With the debut of the midsize L-Series sedan and wagon, Saturn's subcompact sedan has more company in the showroom and a new title: S Series. The three models are still listed as the SL, SL1 and SL2. The S Series also includes the SC1 and SC2 coupes and the SW2 station wagon. The sedans receive minor styling changes this year and several interior changes. They were last redesigned for 1996 and are scheduled to continue in their present design through 2002.
Seats for five are standard on all models, as is a split rear seatback that folds to expand the trunk's 12-cubic-foot capacity. Though the interior's overall design is unchanged, subtle differences abound this year. The instrument cluster has a new look, a new console has redesigned cupholders, and audio and climate controls are similar to those in the new L-Series. Door panels have new molded-in beverage holders. The horn is now on the steering-wheel hub instead of the spokes, and cruise control buttons move from the hub to the spokes.
Saturn uses dent- and rust-resistant polymer materials for the lower body panels on its cars, and the sedans this year get new ones that impart a more substantial look. Overall length increases by 1.2 inches to 179. The hood, trunk and roof are made of steel.
Under the Hood
The SL and SL1 come with a 1.9-liter four-cylinder with 100 horsepower. The SL2 uses a dual-camshaft version of this engine with 124 horsepower. Manual and automatic transmissions are available with both. Saturn says both engines are quieter this year from a new induction system and internal changes, which is something the company says just about every year. Anti-lock brakes with traction control are optional on all models.
Saturn's S-Series sedans are not in the same league as class leaders like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, being noticeably noisier and not as polished overall. However, Saturn's no-haggle, customer-friendly sales practice makes it a pleasure to buy one, and strong resale value makes them worth more than most small cars down the road.