Sporty/performance car; Built in USA
  • 2-door coupe
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,800 – $3,800*


1998 Saturn SC2


1997 Saturn SC1


1997 Saturn SC1


1997 Saturn SC1 interior


1997 Saturn SC1

Pros:
  • Acceleration (SC2)
  • Fuel economy
Cons:
  • Acceleration (SC1 w/auto)
  • Entry/exit
  • Noise
  • Rear-seat room

All told, Saturns lack the refinement of most Japanese sports coupes. They’re also noisier, but boast an impressive reliability record. The side-curtain airbags added for 2001 are unique in this class.

Overview

Redesigned for 1997, the front-drive sports coupe featured new styling on a longer wheelbase. Basic construction continued as before, following Saturn’s practice of installing dent- and rust-resistant polymer vertical body panels, mounted on a spaceframe. Two models again went on sale, but the SC1 and SC2 now displayed the same styling. Among the modest differences in this generation, the SC1 got black outside mirrors and door handles, whereas those items on the SC2 were body colored. Fog lamps were standard on the SC2 coupe. Both coupes had standard Daytime Running Lights. Wheelbase was now 102.4 inches, identical to the Saturn sedan and station wagon, which had been redesigned a year earlier. Prior coupes rode a 99.2-inch span. Rear leg room grew by a whopping 4.5 inches. Front and rear head room gained about an inch. Dashboard designs remained essentially as before. Powertrains also continued from the 1991-96 generation. The SC1 held a 100-horsepower, 1.9-liter 4-cylinder engine. A dual-overhead-cam version, rated 124 horsepower, went into the SC2 coupe. Both models had a standard 5-speed manual transmission, with 4-speed automatic optional. Antilock braking was optional, and included traction control.

Yearly Updates

1998 Coupe
Changes for 1998 were minor. Suspension settings were revised. Rear seats added child-seatbelt guides.
1999 Coupe
For the first few months of the 1999 model year, Saturns changed little. When equipped with antilock braking, the SC2 now got rear drum brakes instead of the prior discs. A Black Top option for the SC2 included a black roof panel and white-background gauges. At midseason, Saturn introduced an innovative third door (actually a half-door) on the driver’s side. Rather than being intended to help passengers get into the back seat, it was primarily meant to make loading of parcels easier.
2000 Coupe
Saturn coupes continued without exterior change until midseason, when a redesigned 2001 coupe debuted. Interiors were updated for 2000, including a new instrument cluster and a console with redesigned cupholders. The horn now worked via the steering-wheel hub, and cruise control moved from the side of the hub to the spokes. Front seats gained more travel.
2001 Coupe
Redesigned in spring 2000, coupes now sported optional side-curtain airbags, body-color bumpers, and new styling. Powertrains and the 3-door design carried over.
2002 Coupe
A tilt steering wheel became standard on all models for 2002. The S-Series would be replaced for 2003 by a redesigned model line called Ion.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Different engines helped give the two Saturn coupe models different personalities. The economy-oriented SC1 got a single-overhead-cam 1.9-liter 4-cylinder, rated 100 horsepower. Sporty-minded buyers can search for an SC2, with its 124-horsepower dual-overhead-cam engine. In either case, the coupes could have a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic transmission.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.9/116
Engine HP 100
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 114
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
28/39
27/37
31.9

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.9/116
Engine HP 124
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 122
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
26/36
24/34
26.0

Road Test

Acceleration with an SC1 is adequate with manual shift, but a little less satisfying with the 4-speed automatic transmission. When you need a quick burst of power, it might not be there. With either transmission, an SC2 coupe accelerates in a more lively manner. An SC2 with automatic takes off with some zest, though turning on the air conditioning takes a toll on performance. Highway passing power also is good with the SC2.

Fuel economy is appealing with any coupe, but the frugality champ is an SC1 with the 5-speed gearbox. We’ve averaged a miserly 31.9 mpg in mixed city/highway driving, versus 26 mpg with an SC2 that was equipped with the 5-speed.

Although noise levels are lower than before, both engines remain loud and rather coarse during hard acceleration. All Saturns corner with pleasing swiftness and control. Handling is surefooted and competent in both models, but the SC1’s steering is lighter and less precise. Ride quality is good with either coupe, but the SC1’s softer suspension makes it more livable on urban roads. You pay a penalty for the SC2’s sportier handling, which promises less body lean in turns.

Visibility is good to all directions, unlike most sports coupes, helped by thin roof pillars and large windows. Large, clear gauges inform the driver. Radio and climate controls are in a pod that protrudes from the dashboard, mounted too low for best access while driving. Power window and mirror controls are on the center console, unlit and difficult to find at night. Front seats offer plenty of room, but are rather low, surrounded by a high beltline and a vast dashboard top. Firm seats offer good lateral support. Leg room might have grown markedly in back, as measured with a ruler, but the rear-seat cushion is so low that most adults have to sit with their knees nearly pointing at the ceiling. Cargo space is adequate in a deep trunk.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1998 Saturn SC2

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 4
40%
Fuel Economy - 6
60%
Ride Quality - 3
30%
Steering/Handling - 4
40%
Quietness - 3
30%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Front - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
20%
Cargo Room - 2
20%

Other

Value - 5
50%

Total: 37

Specifications

2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 180.0 67.3 52.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
11.4 12.1 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.5 35.7 42.6 31.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 SC 2-door coupe

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 90
Injury 106
Theft 23

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The air conditioning may stop working when the car is driven for extended times on the highway because the evaporator freezes up. (1997-98)
Air conditioner
Description: A simple adjustment to compressor may prevent air conditioner evaporator freeze-up. (1997-2002)
Automatic transmission
Description: Cars with automatic transmissions may leak fluid from the upper, left-hand corner where the case was not manufactured properly. (1997-98)
Coolant leak
Description: Coolant leaks into engine require new intake manifold gasket. (2000-01)
Engine misfire
Description: The engine may stall or quit running as if it has run out of gas even though the gauge shows 1/8-1/4 tank; caused by a plugged evaporative-emissions canister vent. (1997)
Engine temperature
Description: Overheating and possible engine failure on 1.9-liter engine may be caused by coolant leaks past intake manifold gasket near cylinder #4. (2000-01)
Exhaust system
Description: Exhaust manifold bolts work loose causing noise that may be misdiagnosed as lifter tap. (2002)
Hard starting
Description: If a car with a manual transmission won’t start, the wiring harness is probably damaged from rubbing on the clutch-pedal pivot causing a short circuit. (1997-98)
Windows
Description: The side windows may not go up or down, or they may rattle because the glass comes loose from the regulator. (1997-98)
Electrical problem
Description: Electrical accessories may quit working. The lock will have to be repaired. On some models, the key won’t turn back to the lock position. (1997)
Electrical problem
Description: If rear wiper, speakers, fuel gauge stop working, wiring harness near left kick panel may be chafing on bracket. (1997-99)

Recall History

1997
Description: Belted occupant in front passenger seat could experience seat movement during a moderate frontal impact.
1997
Description: Lock-up feature of seatbelt may not work properly.
1997
Description: Ignition key can be removed while in “run” position.
1997
Description: Horn could become inoperable or activate without pressing button; leading to an underhood fire.
1999-2000
Description: Some seatbelt shoulder-guide anchor bolts were inadequately tightened at center pillar and could fall out.
2000
Description: Armrest latch may open during a crash.
2000
Description: Some welds in instrument-panel carrier assembly were not strong enough; occupant, especially if unbelted, may have increased risk of injury in frontal crash.
2000
Description: Some brake-pipe-attachment nuts may not have been tightened properly, and leakage could occur.
2000
Description: Some rear-bumper fasteners could be loose or missing; rear bumper may not absorb energy properly in a rear-end collision.
2000
Description: The fuel-tank Over Pressure Relief valve can become stuck open in a frontal collision, creating a fire hazard.
2001
Description: An inadequate weld at the top of the fuel tank could allow fuel leakage in a rollover.
2001
Description: An improperly adjusted automatic-transaxle park-lock assembly could allow the vehicle to be shifted out of “Park” with the ignition key removed.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.