Vehicle Overview
Not much has changed in the subcompact Saturn sedans. Floormats are now standard in the SL2 sedan, which gets new wheel covers for 2002.

Last redesigned for the 1996 model year, Saturn’s sedans are built from the same front-drive design used for SC coupes and the SW2 wagon. Optional curtain-type airbags store in the ceiling above the side windows and inflate along the length of the passenger compartment; they protect the heads of front and rear passengers in a side-impact collision.

Sales of the S-Series fell by 14.7 percent — to 177,355 units — during 2000. Subcompact Saturns are expected to continue in this form for at least another season. All-new Saturns are expected in the next year or two and will likely be based on a global small-car platform and powered by a new generation of engines.

Saturn sedans didn’t look much different from their original appearance even after their 1996 redesign. Overall length is 178.1 inches, which is about 3 inches longer than the Ford Focus and Honda Civic. Saturns ride a 102.4-inch wheelbase and measure 66.4 inches wide and 55 inches tall. All Saturns have dent- and rust-resistant polymer materials for the lower body panels. Steel is used for the hood, trunk and roof.

The SL seats five occupants in its front buckets and three-place rear bench. The split rear seatback folds to expand the trunk’s capacity beyond its regular 12.1 cubic feet. Standard equipment includes a tilt steering column, stereo radio, rear-window defogger and theft-deterrent system. Air conditioning is included in the SL2 sedan.

Under the Hood
Engine and transmission choices are the same as those for the other body styles. SL and SL1 sedans carry a 100-horsepower, 1.9-liter single-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder, while the SL2 gets a dual-overhead-camshaft version of that engine, which produces 124 hp. Both engines may team with either a five-speed manual or an optional four-speed-automatic transmission.

All Saturns can be equipped with optional curtain-type airbags that protect the heads of front and rear occupants. Antilock brakes with traction control are also optional.

Driving Impressions
From the beginning, Saturns have been best known for the low-key, no-haggle buying experience at dealerships, rather than for the products themselves. Less refined and noisier than much of the competition, they’re simply not in the same league as such class leaders as the Ford Focus and Honda Civic.

Acceleration is brisk with the more powerful SL2 and adequate in the SL and SL1 models with the less-potent engine. All models have a rather stiff suspension, which translates to a lack of ride comfort. On the plus side, Saturns maneuver easily, handle well enough on the highway and can be enjoyable to drive. Plenty of owners swear by their Saturns; for others, buying one might be more pleasant than driving one every day.

Reported by Jim Flammang  for
From the 2002 Buying Guide