- We like...Looks; cabin
- We don't...Price; high CO2 emissions
Swedish car-maker has made soft-tops for longer than most. But how ds its latest offering shape up against rivals?Odd isn’t it that a car company hailing from such a cold corner of the globe should be so experienced in making open-roofed cars. But, there you have it. And Saab certainly has time in the field – the current 9-3 can trace its line back well over 20 years to the classic 900 turbo.
So it ought to be pretty good. And, as you approach one for the first time, it can’t help but please.. Roof up or down, it looks right – clean and purposeful. We can’t claim to be fans of the make’s latest nose job, but no matter – it’s not enough to spoil the car.
Step inside and the positive vibes continue. First, there’s good space for four grown-ups and that’s not something you can take as read in too many cabrios, however big they are, whatever the price. That cabin’s classy, too. Not showy, mind, but cool and understated. All the touches that Saab diehards love so much are there – the vents with handy little directional panels to help you direct the air flow, the black panel switch that darkens the instruments at night, the cliff-like dash set out like an aircraft’s. The roof is an old-school cloth cover and it's a beaut - thick, handsome and, once up, good at hushing road noise and wind roar. The boot's a good size, too.
OK, Saab was part of General Motors and you can hunt around the cabin and find a switch or two that’s lifted straight from a Vauxhall. Its chassis shares its origins with the Vectra, too. But the car has a character of its own.
Is it any good, though? The 2.8 V6 version we test here is one of the dearest to buy and, on paper, the idea of a big, free-breathing Vee-engine in a soft-top is very appealing. But on the move it feels a brute, dumping its power to the road competently but without the finesse we’d expect. The car jolts and thumps over bumps, too, never quite settling.
It’s fast for sure but the car’s shortcomings take the edge off the fun you’ll have driving it. And its fuel economy and exhaust emissions are poor, the latter pushing it into the top tax bands for road fund and company car tax. That said, a more modest engine may make a sweeter and cheaper car. We’ll borrow one soon and let you know.
Meanwhile, this car’s lofty price tag puts it close to newer and more accomplished rivals such as Audi’s A5 cabrio. And when you think that a new one loses two-thirds of its value by the time that it has reached its third birthday, that’s less than encouraging. By comparison, a roofless A5 will retain close to half its original cost.
Despite the objections we’ve raised, we still like the 9-3 cabrio. And once it’s a couple of years old, those value losses we’ve talked of turn it into a bargain for a canny second owner. Perhaps that’s the way to go with this car.
To view and buy new and second-hand Saab 9-3s, click on motors.co.uk
- Engines2.8 petrol V6
- 0-60 mph7.7secs
- Insurance groups19A
Motors.co.uk value verdict: