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In-depth reviews

Saab 9-3 convertible (2003-2011)

"The 9-3 Convertible is a smartly styled alternative choice to the default German convertibles."

Carbuyer Rating

2.0 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Pros

  • Roof down styling
  • Spacious cabin
  • Long distance ability

Cons

  • Roof up styling
  • Expensive to buy
  • High running costs

Sophisticated styling and long-distance motorway driving have long been Saab strong points. The 9-3 Convertible, which is based on the 9-3 saloon, is well designed and follows Saab tradition, but struggles to keep up with the opposition from Audi and BMW in terms of roadholding and interior quality. It's also more expensive to run, despite receiving a facelift and cleaner engines in early 2011. The triple layer fabric roof can look dated once in place, but it retracts in 20 seconds, and the car looks smart with it down. Top-spec Aero models are fast and can cover 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds with a manual gearbox, but the larger wheels and firmer suspension fitted to the 217bhp flagship models do affect comfort.

MPG, running costs & CO2

Frugal diesel makes the most sense

The 1.9 TTiD diesel is the most efficient engine available and can return 54.3mpg on the combined cycle. However, you'll have to ask yourself if you can live with the diesel rattle on cold mornings and when driving around town at slower speeds, as it can get quite noisy. The turbo petrol engine is smooth and powerful, but even the lower powered 2.0-litre version struggles to return an average of 40mpg. Automatics and top-spec Aero models have even bigger bills.

Engines, drive & performance

Manual versions are considerably faster

All engines provide swift cruising ability, and there is plenty of power to allow effortless overtaking. Combined with relaxed suspension settings and very comfy seats, the 9-3 Convertible rarely feels sporty in corners especially when compared to rivals from BMW and Audi. Mid-corner bumps also tend to unsettle the open-top chassis. The mid-range 1.9 TTiD diesel in 180bhp spec is capable of 0-60mph in 8.7 seonds with Aero models displaying serious straight line performance.

Interior & comfort

Relaxing to drive, and fabric roof is well insulated

Find an open stretch of straight road, and the Saab 9-3 is in it's element. The seats provide great support, while impressive sound-proofing absorbs road and engine noise even at higher speeds. Aero models fitted with larger wheels trade comfort for improved driver involvement.

Practicality & boot space

Cabin is spacious for four

It's clearly not going to be as versatile as the SportWagon estate, or even the saloon, but the 9-3 Convertible does have a reasonable 350-litre boot, which is good for a soft-top. What's more, the four-seater cabin has more space than a BMW 3 Series Convertible. As is the case in most four-seater convertibles, tall rear passengers can feel exposed to the elements with the roof down. Unlike other cars in the class, a wind deflector, which reduces buffeting for passengers in the front, isn't even available as an option.

Reliability & safety

Not as impressive as Saabs from the past

The Saab 9-3's image has suffered in recent years, which has dented an otherwise impressive reliability record. Recent surveys have highlighted several owners who are unhappy with their cars, resulting in Saab addressing many of these complaints during the recent update. Some interior materials can still feel cheap compared to the competition however.

Price, value for money & options

Expensive but very well equipped

All models come very well equipped, fitted with leather seats, a Bluetooth phone connection, front fog lights and rear parking sensors as standard, but even entry level models are expensive. Top spec Aero models are brimming with interior and exterior extras.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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