1997 Saturn S-Series Review


Pros & Cons

  • Larger interior, larger trunk, optional traction control, optional ABS, composite dent- and rust-resistant side body panels
  • Heavier, uglier
Other years
List Price Estimate
$845 - $1,995

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Vehicle overview

Hey! Look! Saturn has redesigned its little sports coupe. It looks bigger, doesn't it? That's because engineers and bean counters figured out that moving the coupe onto the sedan's platform would cut waste and make the SC easier to build. Lots of space inside now, since headroom and legroom are increased over the old one. The front seats move further back for tall drivers and front passengers, and shorter people might be able to wear a hat inside, thanks to additional headroom.

This little buzzbox is supposed be quieter inside, now that Saturn troubleshooters have added sound deadening materials to make the motor and tire roar go away. They also redesigned the trunk lid so that water won't run into the trunk when the lid is opened. Only took, what, six model years to address this complaint?

How close is the Saturn plant to the Jack Daniel's distillery? We ask because the front end of this new coupe appears to have been styled by designers who'd been swigging one too many whisky shots while watching Godzilla reruns, except instead of looking to early 60s Chevy Corvairs for inspiration, the monster is all that remained in their imaginations the morning after. Needless to say, in our opinion this new coupe doesn't put forth as pretty a face as the first generation SC did. For the first time, SC1 and SC2 models share styling, which is rather attractive from the front wheels rearward.

Hop inside and check out the large, legible gauges. They've been carried over from last year, along with the rest of the dashboard. Too bad tuning the radio or cranking up the A/C still requires a magnifying glass. Also, the defroster button still feels like a Chiclet that's about to fall right into the top of the dash. Dual airbags come standard though, in the event an inattentive driver in another car misses the overly bright daytime running lights. This year, Saturn installed a low-fuel light for those who don't know "E" means "Empty."

Seats still aren't the most comfortable places to sit, but lumbar support is improved for 1997 so long as leather trim is ordered. SC2 models get new fabric, and door trim has been revised. The front passenger seat now has a memory feature that returns the seat to its setting after a rear passenger enters or exits. Mounted low, getting out of the low-slung SC's seats requires the use of those abs you've been toning lately.

What can buyers get on this car? An in-dash CD player can be stashed in the center console. Traction control and anti-lock brakes are available, which is unusual for the class. Saturn also gave the security system a starter immobilizer, audible alert features, and a panic mode. Then, of course, there is the aforementioned leather seat trim.

This new Saturn seems to be a nice car, and has proven reliable in the past. Dealers are friendly, and don't treat customers like second-class citizens. For those who find the new front styling attractive, the new SC certainly deserves consideration.

1997 Highlights

Coupes get a new look inside and out for 1997. No longer stubby in appearance, all coupes adopt the longer wheelbase used by the sedans and wagons, as well as their softer, rounder styling cues. The SC1 and SC2 are now virtually identical in appearance (the SC2's body-color door handles being one of the few differences); both have exposed headlamps and standard daytime running lights. In other news, all models pick up a low-fuel indicator light and can be equipped with a single in-dash CD player. And Saturn has again taken measures to reduce engine noise and vibration.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Saturn S-Series.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

I Love My Little SW2
I bought my '97 SW2 9 years ago with only 15K miles on it. I guess the original owner didn't like the car. Since then I have put on over 100,000 miles and the only major repair was replacing the AC compressor. Sure, the seats are only sightly more comfortable than sitting on a cardboard box, but this car has been one of the most reliable cars I've ever owned. Still looks good, too - thanks to the plastic body panels.
Good Anuff...Git R Dune
Lil Engine tha Kud,05/26/2009
My 97 saturn SL1 was bought used in 02 with 85k on it. She now has 160k and still.....runs. You dont need a speedometer with this car bc it shimmies at 75 mph. It does like to over heat alil while in rush hour traffic. Gas mileage is great, mid 30's.
Reliable, Good-Looking, and Fun
My wife and I have really enjoyed owning our '97 Saturn SW2 wagon. Originally purchased for my wife, it has been a reliable and decent-looking family car. The 16V motor has been strong. It's tuned for more torque in the lower RPM range, so it's great for driving around town. We definitely enjoyed the wagon body style. It has hauled our family of 4 on extended vacations. I use it daily to haul either a mountain bike or surf board. It has held up really well for 11 years. Most people are shocked to hear that it actually that old.
Great car that pays for itself in gas
I got this car over the summer since my Caprice needed a ton of work. I now get 2 times the fuel economy 29-35 avg mpg depending on how I drive. It hasnt had any issues at all other than an old battery I admittedly killed while watching Pirates of the Caribbean 2. It has plenty of power as a 5 speed, if it was an auto it would probably stink, and I notice a significant diference in performance when I have 2 average sized passengers. Weight seems to be a big deal to it. I think it might be common to have the wheels squeal when under load while turning onto a highway etc. The stock stereo had almost no bass so I added a small sub.

Features & Specs

See all Used 1997 Saturn S-Series features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    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
    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

More about the 1997 Saturn S-Series

Used 1997 Saturn S-Series Overview

The Used 1997 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, SL2 4dr Sedan, SC2 2dr Coupe, SW1 4dr Wagon, and SW2 4dr Wagon.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Saturn S-Series?

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 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