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2003 Saturn L-Series Pros and Cons at TrueDelta: Looked like a good deal at the time. by ThomasV

A member in Michigan, United States


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I bought this car because I wanted to get improved gas mileage to go to and from work and I had a good experience with taking care of my Daughters SL1, I thought I would like a Saturn.

Reviewed: 2003 Saturn L-Series

4dr Sedan 182-horsepower 3.0L V6 4-speed automatic FWD

Why the 2003 Saturn L-Series?


Handling is good for this size of car.

Ride smoothness

On a smooth highway it is great, supple, feels good.

Fuel economy

I am getting 22mpg around town when it is not winter and about 20mpg in winter, on the highway 26-27mpg @70mph, loaded for trips.

Cargo capacity

Big trunk.

Materials & workmanship

The body is holding up well with approximately 120,000 miles the body is rust free. and the air-conditioning works flawlessly.

Why Not the 2003 Saturn L-Series?

Powertrain performance

Had the air mass flow replaced under warranty. The transmission is starting to occasionally have periods os shifting hard, no dip stick to check the fluid, not supposed to have to change fluid under normal driving conditions, ever. Leaking cooler under intake manifold had to be replaced. Filter changes are difficult and they should not be. Bad valve guide seals so it burns oil like there is no tomorrow. Consequently I have had to replace coil packs and spark plugs ( Fine wire iridium last longest.)

Materials & workmanship

Interior materials suffer from cheap plastic and parts of console that will not align gaps etc., seat base surround broke (plastic). Every lamp has had to be replaced at least twice, every lamp!


The car is not quiet because the door seals have torn and can not be replaced, they are not available from the dealer or after market.

Reliability & durability

This has been the most expensive car I have ever owned to keep maintained, many things have broken that have never broken on any other car i have ever owned, this would be an annoyance except for the fact that parts are not available , no front struts, no door seals, I am told that I have oddball sized tires, an exhaust system that leaks ( I think from bad design and cheap materials) , I had the exhaust repaired because at 50,000 miles the only supply was the dealer at a cost of$1,300 for just the two front pipes, that would fail in 50,000 miles.

Brand reputation & image

Because GM eliminated Saturn parts are very hard to come by, Dealers will take advantage of you because it not a chevy or a buick.


My ownership has not been the happy experience that I had anticipated. I have been let down by a car that appears to have been built to a price, by a company that no-longer cares about the people that bought their cars I do not think I will buy a GM product again. Why waste my money on a car that can not be maintained?

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Response from scumbling1

8:00 pm January 2, 2016

Great review!As a former S-series owner, it's really disappointing to hear that the L-series didn't live up to standards of it's predecessor. I had considered picking up an L as cheap winter beater, but a majority of reviews report more or less that same thing about these cars.

I would have thought that sourcing most parts would not be a problem, as the car shares so much with the Malibu. Was the dealership just giving you the run-around about this?

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to post such a thorough review.


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