Saab 9-3 2006

Balance is the key to satisfaction, so we’re told and Saab is keen to divulge the 9-3 convertible’s fun yet practical approach. Bring on the topless weather and is it up to the heat?

MODEL:
9-3

YEAR:
2006

OTHER:
No matter what people say, appearance makes a lasting first impression and whereas Saab’s used to have a very generic, blend in to the rest of the traffic sort of image in recent years it’s really emerged from its cocoon. Still very much a Saab with its flat headlamps, dome tail lights, unique grille and wedge-like stance, it’s now sleeker with its slim-line aerodynamics yet sporty too.

The protruding lip gives it a more pronounced and robust look and it’s exactly these types of design features that have attracted the younger, executive audience who have big demands but are only prepared to pay reasonable money. The market is certainly a lot tougher for manufacturers now as more people are clued-up about cars and so being able to rival the competition on an over all scale is essential.

With this in mind it’s no wonder Saab have chosen to further evolve their best-selling 9-3 model for 2006. There’s already a fan club so they can afford to be a bit adventurous in order to draw in people that might not have considered a Saab before. As diesel convertibles seem to be selling like hot cakes in Europe, Saab is banking on 20% of sales in the 9-3 range being drop-tops. Despite the changeable weather in the UK, you can almost certainly guarantee that given any slight glimpse of sunshine we’ll be lapping it up. Known for our frugal penny pinching, we’re also more likely to pay an initial grand or few extra for a diesel if in the long term we can reap the rewards.

When you size up the convertible’s 1.9 Tid engine with direct multiple injection, 150 horses and 320Nm of torque you’ll anticipate pretty punchy performance, which by large it is. Match it to a fuel consumption figure of 44.8mpg and Saab is talking our language. However the extra safety features do have a debt to pay in weight compared with the 9-3 saloon. Given that 90% of the torque is evenly spread between 1,750 and 3,250rpm it’s pretty quick off the mark and fairs well mid-range too. The close ratio Six speed manual gearbox is the option for those who want to make a bit of head way though there’s also a Six speed auto transmission available with sentronic manual selection.

Perhaps though, if its power gains you’re after you may be more inclined to go for the 2.8 litre V6 Aero spec engine which has already proved itself in the 9-3 saloon and sport wagon estate as well as the Cadillac CTS. An additional 100 horses and a top speed of 152mph can hardly be sniffed at but then you have to weigh this up against the not so thrifty 26.6mpg fuel economy.
Ok, so the 9-3 has good reason to muscle up beside its German competitors when it comes to its powertrains but does it offer the same sort of driving experience? In terms of ride and handling the Saab 9-3 convertible lags a bit behind, its not that it’s unaccomplished it just doesn’t have as much compelling dynamism. However it is fairly priced and well kitted out.

Inside the cabin it feels spacious and relatively peaceful as well as being stylish with its light, contemporary upholstery and friendly ergonomics. Its safety and built quality is reassuring and the comfort also swings the balance in its favour; over all it’s a sensible buy but still has an element of fun.

Verdict

FOR: The styling and performance, it also feels spacious inside, has a well designed cabin, favourable ergonomics and generous equipment

AGAINST: Ride and handling could be more inspiring and there’s also a lack of luggage space

CONCLUSION: It’s definitely worth giving some thought as it provides value for money as well as having innovative style, decent performance and requires less topping up than its petrol equivalent. If you’re a company car tax payer then it will also bring you additional benefits due to being in a fairly low band.

Spec
ENGINE: 1.9 TiD
Co2 (g/km)/tax: 169g/km/-
POWER: 150bhp
TORQUE (lb/ft): 320Nm
0-62mph (sec): 8.1 seconds
TOP SPEED: 149mph
MPG: -/-/44.8 (urban/extra-urban/combined)
TRANSMISSION: Six speed manual
PRICE: £25,370
RIVALS: Convertible variants of the Volvo C70, Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Mercedes CLK and Jaguar XK