1996 Saturn S-Series

  • 1996 Saturn S-Series SC1 Coupe

    SC1 Coupe

    • MAX MPG
    • SEATS
    • ENGINE
      1.9L I4
    • MSRP
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1996 Saturn S-Series Review

Reliability and efficiency all in one.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The Saturn S-Series is a triple threat, offering fuel-efficient models in three different body types: sedan, coupe, or station wagon. The S-Series is the model most frequently associated with the Saturn line. As an economical alternative to higher-class vehicles that it attempts to emulate, it gives the brand a lot of success. By appealing to a wide variety of lifestyles, it remains an appealing option for many drivers looking for improved gas mileage.

The Range

Body Styles: sedan, coupe, station wagon
Engines: 1.4-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: five-speed manual, five-speed automatic
Models: Saturn S-Series SC, Saturn S-Series SL, Saturn S-Series SW

What's New

The body styles are more rounded with this release, offering a softer feel. This is followed a rethinking of the frame, which reduces the number of welded items. Traction control has been added for automatic transmission models. Rear seats are overhauled to bring better lumbar support. The engine is updated to utilize single port fuel injection over the previous multiport system. The coupe version gets a makeover for its seats including new fabric panels along with dual airbags. A keyless entry is added along with standard daytime running lights.


Among the heavily promoted features for this model are the space frame design and polymer panels. These panels are the first dent resistant panels of its kind to be used on vehicles. The rounded and more aerodynamic body style also carries a more modern look, smoothing out the square elements of previous models. The body is more curvaceous then prior years with a roomier cabin. However, the polymer panels gave the cars a somewhat plastic appearance. The design is recognizable for its large sloping doors. Though not standard, some sub-models have fog lights. All models have a length of 176.8 inches, height of 54.5 inches, and width of 66.7 inches.


A drawback of the S-Series line is the uninspired design of both the dashboard and interior trim. Many find the displays and gauges too small and difficult to read. The cabin layout is spacious although not heavy on headroom. For front passengers, it measures 41.1 inches and 38 inches in back. Legroom is more generous with 42.6 inches in front and 33.4 inches for rear passengers. Features include a tilt steering wheel and bucket seats. Leather seating is optional on all styles with cloth being standard.

Performance & Handling

The coupe drives low to the ground. It handles well with considerable pick up. The engine receives a major reboot for 1996 with changes from pistons to crankshaft counterweights. Traction control is only available as an option for sub-models with manual transmission. Torque produced is 122 lb-ft at 5600 rpm. The wheels are 15 inches, and the horsepower is 124. The overall performance is adequate, though it provides less than exciting acceleration. A key selling point is the impressive fuel economy it brings to the table, which comes at the cost of engine performance.


The front seatbelts are automatic and motorized. All doors are reinforced against a side collision, and the roof frame is braced with roll protection. An automatic braking system comes standard on all models. The frame of the 1996 model is strengthened, while the redesign eliminates many previously welded additions.

EPA Fuel Economy

Saturn S-Series SC: 25/36 mpg city/highway
Saturn S-Series SL: 23/33 mpg city/highway
Saturn S-Series SW: 22/31 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Impressive mileage
  • Reasonable price
  • Dependable history

You Won't Like

  • Looks plastic
  • Small dashboard gauges
  • Bland interior layout

Sum Up

Reliability and efficiency all in one.

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