1996 Saturn S-Series Review

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List Price Estimate
$890 - $2,103

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

Since its debut for the 1991 model year, we've had mixed feelings about the Saturn SC. We wanted to like it, because General Motors was trying to revolutionize the way small cars were built in the United States. All the secrecy over the car before its introduction just added to our already high expectations. When we finally saw the car -- in a dull metallic gray with darker gray body cladding and bumpers, with ultra-shiny alloy wheels of uninspired design dwarfed by substantial wheel wells and massive, bulbous, rectangular taillights -- we were let down. The Geo Storm was better looking, a serious detriment if ever there was one.

Inside, a massive hard plastic dash housed tiny gauges and Fisher Price switchgear. The motorized mouse seatbelt anchors were unfinished and flimsy looking. In short, we didn't see any evidence that GM had learned anything with the Saturn project, aside from pioneering the no-haggle pricing philosophy and understanding how to properly market a car.

Fortunately, the buying public turned the Saturn franchise into one of GM's bright spots, and money to improve the breed flowed easily. New wheels and the cancellation of two-tone paint greatly improved the SC's look. An entry-level model with the sedan's front clip arrived for 1993, and brighter colors lightened the exterior look a bit.

1995 brought more substantial changes. The SC2 received an all-new interior with dual airbags and three-point seatbelts. The new gauges were large and easily legible, and the new dash design lent a lighter air to the interior. New alloy wheels filled the wheel wells without a problem, and the front and rear fascias received styling tweaks to take some of the awkwardness out of the design.

Rolling into the 1996 model year, the Saturn SC is a good car at a good price. Sure, there are still some elements of cheapness inside, but the rest of the package has come into its own. Changes for 1996 are minor, amounting to a new keyless remote entry system, improved noise reduction, the addition of sequential port fuel injection and the availability of traction control on models equipped with a manual transmission and antilock brakes. The SC2 gets a new adaptive mode "fuzzy logic" algorithm for the "performance mode" of the optional automatic transmission. Next year the SC is expected to be restyled and refined even further, but details at this writing are nonexistent.

The current Saturn SC2 is much better looking than the now defunct Storm, and many other sport coupes on the road. With good performance, low prices, and unbeatable dealer service, the Saturn SC2 is a good buy indeed. Too bad it still looks and feels so cheap inside.

1996 Highlights

Sedans and wagons get new exterior styling -- resulting in a softer, rounder appearance -- along with redesigned rear seats and standard daytime running lights. Traction control is now available on cars equipped with a manual transmission. Finally, both engines now use sequential-port fuel injection in place of multiport injection.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1996 Saturn S-Series.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Everything I Expected
Ridyen,07/25/2009
I bought my 96 Saturn SL1 new and it has been the most reliable car I have ever owned. Not a fancy car but one that always gets you from point A to B. Like others a very minor problem with the shift linkage which was fixed by dealer even though it was out of warranty. Took on a deer at 50mph, car stopped straight with both hands off steering wheel (was covering my face for protection). Very solid car for the money. Son and I just put a new cylinder head on at 150K but total cost was about $600 which included tools, the head, gaskets, all new hoses etc. Put it back together, started it up and son drove it home. Still gets 37mpg after 14 years. Doesn't burn a drop of oil.
Bargain
murphy2893,05/29/2013
A 1996 Saturn SW2 was my first car, I bought it at a cheap price with 139,000 miles on it. I put about 30,000 more miles on it in 3 years. The only major issue with the car was an oil leak that I knew had to be repaired when I bought it. Other than that, it was routine maintenance and minor repairs. When the heater coil broke, the car was pretty close to 170,000 miles and the price to fix it was nearly the price of the car itself, so I sadly had to say goodbye. Overall, the car was EXTREMELY reliable and the gas mileage was great. I drove it to and from college (over 100 miles away) with no problems. I'd buy the car again if I could. Definitely well worth what I paid!
First car, hopefully last car
b stearns,03/29/2018
SC1 2dr Coupe
I adore this car and have from day one. This car saved my life in a freeway incident due to how it handled when a semi lost tires in front of me. It never complains, it holds up under any weather condition, and it runs like new to this day. Good regular care will keep this vehicle into its 20's and older. I'm glad I bought it and I'll hold onto it until there's nothing left to hold onto.
If you're looking for a cheap, reliable ride...
ladystardust,10/11/2014
I bought this car from my dad back in 2004 with 140K miles on it. It now has about 213K, and the engine is running great - it's performed almost like a Japanese car. Other than routine maintenance (oil changes, the odd tune up, new tires) the only things I've had to replace on this car were an engine mount and a rear windshield (the windshield can't be blamed on the manufacturer - some kid smashed it one night). The cosmetics of the car aren't great, but what do you expect from a car that's been kept outside for over a decade? It needs a little oil added about once every other tank. But it gets amazing gas mileage (about 29 in town and almost 40 on the highway).

Features & Specs

MPG
24 city / 35 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
100 hp @ 5000 rpm
MPG
22 city / 32 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
124 hp @ 5600 rpm
See all Used 1996 Saturn S-Series features & specs

Safety

IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    0

More about the 1996 Saturn S-Series

Used 1996 Saturn S-Series Overview

The Used 1996 Saturn S-Series is offered in the following submodels: S-Series Sedan, S-Series Coupe, S-Series Wagon. Available styles include SC1 2dr Coupe, SL1 4dr Sedan, SL 4dr Sedan, SC2 2dr Coupe, SW1 4dr Wagon, SW2 4dr Wagon, and SL2 4dr Sedan.

What's a good price on a Used 1996 Saturn S-Series?

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Which used 1996 Saturn S-Serieses 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) 1996 Saturn S-Series 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 1996 Saturn S-Series.

Can't find a used 1996 Saturn S-Seriess you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Saturn S-Series for sale - 4 great deals out of 5 listings starting at $10,314.

Find a used Saturn for sale - 4 great deals out of 10 listings starting at $15,881.

Find a used certified pre-owned Saturn S-Series for sale - 12 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $23,436.

Find a used certified pre-owned Saturn for sale - 4 great deals out of 5 listings starting at $23,388.

Should I lease or buy a 1996 Saturn S-Series?

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.

Check out Saturn lease specials
Check out Saturn S-Series lease specials