I was shopping for a good car for 4 months as my 1996 Windstar with 150K miles was to the point that plugging money into refurbishing it outweighed the resale value. I had my eyes set on a set budget and knew I had to buy used. I was eyeing up some 1 year leased 2003 Saturn L200's all with 12000 or so miles at our local Saturn dealership simply because my wifes 2002 Saturn SL2 has never given us trouble and the dealership has always been outstanding in it's service.
Brand new these cars go for 18K to 22K respectively and the used ones were priced at 12K to 13K depending on what was installed. However, we couldn't get the payments down to within the budget we had shot for. (Can't deal with with Saturn. WYSIWYP.)
I decided on a whim to check out the used car lot at our local Hyundai dealership. They're always running specials and they had 2 Saturn L200's that were low mileage, looked very well kept, and in the same price range as the Saturn Dealership. We negotiated a very respectable price which fit my budget and crunched the financing numbers. I then proceeded to check out an extended warranty through a very respectable company that I have dealt with before to upgrade to a 10/100K B2B warranty.
After the smoke from the calculator cleared, the salesman looked at it and stated. "You know. I can get you into a fully loaded 2003 Sonata GLS for about 11 bucks more a month." 11 Bucks?! New? Either I was being ripped off on the used vehicle or this guy was on some serious drugs. I proceeded to test drive one of the closeout 2003 Sonata's for the evening and was seriously hooked. "The sticker price on the car was close to 19K! I was paying 11K plus added warranty for the used Saturn. How could it be only 11 bucks more a month?"
For one thing the Sonata had a beefier 2.4L 140HP Engine, Electro-Shift transmission, Electronic Doors, Windows, and Alarm. Sun/Moon Roof, CD Player, 4 Wheel Disc ABS Brakes, Side Air Bags in the Seat, leather wrapped wheel, and it had some sleekness to it. For the evening I had it, I fell in love with it. It drove so smooth, no rattles, great pickup, and it had more room. But how could it be $11 more a month?
Come to find out, with the cash back incentives, 3.49% new car financing compared to 8% used, no need for the added warranty since it was already included, and the fact he knocked the price down to $15,400 after some negotiating, it actually came to $10.67 more per month than the used Saturn. I got a lot more car for the money though. The Saturn didn't have the Sun Roof or the ABS system and, don't get me wrong, I'll give Saturn's high ratings as well, but the 2.2L in the L200 didn't compare. Like I said before. A Comparable Saturn L200 new with everything this Sonata had would have been over $4K more apples to apples w/ only a measly 3/36 warranty.
I've had the car for 2 months now and put 3600 miles on it and I have found little quirks to it but nothing major. Mechanically the car is great. Smooth, quiet, and a dream to drive. The Electro Shifter allows me to manually manipulate the gears for better passing and acceleration and it's kind of fun to play around with.
The minor issues I've had to contend with deal more with the stereo and some of the placement of various controls. The CD Stereo had to be replaced due to skipping even on new CDs. The buttons to turn on the Cruise Control and Traction Control along with the Dash Board Light dimmer are placed way down on the left side by my knees making it awkward to reach let alone see which button I'm hitting. The Cup Holders located in the center are way to small for anything larger than a standard cup of coffee and the center storage console/arm rest doesn't hold very much.
My biggest gripe is who the heck puts one of those Hold On! handles on the drivers side? I guess it wouldn't be so bad but I'm 6'1" and it's positioned back enough that if I try to lean out slightly while trying to see whats beside me or in back of me while I'm parallel parking, I'm always whacking my head on it. It was easily remedied with a screw driver and some plastic snap cover tabs to cover the holes.
I'm sure the V6 versions are a lot peppier but the 2.4L is fine. Everything to check is within easy reach and it won't cost as much to maintain. If they came out with a Sport Version, say a Sonata with a Spoiler and some ground effects like that of the Grand Am's, the Sonata would appeal to the younger crowd as well. All in All. I am quite happy with this car.
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