Likes: Strong turbo engine, comfortable front seats, Swedish design inside out, smooth transmissions.
Dislikes: Choppy ride, can get expensive at the top of the line, more horespower would be nice.
Saabs have always been quirky left field vehicles for those who choose to stand out in a crowd. They pride themselves in safety and their aircraft heritage. With distinct styling and quirky interior design, can the 9-3 bring a special offering to the competition?
Performance: There's only one engine available for the Saab 9-3, and that's a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 210hp. There's plenty of pace for both city and motorway driving. You may desire more power however, with the optional all-wheel-drive system which adds extra weight. The engine never feels underpowered, but many rivals offer more power for the same price.
Ride & Handling: The 9-3 isn't the sharpest handling vehicle in its class. But it does hang on to corners well. The steering often feels dull at times, but its nothing to discourage sporty driving. The 9-3 is fun to drive, but ride never feels settled on rough surfaces.
Refinement: The interior can hush out a reasonable amount of road and wind noise. Models with the sport suspension let in more noise than lesser versions, but it's not too intrusive. At motorway speeds, the 9-3 feels very comfortable and relaxed.
Behind the wheel: The driver's environment is superb thanks to comfortable seats, and a no-nonsense dash layout. There's plenty of adjustment in seat and steering wheel. You'll easily find a driving position that suits you best. The instruments are a paragon of clarity.
Space & Practicality: There's plenty of space in the rear for three passengers. Good headroom and decent legroom, although shoulder room is a bit tight. The large boot can hold plenty of luggage, and the rear seat folds 60/40.
Equipment: No matter which trim you choose, all 9-3's come well equipped for the money. You get premium sound system, automatic climate control and rain sensing windshield wipers all come as standard. The range topping Aero trim adds Xenon Headlamps, sporty exterior trim and twin exhaust pipes.
Buying & Owning: The 9-3 is aimed at German rivals. So you get more power and more equipment for far less cash than many German Saloons. The engine is fairly fuel efficient and offers good performance. Resale value isn't the strongest in its class. However, most Saab owners tend to keep their vehicles longer than German rivals.
Quality & Reliability: The 9-3 has improved over the years in terms of reliability. The cabin materials don't look classy, but they have a long lasting feel. JD Power surveys has rated the 9-3 below average in terms of reliability by its owners.
Safety & Security: When it comes to safety, Saab is class leading. There's front and side curtian airbags standard. Anti-whiplash head restraints are also standard. ESP traction control is standard across the range. The 9-3 has an excellent reputation for keeping theives out.
The 9-3 is a distinct sedan with so much personality. There are German rivals that can out class the 9-3, but you'll be missing the point. It's designed for those who don't want a typical German Saloon. A vehicle that stands out where ever it goes, and whenever a owner talks about their Saab they always seem to have a smile on their face. It's not the classiest sedan among rivals, but it sure does offer a huge bang for your buck.