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1996 Saturn S-Series REVIEW logo 4/5/2017

What’s New: Sedans and wagons get new exterior styling -- resulting in a softer, rounder appearance -- along with redesigned rear seats and standard daytime running lights. Traction control is now available on cars equipped with a manual transmission. Finally, both engines now use sequential-port fuel injection in place of multiport injection.

Review: Since its debut for the 1991 model year, we've had mixed feelings about the Saturn SC. We wanted to like it, because General Motors was trying to revolutionize the way small cars were built in the United States. All the secrecy over the car before its introduction just added to our already high expectations. When we finally saw the car -- in a dull metallic gray with darker gray body cladding and bumpers, with ultra-shiny alloy wheels of uninspired design dwarfed by substantial wheel wells and massive, bulbous, rectangular taillights -- we were let down. The Geo Storm was better looking, a serious detriment if ever there was one.

Inside, a massive hard plastic dash housed tiny gauges and Fisher Price switchgear. The motorized mouse seatbelt anchors were unfinished and flimsy looking. In short, we didn't see any evidence that GM had learned anything with the Saturn project, aside from pioneering the no-haggle pricing philosophy and understanding how to properly market a car.

Fortunately, the buying public turned the Saturn franchise into one of GM's bright spots, and money to improve the breed flowed easily. New wheels and the cancellation of two-tone paint greatly improved the SC's look. An entry-level model with the sedan's front clip arrived for 1993, and brighter colors lightened the exterior look a bit.

1995 brought more substantial changes. The SC2 received an all-new interior with dual airbags and three-point seatbelts. The new gauges were large and easily legible, and the new dash design lent a lighter air to the interior. New alloy wheels filled the wheel wells without a problem, and the front and rear fascias received styling tweaks to take some of the awkwardness out of the design.

Rolling into the 1996 model year, the Saturn SC is a good car at a good price. Sure, there are still some elements of cheapness inside, but the rest of the package has come into its own. Changes for 1996 are minor, amounting to a new keyless remote entry system, improved noise reduction, the addition of sequential port fuel injection and the availability of traction control on models equipped with a manual transmission and antilock brakes. The SC2 gets a new adaptive mode "fuzzy logic" algorithm for the "performance mode" of the optional automatic transmission. Next year the SC is expected to be restyled and refined even further, but details at this writing are nonexistent.

The current Saturn SC2 is much better looking than the now defunct Storm, and many other sport coupes on the road. With good performance, low prices, and unbeatable dealer service, the Saturn SC2 is a good buy indeed. Too bad it still looks and feels so cheap inside.


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