1998 Saturn S-Series Review

Type:

Pros & Cons

  • Optional traction control. Optional ABS. Composite dent- and rust-resistant side body panels.
  • Questionable styling. Ultra-cheap interior materials.
Other years
List Price Estimate
$1,029 - $2,423

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

Just because we don't like Saturns doesn't mean that you won't. There is inherent goodness to Saturn designs, and the SC is no exception to the rule. The cars are fun to drive, they are reliable and Saturn dealers have almost single-handedly sparked a retail revolution that emphasizes the ownership experience over sales commissions.

Unfortunately, we expect more from Saturn. We expect comfortable seats, quality switchgear and more attractive designs. When buying a Saturn, the consumer pays full sticker, and frankly, we don't think the cars are worth the price of admission.

Let's examine the SC coupe, which in its least livable basic format costs more than $13,000 and doesn't include air conditioning, power windows, power door locks or a cassette stereo. Under the hood is a 100-horsepower 1.9-liter inline four-cylinder engine, putting power to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. Add minimal essentials like air conditioning and a cassette stereo and the sticker climbs well above $14,000. At this price, you're still cranking that window up on your own. Want ABS (which includes traction control)? You're at 15 grand, and the car still has plastic wheel covers and manual locks. Is this value? We think not.

Move up to the SC2, which gives you a more powerful twin-cam engine, variable effort steering, a sporty suspension, aluminum wheels, fog lights, spoiler, multi-adjustable seats and a leather-wrapped steering. The tariff for these goodies is an additional $1,300, which is well worth the money, in our humble opinion. But at this price, you could get behind the wheel of a Honda Civic HX replete with power windows and power door locks. Add a CD player and the option package that includes air conditioning, power equipment, cruise control and remote keyless entry. The price soars above $17,000 and that doesn't include ABS, floor mats or an automatic transmission. With these additional items, the SC2 closes on $20,000 after taxes.

At least the SC2 is a good time in the twisties. Saturns grip the road well, and the SC2's twin-cam engine provides entertaining acceleration. Seating positions are low to the floor, and the seats themselves feel somewhat flimsy. Long haul comfort is not a Saturn strong point. The dashboard is contemporary in style, but there isn't much invested in the plastic used for panels and buttons. The styling? Well, you be the judge.

Saturn dealers treat you like a human being. The service is outstanding, the advertising tugs at the heartstrings and the cars run for a long time. Still, sales are sliding, and we think it has more to do with stale product and high prices than anything else. Shop around before settling on the Saturn.

1998 Highlights

All models get reduced-force front airbags, and sedans and wagons get new seat fabrics. The SC2, SL2 and SW2 are equipped with new headrests, and the optional alarm system now has a programmable passive arming feature. On the mechanical side, structural upgrades to the engine blocks and transmission case housing are said to reduce noise and increase durability. Additionally, the automatic transmission's programming has been tweaked to reduce hunting on hills and improve shift quality. And Saturn says that revised shock absorbers on all cars provide a smoother ride. Restyled alloy wheels and plastic wheel covers round out the changes.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1998 Saturn S-Series.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Great little car
dave27889,09/14/2014
Bought with 125,000 miles on it. It runs really well. It is quite for a small car that is 16 years old. Everything still works well including a/c, power windows, brakes, locks and such. The paint looks great and clear coat is coming off. It is fun to drive and the 1.9 engine gets great gas mileage and has plenty of spunk. Our sw2 has the automatic transmission and it shifts well with no problems. I am 56 years old and have had all kinds of vehicles. This one would rank about a three on a scale of 5 for overall use. It is no firebird or mustang but it is a really great little car.
Perfect fit
Joe Saturn,07/06/2009
Bought for our new 16 year old driver 7 years ago. Perfect for high school parking lots since the plastic paneled doors doesn't show door dings. Perfect for a budget w/29 mpg highway. Perfect balance of power and safety for a new driver. Daughter has moved on to a newer car a few years ago but I still keep the Saturn because it keeps the miles off my other cars while getting great gas mileage.
Grab it if you can
paul,05/16/2007
Fine the interior is kind of cheap looking, but I didn't buy this car in 1998 to compete with a BMW interior. I bought it because a tall person can drive in it (I'm 6"2"), the great gas mpg (I still get 38 highway- beat that in 2007) and there is a lot of storage room with the seat folded down. Get a tape measure and look. It beats the Forester and other small SUV's. The repairs have been extremely small. I replaced the fuel injector and that was the biggest repair. The acceleration is not great, but a good deal of the time the traffic on Long Island is a parking lot. 0 to 60 is not important when the road only goes 20. This is a simple car and cheap to own and repair.
1998 Saturn SL1 Review
GandyDom,05/29/2007
This was the smartest car purchase I ever made, and I've bought a lot of cars over the years. From a viewpoint of value, reliability, and service, I am totally satified. No, it isn't a sexy car and it isn't a luxury car, but it is an excellent, reliable, and practical car.

Features & Specs

See all Used 1998 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 1998 Saturn S-Series

Used 1998 Saturn S-Series Overview

The Used 1998 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, SL2 4dr Sedan, SW1 4dr Wagon, SC2 2dr Coupe, SW2 4dr Wagon, and SL 4dr Sedan.

What's a good price on a Used 1998 Saturn S-Series?

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Can't find a used 1998 Saturn S-Seriess you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Saturn S-Series for sale - 2 great deals out of 6 listings starting at $21,893.

Find a used Saturn for sale - 11 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $17,851.

Find a used certified pre-owned Saturn S-Series for sale - 1 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $20,701.

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Should I lease or buy a 1998 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