The S-series debuted with SC (“sports coupe”) and SL (“sedan level”) models in 1990 as 1991 models. The SW (“sedan wagon”) debuted at the 1992 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Taiwan and Japan were the only two foreign countries that imported Saturns. From 1992 to 1996, the first- and second-generation sedans plus the first-generation coupes were sold in Taiwan. From 1996 to 2003, the second-generation versions were sold in right-hand drive in Japan.
A change partway through the 1999 model year gave the SC a small suicide door on the driver's side. This type of door had previously been used in extended cab pickup trucks, but was an innovation in coupe design.
The S-series was replaced by the larger Saturn Ion in 2003, which was unable to match the S-series' success before the end of its own production at the end of 2007.
Coupes and sedans equipped with a manual transmission were among the most fuel-efficient cars available at the time, reaching 40miles per US gallon (5.9L/100km; 48mpg-imp) in EPA highway tests.