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Old 07-28-2012, 03:01 AM   #1
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2000 SC1
Default Upgrading to the ION, looking for a good deal

Hey guys, I'm considering purchasing an ION coupe or sedan and looking for a few suggestions on which model to look for. I currently own a 2000 SC1 and the car has been a winner. I love the car but I'll be doing more driving for work and need a car with fewer miles that looks a little more professional--just a little.

My first choice in another car is a used Saturn. Cobalts are all over the place and are usually found as used fleet vehicles. I'd convert to Honda if the price were right, but my Saturn has been fantastic to me and these cars seem to be a very economical choice. Looking at the ION, however, I'm a little lost. There are so many engine and transmission choices for the ION. How is the Ecotech 2.2 for reliability? Should I look for the harder to find Ecotech 2.4? And is the Redline okay for a commuter car? I want a 5 speed, but would settle for a decent performing automatic--there are 3 choices for those as well.

Overall, I'm looking for the an ION with great handling, steering and responsiveness. Acceleration and braking are important, but anything will be an improvement over the 100 HP in the SC1. Fuel economy is a factor but not a deal breaker.

If I could have a few suggestions as to which years, options or models to look for, it would be a big help. I'm okay with searching for a car I want. I spent 3 months looking for the exact SC1 I wanted, so a little digging for the best car isn't an issue. What ION is your favorite choice?

Last edited by econsatty; 07-28-2012 at 03:02 AM. Reason: typographical error
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Old 07-28-2012, 10:29 AM   #2
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Default Re: Upgrading to the ION, looking for a good deal

First, I'll explain which Ions to avoid. Stay away from the 2003 and 2004 coupes, unless you find one with a manual transmission. Otherwise, they came with a half-baked continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that is to be avoided. From 2005 to 2007, the coupes came with a manual or a conventional 4-speed automatic. The 2003-2007 sedans were never offered with the CVT, just the 5-speed manual or a 5-speed auto (03 & 04) or a 4-speed auto (05-07). The base model, the Ion 1, was only made from 03 to 05.

If fuel economy is more important to you than power, go for a mid-level Ion 2 with the 2.2 Ecotec and a manual. For someone who does a lot of highway travel, it could easily net them 35 mpg, possibly more. I had a 2004 sedan equipped like that and it was very frugal. The Ecotec engines are quite solid and reliable, unless, as with any used vehicle, you happen to buy one that was mistreated by its former owner(s). Since you're used to the S level of hp, having 140 or 145 ponies (depends on which model year you buy) would be a big boost.

If you want power above all else, look for a Redline coupe (there was no equivalent sedan). Others on here who own them could describe them far better than I can. If you can't find a Redline in your area, a great substitute is a top-level Ion 3 with the 2.4L engine (this engine was an option on level 3s). I'm biased toward the 2.4 because that's my daily driver. I happily sacrificed a few MPGs for an additional 30 hp in 2006. It also handles better and ride firmer than my Ion 2.

Some problem areas on Ions are - ignition switches, front sway bar bushings and end links, transmission shift flares (03 and 04 with 5-speed auto only), and clogged water drain lines on models with sunroofs. Do a search on here for more details and if possible, ask for a repair history/carfax on the model you're interested in. Some posters on here also offer to check Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) if you send the #s to them in a private message.

In sum, your best bet is to find an 06 or 07 Ion in level 2 or level 3 trim, with the engine and transmission you prefer. They are the most plentiful, are more likely to have lower mileage and are more refined than earlier models or if you want, try to locate a low-mileage Redline. Good luck!
2015 Buick Verano Turbo
5 - 2006 Ion 3 Sedan, Manual, Storm Grey
4 - 2004 Ion 2 Sedan, Manual, Electric Blue
3 - 1996 SL2 Manual, Medium Red
2 - 1991 SL1 Manual, White
1 - 1991 SL Manual, Grey

Last edited by Tethys; 07-28-2012 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 07-30-2012, 10:47 AM   #3
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2005 ION Red Line
1999 SC2
Default Re: Upgrading to the ION, looking for a good deal

Red Lines are a blast to drive and are dependable enough to be a daily driver, as that is what mine is (though I only just turned 59,000 miles, which includes 20,000 miles put on during 5 summer road trips), unless you have to drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic, in which case the constant shifting might get a bit old.

One thing you might have to be careful of with the Red Line, is that by now, any you can find will have had at last one, and possibly more previous owners, and you won't know how they were driven.

Did I mention they are a blast to drive?
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