, which so far has been the only significant unexpected repair expense.

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Poor
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Marginal
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Acceptable

More about the 2006 Saturn ION

Used 2006 Saturn ION Overview

The Used 2006 Saturn ION is offered in the following submodels: ION Sedan, ION Red Line, ION Coupe. Available styles include Red Line 4dr Coupe (2.0L 4cyl S/C 5M), 2 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 4A), 3 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 4A), 3 4dr Coupe (2.2L 4cyl 4A), 2 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 5M), 2 4dr Coupe (2.2L 4cyl 4A), 3 4dr Coupe (2.2L 4cyl 5M), 3 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 5M), and 2 4dr Coupe (2.2L 4cyl 5M).

What's a good price on a Used 2006 Saturn ION?

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Which used 2006 Saturn IONS are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2006 Saturn ION for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2006 Saturn ION.

Can't find a used 2006 Saturn IONs you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Saturn ION for sale - 11 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $15,589.

Find a used Saturn for sale - 10 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $9,430.

Find a used certified pre-owned Saturn ION for sale - 3 great deals out of 19 listings starting at $14,448.

Find a used certified pre-owned Saturn for sale - 11 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $20,246.

Should I lease or buy a 2006 Saturn ION?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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