Saab 9-3 Sportwagon estate (2005-2011)
“Revised styling, good economy and plenty of kit make the practical Saab 9-3 estate a decent mid-range load carrier.”
- Frugal, efficient engines
- Spacious cabin with lots of kit
- Decent-sized and flexible boot
- Styling revamp can't hide 9-3's age
- Soft suspension dulls handling
- Saab badge isn't as prestigious as BMW or Audi
The Saab 9-3 SportWagon shares its twin-turbo engine line-up with the Saab 9-3 saloon, the SportWagon estate offers up to 180bhp, yet boasts impressive economy and emissions as low as 135g/km. The three units on offer are powerful, smooth and quiet, which gives this ageing car a strong selling point in a crowded market. Elsewhere, the revised 9-3 estate features a flexible, decent-sized boot and comes with plenty of kit, such as a Bluetooth phone connection, sat-nav and a Night Panel dashboard, which turns off all of the dashboard displays apart from the speedometer. The suspension is soft, which makes the 9-3 comfortable on long journeys. It may be SportWagon in name, but sporty to drive it is not.
MPG, running costs & CO2
This is an area where the Saab 9-3 estate scores highly. With economy of 44.1mpg and emissions of 135g/km from the 1.9-litre TTiD manual, you won't have to fork out as much in fuel bills or road tax as you would for thirstier rivals. Insurance, servicing and repairs also cost less than for the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
Engines, drive & performance
First, the bad news: the Saab 9-3 SportWagon is simply not a rival for the Audi A4 Avant or BMW 3-Series Touring when it comes to driving dynamics. The suspension is too soft for high-speed corners and the manual gearbox is notchy, although the Saab is comfortable over bumps and a smooth auto option is available. The good news is that the 1.9 or 2.0-litre TTiD engines are strong, and twin-turbo performance means they pull strongly through all six gears in manual form.
Interior & comfort
Over long distances the comfortable seats and soft suspension are a most welcome feature - as a result the 9-3 SportWagon is well suited to motorway driving. However, elsewhere in the cabin the dashboard feels flimsy and looks rather dated. Interior space is also lacking compared to rivals from VW and Ford, leaving rear passengers cramped and in need of regular stops.
Practicality & boot space
The Saab 9-3 estate's boot is a decent 477 litres and, although it's not as spacious as the Audi A4 Avant, it's wide, has a low load sill for easy access and features a hinged floor which can be folded up to hold shopping in place.
Reliability & safety
Overall, the 9-3 range is showing its age, but Saab did not alter the chassis at the car's last update, because it already boasts a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. The car also has safety features such as Night Panel, which dims all dashboard readouts bar the speedometer, bi-xenon cornering headlights and Active Head Restraints.
Price, value for money & options
The Saab undercuts the likes of Audi and BMW, but it may struggle to tempt mid-range buyers away from the Volkswagen Passat. All cars bar the entry-level model are well equipped, although you do get what you pay for – leather seats and features such as Bluetooth, sat-nav and the Night Panel cannot disguise the fact that the Saab's interior isn't as luxurious as the class leaders' cabins.