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2003 Saturn Ion 3 Quad Coupe

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San Francisco: Let's face it. Most entry-level cars are basically the same. This automotive parity is perfect for producing good performance and reliability across all models, but it doesn't bode well for drivers looking for something different, perhaps a little off the wall. That's why Saturn exists.

If you don't count styling, every difference between today's bread-and-butter transportation - like the Civic, Focus, Cavalier and Sentra - is subtle and subjective. Their power, handling and features all vary some, but if you did a soda-style, blindfolded comparison, few drivers could tell the Civic from the Sentra, or the Focus from the Cavalier.

Since its start in the early '90s, Saturn has tried to offer affordable cars that don't follow the rest of the pack. They had plastic bodies that avoided dents like Rubbermaid storage bins, unconventional cabins that were both exciting and practical, and an award-winning dealer network praised for its no-hassle pricing.

Only problem: Saturn was the red-headed stepchild of General Motors. While other brands got new models every four years or so, Saturn's first cars were left basically unchanged for more than a decade.

That's where the Ion comes in. As a replacement for Saturn's successful yet12-year-old S-series, it will carry much of the brand's future success on its plastic shoulders. Yes, it has the same dent-resistant polymer body and huggable styling from its predecessors, plus it has features that set it apart - way apart, in come cases - from the entry-level pack.

For starters, there's the four-door "Quad Coupe." Whether or not a four-door coupe can exist is still a matter of debate, but one thing's certain: it looks sporty and doesn't sacrifice much practicality like a true two-door coupe would. Simply stated the innovative Quad Coupe offers the practicality of a sedan with the sporty look of a coupe.

To do this, it has two rear-swinging doors that provide access to the back seat, and they can only be opened if the front doors are open first for safety. There's no "B" pillar either, so opening both front and rear doors is like peering inside the Astrodome for the first time and marveling at how sturdy it is without a field of pillars holding up the roof.

Then there's the instrument panel in the center of the dash, not directly in front of the driver like in traditional American cars. While it takes some getting used to, it provides a better view of the road than traditional gauges and lets everyone in the car see how fast they're traveling - perfect for back-seat drivers.

Best of all, there's an available goodie that no other car in the Ion's price range offers: a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Usually found in more expensive cars, the CVT is an automatic transmission that never shifts gears. Not only does it produce perfectly smooth acceleration, it gets improved gas mileage because it offers an infinite number of "gears" - not just four or five - through some mysterious process, quite possibly black magic.

This new Saturn also comes with what is probably the best four-cylinder engine GM has ever produced, the 2.2-liter Ecotec. The 16-valve, dual-overhead-cam design that makes 137 horsepower, an excellent figure for entry-level cars, while remaining relatively quiet and smooth.

Take a test drive today and experience the new engine and CVT transmission for yourself, and if you have always liked Saturn’s, then you’re going to just love the new Ion 3 Quad Coupe. By Derek Price AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  Ion provides a new choice in entry-level cars
Topic:  2003 Saturn Ion 3 Quad Coupe
Word Count:   654
Photo Caption:  2003 Saturn Ion 3 Quad Coupe
Photo Credits:  Saturn Internet Media
Series #:   2003 - 21

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