The Saturn brand was a subsidiary of General Motors established in 1985 to compete with Japanese brands like Toyota and Honda. From the 1990s S-Series sedan to the memorable Sky roadster, these are all the old Saturn cars you should know.
Saturn eventually went the way of other economy car brands like
Oldsmobile, closing its doors forever in 2009. But the carmaker that branded itself “a different kind of car company” made some great vehicles that are still worth remembering.
Whether you’re still chugging along in your beloved Aura, or you’re just interested in the history of this defunct car brand, we’ve put together a list of Saturn’s greatest cars of all time.
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What makes an old car great?
Saturn cars are still on the road, although you probably haven’t passed enough of them to notice. A well-maintained Ion is still a decent daily driver, while the sleek and sporty Sky might make an appearance at your local parking lot car show.
The models on this list are all memorable for different reasons. Some have a well-deserved reputation for being dependable, American-made cars, while others are notable simply because they’re downright weird—like the half-SUV, half-minivan that is the Relay.
Remember though, just because we included a car on this list doesn’t necessarily make it a smart used car purchase. If you’re thinking about buying a used Saturn, make sure to check its cost of ownership, reliability ratings, and how expensive it is to insure before you make a decision.
10. Saturn Ion (2003 to 2007)
Introduced in 2003 as a replacement for the S-Series sedans and coupes, the
Saturn Ion was known for some quirky features like an extra small steering wheel, clamshell-style rear doors, and interchangeable plastic door panels that came in different color schemes.
The Ion may have been a bit weird to look at, but it wasn’t all bad. The original Ion had one of the biggest and most powerful engines in its class and offered superior braking, while the 2005, 2006, and 2007 model years were praised for their speed. With the ability to go from 0 to 60 in just 6.3 seconds, the Ion would have been considered reasonably speedy even by today’s standards.
9. Saturn L-Series (2000 to 2005)
The Saturn L-Series was available as a mid-size sedan or a wagon and was priced to compete with rivals like the
Toyota Camry and
It had a lot of cargo space, comfortable bucket seats, and a powerful V6 engine on the
L300 trim, but when it came to styling, both the inside and outside can only be described as nondescript. The L-Series’s biggest failing may have simply been that it was too “boring” to stick around for more than a few years.
8. Saturn Relay (2005 to 2007)
Saturn Relay was marketed as a crossover sport van, it had an extended front end that made it look like an SUV and a minivan were mashed together to make one vehicle.
Overall, the Relay wasn’t a bad pick if you needed a lot of seating or cargo space, and it had some notable features like the optional 40GB digital media system that could store thousands of music files. But when it came to safety, the Relay couldn’t quite keep up with the competition. It lacked both a backup camera and side curtain airbags, features that were already becoming standard on most vehicles by the mid-2000s.
7. Saturn Aura (2006 to 2009)
Not to be confused with the Hyundai Aura, the
Saturn Aura was the automaker’s next attempt at a mid-size sedan. It was much more attractive than the L-Series, sporting a vaguely European look that Edmunds.com considered “handsome.”
Unfortunately, by the mid-2000s, crossover SUVs had already begun to dominate the market in terms of sales, and the Aura was retired after just four years.
6. Saturn Astra (2008 to 2009)
Sadly, one of Saturn's best cars was released just one year before the brand shut down in 2009. The
Saturn Astra was a sporty little hatchback with a 138-horsepower, four-cylinder engine that gave competitors like the
Toyota Corolla and
Volkswagen Golf a run for their money.
If you take a look at the Astra and think it looks a bit European, that’s because it is! In fact, it was picked up from European carmaker Opel and simply rebranded as a Saturn, with the only difference between the two vehicles being the Saturn badges and a rear-seat cup holder.
Saturn closed its doors before they could sell more than a few thousand units of the Astra, but it was hailed by Car and Driver for being “nimble, roomy, comfortable, versatile, thrifty, and affordable.”
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5. Saturn Vue (2002 to 2009)
Saturn Vue was the carmaker’s first SUV and had the distinct advantage of being one of the cheapest crossovers on the market. It offered car buyers the opportunity to get a 143-horsepower engine, independent suspension, manual transmission, and optional all-wheel drive for a starting price of just $17,000.
The Vue received minor upgrades over the years, but it was reintroduced in 2008 with a major facelift that was basically an Opel Antara rebranded for Saturn. It had a better and more powerful V6 engine, improved styling, high-quality interior features, and superior driving dynamics. The Vue was Saturn’s best-selling model and remained on its lineup until the brand shut down in 2009.
4. Saturn S-Series (1990 to 2002)
S-Series rolled off Saturn’s assembly line in 1990, paving the way for three more generations of sedans, wagons, and coupes that included a handful of limited-run vehicles like the Homecoming Edition and the 10th Anniversary Edition.
With a reputation for being durable, reliable, efficient, and cheap, the Saturn S-Series kept pace with competitors like the
Honda Civic and
Mazda Protege until it was retired in 2002 in order to make room for the Ion.
3. Saturn EV1 (1996 to 1999)
The Saturn EV1 was based on a General Motors concept car called Impact and became the first electric vehicle to be mass-produced by a major automaker. Although the car was never made available to own, it was offered through special lease-only agreements.
The EV1 was only available in certain areas of California, Arizona, and Georgia, and lease-holders were required to participate in a GM market study that was meant to assess the long-term viability of manufacturing a commuter electric vehicle.
Customer response to the EV1 was favorable, but GM ultimately decided that electric cars were unprofitable, and ended up crushing most of the EV1s.
2. Saturn Outlook (2007 to 2009)
As the automaker’s first—and only—modern crossover SUV, the
Saturn Outlook was essentially a budget-friendly version of the more luxurious
GMC Acadia. It could seat up to eight people and came with standard features like power windows and locks, cruise control, and a CD player, plus the option of some luxe upgrades like a powered driver seat and dual-zone climate control.
A respectable V6 engine, competitive safety features, optional all-wheel drive, and a towing capacity of up to 4,500 pounds made the Outlook a contender among similar vehicles like the
1. Saturn Sky (2006 to 2009)
No car deserves the top spot in our list more than the
Saturn Sky. The aggressively styled convertible was designed by none other than Franz von Holzhausen—the same guy who later went on to style Tesla’s Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y.
This rear-wheel-drive two-seat roadster wasn’t quite as quick as the
Mazda Miata, but it offered a fun-to-drive, speedy, and comfortable ride for the reasonably affordable starting price of $23,000. The base model offered a 174-horsepower engine, but performance-oriented customers could opt for the
Redline trim, which featured a turbocharged 260-horsepower engine, better suspension tuning, and the ability to zip from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds.
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