Review

Saab 9-3 saloon (2002-2011)

Saab 9-3 saloon (2002-2011)

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Very comfortable
  • Good range of engines
  • Equipment is generous
Cons
  • Looks dated
  • Interior feels cheap compared to rivals
  • Handling lacks any kind of fun

"For those who don't want a BMW, Mercedes or Audi the 9-3 represents a good value and incredibly comfortable alternative"

As a premium saloon the Saab 9-3 performs well. It's extremely capable at long motorway journeys, delivering a comfortable ride and impressive fuel economy along with effortless overtaking. The cabin and exterior have now begun to feel dated but it's no secret that Saab are planning to introduce a face-lifted model before the end of 2011.

MPG, running costs & CO2

2.5 / 5

Diesels are the pick of the bunch for their road tax free emissions

The 178bhp 1.9-litre diesel engine not only boasts impressive performance but it's also pretty efficient too. Fuel economy is 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km are low enough to qualify for exemption from road tax for the first year. All the lesser powered diesels boast the same figures. The petrols aren't quite as good, with the most efficient of the bunch being the 1.8-litre turbo. It claims 39.8mpg and 164g/km of CO2. 

Engines, drive & performance

2.5 / 5

Good range of engines, handling isn't particularly special

Buyers can choose between a huge range of diesel and petrol engines with all sorts of different power outputs. Diesels are all 1.9-litres but come as 128bhp, 158bhp or 178bhp. All feel quick but the most powerful unit feels genuinely hot off the line. Petrol engines are all turbocharged and deliver between 148bhp and 207bhp. The latter can accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds but is only available in range-topping – and expensive – Aero trim. On the road, handling isn't really up to scratch compared to the Saab's rivals. It's very capable but doesn't tend to offer much enjoyment through corners. 

Interior & comfort

3.5 / 5

Long journeys are easy thanks to supportive seats and soft ride

Long journeys in the 9-3 –even over hundreds of miles – seem to pass quickly thanks to the soft suspension and incredibly comfortable seats. If you go for the range-topping Aero models, you will find the ride slightly less compliant. The engines are mostly muted, making for quiet progress but on occasions the diesels can sound harsh. 

Practicality & boot space

3 / 5

Boot is a good size and there's a good amount of room for passengers

Boot space is pretty average for this segment so most people should never be left wanting for extra room. If you are after extra boot space there is also an estate model called the SportWagon. Rear passengers are also afforded a good amount of room. 

Reliability & safety

2.5 / 5

The 9-3 struggles to live up to reliable reputation of previous Saabs

Saab's generally have a reputation for quality and reliability but the 9-3 has struggled to live up to this. Customer satisfaction surveys have painted the 9-3 in a negative light with quite  a few owners unhappy with their cars. It's something that shows through in the cabin, with the quality of materials feeling a little shoddy compared to premium rivals from the likes of BMW and Audi. It is safe though, scoring a full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test. 

Price, value for money & options

2 / 5

Entry-level cars get plenty of luxurious kit

The range kicks off with Turbo Edition models, but they're particularly well equipped. Standard kit includes 17-inch alloys, heated leather seats and rear parking sensors. The range-topping Aero models get larger alloys, a sporty body kit and updated brakes for superior performance. 

What the others say

3.5 / 5
based on 2 reviews
4 / 5
The might of the German executives is strong, but the Saab badge still provides more premium appeal than offerings from Vauxhall and Ford, making this 9-3 an extremely compelling proposition. 
3 / 5
The Saab brand has always appealed to buyers looking for something a little different to the mainstream and the 9-3 is a prime example.
Last updated 
28 Jun 2013

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