After several people made me aware of the existence of the Saturn Ion’s half-doors and general horribleness, I had to know more about it. Then I saw the Red Line version:
According to Autoblog, it “features a 205-horsepower supercharged engine. Saturn says it’s good for 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds. We found it fun to drive, with strong throttle response and a sporty exhaust note. It comes with Recaro seats for comfortable support in corners.” And it has a mandatory five-speed manual transmission, too! With the same shift knob as the Saab 9-3, no less. Ain’t nothin’ sportier than the Saab 9-3's shift knob.
Car and Driver says the interior is rubbish, but that “It is, though, the first Ion that begs to be driven quickly. Throw it into your favorite corner, and you’ll find improved steering with more weight and feel than is present in the base car. It doesn’t have the tactile feedback that’s present in Ford’s Focus, but the improvement is a step in the right direction. Chassis alterations that stiffen the strut-front and torsion-beam-rear suspensions keep the increased horsepower in check without sacrificing ride quality. The Red Line soaks up potholes and expansion joints with gusto, yet the setup isn’t too soft for a few laps on a racetrack.” Their main criticism of the handling seems to be that it understeers a little, but otherwise it’s an easy car to drive fast.
I don’t understand. I thought the Ion was supposed to be a miserable, soulless econobox, but the Red Line version sounds like it’s only a slightly crappy enthusiast’s car! I like the styling of it, too. Car and Driver recommends forgoing the optional wing, but screw it, I say it needs the wing. The funky half-doors are a very interesting quirk, and I like cars with interesting quirks. Sporty compacts from the 2000s aren’t typically my thing, but I like this one. Maybe this is my brain’s way of telling me that I’ve been quarantined for so long that even driving a Saturn Ion would be preferable to what I’m doing now. But whatever the case, I have a new favorite 2000s car.