By KBB.com Editors
After a rather rough year, Saab's future seems secure for now. With a new owner and a new lease on life, the Swedish manufacturer continues to offer a small but competent line of luxury sedans, convertibles and wagons. The bread and butter of the lineup remains the 9-3, a car whose unique styling, quirky peculiarities and distinctly European driving dynamics endear it to a small but loyal group of driving enthusiasts. For 2010, the Sedan and SportCombi models with the four-cylinder 2.0T compete nicely when placed beside the Acura TSX, BMW 3 Series, Volvo S60, Audi A4, as well as the Volvo V50 Wagon.
Some shoppers gravitate toward the Saab 9-3 partly because of its "stealth" personality; it delivers more in performance and handling than its straight-forward appearance suggests. The 9-3X SportCombi offers the rare combination of a turbocharged engine, six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel-drive in wagon body.
Even more than their Swedish Volvo cousins, Saabs used to be known for various quirks and idiosyncrasies, which fans adored but some others disdained. Things like the console-mounted ignition – a long-standing Saab hallmark – can still prove too peculiar for some. Eccentricities are minor nowadays, but perception tends to outlast reality.
For 2010 the V6 turbo is dropped from the line up, while a new, all-wheel-drive variant of the SportCombi is added. A reduction in the standard equipment list allows for a slight price reduction across the 9-3 range, and the overall model count is reduced from 14 to 9.
Driving Impressions Each 2010 Saab 9-3 exhibits a serious Eurosedan personality. Confident handling is the rule, especially in Aero trim. An Aero SportCombi exemplifies what the modern wagon experience should be: well-behaved...under all conditions. The 2.0T steers with a rather light touch, but one that's sure-footed. Spirited reaction from the 2.0T's engine, even with the automatic, exhibits little turbo lag but suffers a bit of downshifting delay and a slight hesitation on light acceleration. Aeros can be pushed vigorously into curves, remaining impressively flat and centered, and they ride more taut than front-drive 2.0Ts, but not uncomfortably, overcoming most pavement imperfections without fuss. Harsher bumps produce sharp body motions, but only for a moment. Saab's manual gearbox ranks among the best for easy shifting.
Sport Button (with Automatic)
For those occasional moments when energetic driving proves irresistible, the Sport button keeps the transmission in each gear long enough to boost responses smartly.
As a front-wheel-drive car, the 9-3 is often left out of conversations that include the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G and other rear-wheel-drive sport sedans. A new performance-enhancing all-wheel drive system should have more people talking about the 9-3.
Sedans and SportCombis have seating for five passengers, versus four for convertibles. Straightforward in layout, the instrument setup was clearly developed for easy and helpful reading. A big center speedometer is accompanied by relatively large fuel and temperature gauges and a sizable tachometer, but the optional navigation system's screen is rather small. Aero seats, in particular, are seriously sporty, keeping you in place and well-supported as well as comfortable and bolstered – though not excessively snug. Getting used to the console-mounted ignition doesn't take too long, but still seems odd.Exterior
Influenced by the sleek Aero X concept car, the 2010 Saab 9-3 wears a sweptback face with a semi-wrap-over hood and curtly-tapered three-hole grille, reminiscent of front ends in notable previous Saabs. Aero-style wraparound headlamps can incorporate an optional cornering light feature. Aeros have a unique front bumper, plus air intakes and brawny exhaust outlets that "really accent the power," according to Saab. Flared side-sill extensions and rain-sensing wipers are standard. The 9-3X SportCombi is 1.4-inches taller than the 9-3 Sedan.
Standard equipment includes rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, dual heated power mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD and auxiliary audio input, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, leather seating surface and a power driver's seat. Standard safety features include traction and stability control plus front, front-side and full-length side curtain airbags. On 2.0T models, 14-spoke alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires, whereas Aeros and SportCombi XWD editions roll on 17-inch alloys. The 9-3X SportCombi adds front and rear skid plates, 17-inch wheels and fog lamps. The 2.0T, Aero and SportCombi trims can be had with a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmissions, while XWD trims offer a six-speed automatic.
Only a handful of options are offered on the 2.0T trim including an automatic transmission, Bose audio, OnStar with Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and SIRIUS/XM Satellite Radio. The Comfort Package adds a power moonroof, heated front seats, garage door opener, headlamp washers and "Express Up" power front windows with remote control. The Premium Package adds a memory driver's seat, a power passenger seat, Rear Park Assist, HID cornering headlamps, Bose audio and power folding auto-dimming outside mirrors. A DVD-based navigation system is also available.
The 2.0T, a turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces 210 horsepower, driving a six-speed manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic (six-speed auto with XWD). Automatic transmissions include a manual-shift provision, with a Sport mode that holds gears longer during acceleration and alters the shift points for braking.
2.0-liter in-line 4 Turbocharged
210 horsepower @ 5500 rpm
221 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/31 (manual, FWD Sedan); 19/28 (automatic, FWD Sedan), 21/31 (manual, SportCombi) 19/27 (automatic, SportCombi), 20/29 (manual, XWD), 17/27 (automatic, XWD)
By Gary G. on Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 125,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, great weekend car"
Cons: "Must find a competent mechanic as dealers closed."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"A bit expense to maintain, much like a BMW. Great handling car, fun on the road. Unfortunately parts are getting harder to obtain especially on older models. Great looking vehicle, get comments continuously as our vehicle looks like new."
16 people out of 26 found this review helpful
By CaliSaaber on Thursday, July 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 130,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Can sure take a hit and fun to drive"
Cons: "maintenance, electrical issues & finding parts"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"I had my 03 Saab 9-3 Linear Sports Sedan for almost 6 months now. Since I purchased my Saab I have replaced the Secondary Air Pump, Smog Pump, Spark Plugs, Gas Gauge, and Break Booster. I originally purchased the car at $3,000 and since the purchase I have spend $2,500 on repairs. Although It runs better then ever now and extremely fun to drive I would not recommend this type of car if you can not keep up with its pricey maintenance. I spent $97 on my first synthetic oil change for example. Don't get me wrong its an amazing car with only minor electrical issues but Saab is actually quite reliable and can sure take a hit. I was in a fender bender the other day colliding with a BMW that hit me from behind. I chipped and loosened his bumper although my Saab didn't even have a scratch on it."
11 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By Best Car I have ever owned on Monday, July 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 220,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent exterior, great gas mileage 28-32 mpg"
Cons: "Needs electronic sensors to be replaced."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"Engine has seen regular synthetic oil changes from 18k every 8000 miles. It has never burned a drop of oil. Gas gauge sensor, and rear wheel electronic sensors need replacing. AC is intermittent. Local mechanic is working on the issue."
8 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Diesel on Wednesday, June 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I have had many vehicles in the past 40+ years, but this is the best by far that I have owned. Very comfortable for long trips, excellent sound system, plenty of power for merging onto interstate highways, very large trunk, and I have no problems with the car mechanically. A delight to drive and to own!"
20 people out of 28 found this review helpful
By Eric on Thursday, May 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 105,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "True Sport Sedan, great puch, with sure foot stops"
Cons: "No longer made, parts are expensive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Awesome in the snow, the Saab 9-3 Aero, has plenty of punch and can stop very well. It's sure footed, with large 17"tires, and is a solidly built sturdy vehicle. The car is mediocre on gas, but how you drive makes it a big difference on how much it will sip. The car has many high end nice features as automatic wind shield wipers, heated front seats,fog lights, awesome windshield cleaning system with high volume 3 spout output.Transmission is a 6 speed automatic that is fluid and smooth at the same time. The car has terrific high output head lights, that really light up the road.The only drawback is now that Saab is out of Business, parts are expensive and repairs are costly, plus time consuming."
13 people out of 17 found this review helpful
By Moose64 on Friday, April 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 164,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent power, great gas mileage, solidly built"
Cons: "Minor cosmetic flaws, plastic dash"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My husband suggested this car and I am so thankful he did. Absolutely the most fun to drive of anything I have ever owned. Bought with 134000 miles and now 164000 and still going strong. Owned now for almost 3 years. New tires, new front springs and a thermostat are the only things replaced. Too bad they aren't making this beauties anymore. I will seek another Saab for my next vehicle if this one ever stops."
9 people out of 16 found this review helpful