Saab 9-3x estate (2009-2011)
"A quality interior, high level of standard kit and the reassurance of four-wheel-drive are all in the Saab's favour, and despite its ageing design, there's life in the old dog yet."
- Stylish, understated design
- Lots of desirable standard equipment
- Comfortable on long journeys
- Showing its age
- Four-wheel-drive model only available with petrol engine
- Long-term value for money
The Saab 9-3X is designed to offer buyers occasional off-road ability without the socially unacceptable sight of a large, high-riding SUV parked in their drive. Like its major rivals, the Audi A4 Allroad and Volvo XC70, the Saab is only available as an estate, but this does mean that the 9-3X is practical. Saab offers the 9-3X with a petrol engine and four-wheel-drive, or a diesel engine with front-wheel-drive. All models have high levels of comfort, including excellent seats and relatively soft suspension, making it superb on long journeys. However, the 9-3X is an old design, and while it is well equipped, it’s expensive.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The 9-3X is competitively priced. The range starts at £25,595 for the 1.9-litre diesel engine with a manual gearbox, comprehensively undercutting the equivalent Volvo and Audi, at £27,690 and £31,165 respectively. However, the Saab’s range of engines are thirsty, and the petrol engine with the auto gearbox emits 242g/km of carbon dioxide, placing it in the second highest, £425 road tax band. Depreciation is steeper than rivals too. The diesel manual is the better bet, as it’s the cleanest option, making it the cheapest to tax and fuel, and holds onto its value the best of the range too.
Engines, drive & performance
The 9-3X is based on the standard Saab 9-3 estate, but with raised suspension to give a little extra ground clearance on rough roads. The extra suspension travel absorbs bumps with ease, making it a very comfortable long-distance cruiser. However, the soft suspension does mean that the Saab doesn’t offer the sporty driving experience offered by the Audi A4 Allroad. Saab has elected to only offer the four-wheel-drive 9-3X with a 2.0-litre petrol engine. The engine is quiet and powerful, but it is thirsty. The diesel engine is noisy, but is cleaner. Both models have the option of manual or automatic gearboxes.
Interior & comfort
Saab has worked hard to isolate passengers from the road, and the 9-3X does and impressive job of damping out noise from the wind, road and the engines, even at higher speeds. The 9-3X features a long top gear too, reducing engine revs on the motorway. The seats are impressively comfortable too, and the interior is solid and doesn’t rattle or creak. Space in the front is good, and three adults can travel in comfort in the rear. Although the boot is smaller than some rival’s, it’s wide and square shaped, making it easy to load plenty of luggage.
Practicality & boot space
The 9-3X is only available as an estate model. However, at 419-litres with the seats up, the Saab’s boot is comprehensively beaten by the A4 Allroad’s 490-litre and Volvo’s 575-litres. However, the Saab’s boot is at least a usable, square shape that’s easy to load. The rear seats fold 60/40, giving a total 1,273-litres of space. However, the Audi’s 1,430-litres and Volvo’s huge 1,600-litres beat this considerably. Up front, both driver and passenger have plenty of space, while thee adults can travel in the rear, albeit with limited shoulder room.
Reliability & safety
The 9-3 range has been around since 2002, so Saab has had plenty of time to get the build quality right. The interior is well built, and even though there are some shiny plastics in places, which may not stand up to hard abuse, the whole cabin feels solid. The mechanicals are based on proven technology too. Safety equipment is comprehensive, with a host of driver and passenger airbags, electronic stability control and active head restraints included as standard.
Price, value for money & options
The 9-3X is a trim level in itself, so buyers have to choose whether they want four-wheel-drive, and thus a petrol engine, or two-wheel-drive, which is only available on the diesel-powered models. However, both cars have the option of manual or automatic gearboxes. The Saab undercuts its rivals usefully on price, and does come with a high level of equipment as standard, including leather seats which are heated in the front, climate control and an MP3-compatible stereo. Roof rails and a rugged bodykit are also part of the 9-3X’s standard kit.