The Saturn Ion had the challenging task of replacing the popular S-Series in 2003, and like its predecessor, it came in easy-to-remember trim levels: 1, 2 and 3. The base Ion 1 lasted only through the 2005 model year. In 2006, Saturn dropped this base model and left just the 2 and 3. The differences between the 2005 Saturn Ion 1 and 2 were rather slight, and it took a trained eye to spot them.
Likely the most obvious outward difference between the Ion 1 and 2 is that the 1 was only available as a sedan, whereas the 2 came as either a sedan or a "quad coupe," with two full-size doors and two reverse-opening rear doors. Differences in standard features were limited to 14-inch steel wheels and 185/70SR14 tires on the Ion 1 and the Ion 2 coming with 15-inch steel wheels wrapped in 175/60TR15 rubber.
Many of the exterior differences between the Ion 1 and 2 were in the options available on each car. The Ion 1 had no exterior options to speak of other than anti-lock brakes, whereas the Ion 2 had an optional spoiler, sunroof, 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/55HR16 tires, power mirrors, keyless entry and anti-lock brakes.
On the inside, the differences between the Ion 1 and 2 became more evident. The Ion 1 was limited to only basic standard features like cloth seats, an AM-FM audio system with four speakers, a tilt steering wheel, variably intermittent wipers, and a pair of airbags up front. The Ion 2, on the other hand, had more standard creature comforts, like a CD player, air conditioning and a front center armrest.
Much like on the exterior, the biggest differences between interior of the Ion 1 and Ion 2 were on the option sheet. The Ion 1 had a smattering of optional equipment to choose from, including air conditioning, CD player and an MP3 decoder. The Ion 2 had a fairly long option list that included cruise control, power front windows, auto-dimming rearview mirror, OnStar, rear cup holders, an MP3 decoder, a six-speaker audio system and an outdoor temperature and compass display.
Under the hood, there were no differences between the Ion 1 and 2, as they both came with a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced 140 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 145 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. Both came standard with a five-speed manual gearbox and had and an optional, four-speed auto available.
The gap in pricing between the Ion 1 and 2 was fairly wide, as the Ion 1 sedan started at $11,430 when it was new, while the Ion 2 sedan started at $14,380 and the Ion 2 coupe started at $14,930. According to Kelly Blue Book in July 2014, the Ion 1 sedan has a suggested retail price from dealership of $3,879, while the Ion 2 sedan and Ion 2 coup are valued at $4,527 and $4,877, respectively.
If you're buying from a private owner, expect to pay between $2,180 and $2,949, depending on the condition of the car, for the Ion 1 sedan. For the Ion 2 Sedan, look to pay between $2,697 and $3,519. The Ion 2 coupe from a private party should run between $2,938 and $3,793.
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