* Prices may differ from that shown
Loved this car, not the best looking thing on earth, but one of the most reliable.
Built like a tank, fast, luxurious and everything you would want from in a car.
I recently got into an accident whilst in this car, a 40tonne truck decided to drive into the side of us and push us 60ft down a dual carrigeway.
I can honestly say if it wasnt for this being so well built the whole accident could have been a completly different story.
The drive is very comfortable, ours had full leather interior and the seats are very comfortable and supportive.
The suspension irons out any bumps in the road nicely and the car itself (2.3ltr) can shift if it wants to.
We picked this version over the turbo version for fuel economy.
Its not the most economical car ever, we get about 30mpg from around town and motorway travel, however i can imagine the turbo version would be alot more thirsty.
Well renound reliable well made cars, they are like this for a reason.
Nothing has gone wrong with ours since when we have had it, great for use in winter, summer, rain and snow.
Not the best looking car in the world, but they have their reasons.
Goot aerodynamics help to keep them on the road and give them great road holding.
an all round great drive, weve had 3 saabs now and have only even sold them to get a newer model. Luxury car without the luxury price tag.
- Built like a tank
- Reliable and well built
- Very luxurious interior.
- Hold their money well
- Very reliable engine 200,000+ miles
- New model is just out, older models prices have dropped
- Very roomy interior
- roof can leak on some models, but i have not had or seen a convertible that does not let a bit of water in, in heavy rain.
- Not that good looking
- Not the most economical car ever
- Can take some getting use to, keys go in next to hand brake, has to be in reverse to get your keys out etc.
I absolutely love my convertible - my son is often telling me I love my car more than him - but this is a little unfair - its just very close!!!!
This is the second SAAB i have owned - I traded in my 1997 900 version 2 years ago for a newer 9-3 model.
What do I love about this car -- whre to start, it is the amazing heating system that allows me to take the roof off on any sunny day in winter? (I'm not one of those convertible drivers that only seem to take the roof off when it is between 20 -22 degree (less than 20 too cold over 22 too hot - so have air con and windows up!!!) Why do some people buy convertyibles if they never take advantage of the weather!!!!
...is it the fantastic stereo that always sounds better with the roof down, volume high and the bass rattling the wing mirrors when you stop!!
...is it the acceleration and power from the 2.0 turbo engine.
...is it the credibility I gain from from my children because "Mum has a cool car"
....or maybe its just the sheer pleasure of driving, with roof down, on a sunny day (summer or winter), with stereo turned up!!
There are some downsides though - visibility isn't great out of the back, due to the roof and I do get more depressed on dull miserable days (especially in summer!!!) because I can't take the roof off!!!
Whilst they are expensive to buy they do retain there value fairly well and are sought after as a second hand car. I have had nothing go worng on my newer car and my older car in the 5 years I had it only broke down once (the week before I was due to part-ex it - perhaps it knew I was trading it in!!!) so for a ten year old car that's not too bad and it only cost me £100 to fix.
WHAT IS IT?
This is the latest in a long line of very popular convertible mid-size Saab models. At one time, in the early 1990's, the 900 Convertible, the car that the 9-3's replaced, was the biggest selling convertible on the market. To be honest, it had far less competition in the four seater open top car market then, however, the 9-3 Convertible is still a big success and is currently the third most purchased convertible on the market.
Saab continues to shun the latest fashion in providing a folding metal roof for their Convertible. As with all of its forebears, the 9-3 has a very large three layer fabric, or as Saab describes it, "soft top". As this review will, I hope, demonstrate, there are advantages and disadvantages to this.
This is no sports car, indeed it is a (very well) converted Saab 9-3 saloon which, in turn, was based on the Vauxhall Vectra chassis. Saab have never marketed this open top four seater as a sporting model, always promoting it on its' image, all weather comfort and refinement. In some circles it may be viewed as a "footballers' wives" car.
At 4635mm in length, it will take up an identical amount of space in your garage to the 9-3 saloon, although the convertible roof compromises both interior and boot space. This is a two door, strict, four seater - well maybe more realistically a two plus two.
WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL?
The 9-3 Convertible that I am reviewing here is the £25,450 1.9 TiD Linear. To those of you unfamiliar with the fairly complex Saab model labelling system, that translates to a 1.9 litre, 150bhp (General Motors - Vauxhall supplied), turbo-diesel engine and the least expensive trim level.
In many respects, due to its driving characteristics this is probably the most sensible engine choice offered in the 9-3 - especially for company car drivers - as it has a relatively low 169 Co2 level rating - a 40% tax payer will pay £202 per month in benefit in kind (B.I.K.) tax on that.
At the bottom of the range is the £25,000, 1.8 (150bhp) petrol powered version, then stepping up through the, £26,500, 2.0 (175bhp), and £30,875, 2.0T (210bhp) topping out with a 2.8 V6, with 247bhp and a hefty price tag of £33,194. Just in case you are interested, the same 40% tax payer would be paying a whopping £384 per month for the same car equipped with the six cylinder petrol engine - it has a Co2 level of 254!
The car that I am reviewing here is the latest, 2007 face lifted model, well actually its "face" is exactly the same as last years car, Saab have merely applied some very useful interior tweaks to it.
IN WHAT CAPACITY AM I REVIEWING THIS CAR?
I am reviewing this one as a company fleet manager who has just taken this very car onto his fleet to replace an Alfa Romeo Spider. I have extensive experience with Saabs, we have run two 9-5's and a 9-3 over the last eight years, mechanically the 9-3 Convertible is identical to the existing 9-3 on our fleet. Our two "joint" managing directors now have one each!
In order that this review be as fair and comparative as possible, my driving impressions are based on an identical test route at the Millbrook testing ground to all of my other recently reviewed cars. My wife and I tried the Saab both top up and down, on the same day we drove no fewer than five convertible cars - this being the only soft top one, all of the others had folding metal roofs. Interestingly, one of those, already reviewed, the Astra Twin Top Sport, was equipped with exactly the same engine!
This is a slightly tricky area to assess in this specific case. Costs, by nature, are comparative, and in this case it is not so easy to decide just what to compare the 9-3 Convertible to. The most obvious rival has to be the 3-Series BMW, the soft top version of which is now out of production, replaced by an as yet to be sold, in the UK, folding metal roof version of the latest 3-Series saloon. At just over £29,000 the identically powerful, but now obsolete, BMW 320Cd made this car look something of a bargain. We can only assume that the new BMW convertible will have an even higher list price!
On the other hand, you may well be inclined to compare it with the newer, in terms of design, Vauxhall Astra Twin Top, which has the same engine and a folding metal roof. That car is more spacious too - £6500 more for the Saab is a lot to pay for added status!
Surprising, on carrying out my research, is that this fabric roof car actually falls into a reasonable group 13 insurance. For comparison the (fabric roof) BMW is in group 15, whilst the Astra, with its much more secure metal roof, is in group 12.
The quoted overall running cost figure for this car is a very reasonable 53.4 pence per mile.
As a comparison the BMW 320Cd Convertible costs 57.2 p.p.m to run, whilst the Astra Twin Top will set you back 47.2 pence per mile.
PURCHASE COST 6 / 10
This car is the most difficult that I have yet rated on price here. On the face of it, you do not appear to be getting a great deal for your money. It is a lot cheaper than a 3-Series BMW, a lot more expensive than a Vauxhall, with which it shares far more than Saab would like to admit!
However, stand back and watch in awe as that huge fabric roof quickly, and almost silently, glides away into the rear deck and you start to get the point!
Now to let you into a little, in this case, (non) trade secret! We, that is "the Company" paid nowhere near the £25,500 asking price for our car. Due to reasons beyond the remit of this review, our driver had a £20,000 budget, over that and it was "hand in own pocket" time!
As someone with some experience in these things, I was aware that I was not going to source a new £25,500 car for £20,000 - but I was absolutely staggered at just how close I actually came - £395 shy of it would you believe?
The realistic "What Car" target price, i.e. the price that you should pay ANY Saab dealer for this car, is £23,595. That, for a new, non-registered car turned out to be spot on the money. However Saab dealers, now coming under the Vauxhall Fleet banner, are under huge pressure to "pre-register" cars, a trade method of artificially boosting sales. It did not take me long to discover that nearly every Saab dealer in the country had a 9-3 Convertible sitting in their showroom already registered, but totally un-used. It is mid winter, unusually there was even snow on the ground, whose thoughts are turning to purchasing a convertible car in January?
RICHADA's that's who!
Our driver (the M.D.) had been offered his local dealer's pre-registered car, metallic gunmetal grey with white leather(ette) / black fabric interior for £21,800. This was a brand new franchise, looking to steal new customers. However, I held an ace card, the internet brokers! Dozens of them were offering cut price Saabs, all the new ones were a couple of hundred either side of that target price (£23,600) - the pre-registered cars came down and down.
If you are seriously in the market for one of these, and now, financially, is a superb time to be so, try www.dealdrivers.co.uk - they offered me the choice of a silver or black 9-3 TiD Linear Convertible, both at £20,395. Incidentally, they will source most makes of car - all UK dealer sourced.
I owe them a plug for wasting their time as it turned out - my MD decided to put his hand in his pocket to the tune of £1800 in order to take his local dealer's car!
THE OPTIONS GAME: 5 / 10 or "How much do I need to spend to make it habitable?"
Quite a lot in this case!
Leatherette (plastic) seats anyone? Yes, I've found a car on sale in 2007 with plastic seats. Admittedly they are good imitation leather, but leatherette all the same! £1050 will buy you proper leather covers for the seats.
It tends to be foggy here in England, I have not owned a car personally without fog lights (no I don't use them ALL the time!) for over 14 years now - Saab will charge you for those too. You will need to speak to a Saab dealer about the price of these, Saab are rather shy about it on their website!
The Linear Convertible does come with ten spoke alloy wheels, a full climate control system, alarm and basic trip computer. If you wish to load more than one CD at a time you will need to upgrade the stereo system, it is a fully integrated one so again, not a cheap option.
Satellite navigation? Seeing as you asked, it is a £1935 linked option with voice command and integrated Bluetooth mobile telephone kit.
DEPRECIATION 9 / 10 - Always the biggest running cost.
There are VERY few cars that will hold onto more than half of their value after three years and 36,000 miles use - but this particular Saab is one of them. Whilst the 9-3 Sport Saloon is as good a way as tipping cash down the drain as any, the Convertible depreciates remarkably slowly.
After 3 years our car should still be worth £12,980 - not bad considering that we might have only paid £20,400 for it in the first place!
Reinforcing the 9-3's performance here, the Astra Twin Top is only likely to be worth 42% of its purchase price, although the much coveted BMW should be worth 52% come trade in time.
A very good performance on this score from the Saab here.
FUEL ECONOMY 7 / 10
This is, I suspect, the heaviest car in which the 150bhp 1.9 turbo diesel motor can be found. In our, so far admittedly short, experience with this car, it is averaging about 8mpg less than the rather more aerodynamically shaped, slightly lighter saloon. Part of this shortfall may also be down to the engine still being very new - also the driver of course, who may have yet to discover sixth gear!
Saab are claiming a "combined average" for this Convertible of 44.8mpg, the Saloon 47.9. Looking at our two comparative benchmarks - the Astra (same engine) 46.3mpg, the BMW 44.8 - an identical result!
SERVICE & MAINTENANCE COSTS 8 / 10: are you going to make the dealer rich?
With a three year, 60,000 mile warranty, your only maintenance costs should be regular (12,000 mile interval) services. Over three years you can currently expect to spend £875 with your local Saab dealer. That is class competitive, a BMW dealer will relieve you of £823, a Vauxhall dealer £769.
Our 9-3 Saloon is not in the habit of burning the precious and expensive synthetic oil, so there is no reason to expect oil to figure in the running costs of the Convertible either.
Let the "fun" begin! You want to know what this car is like to live with and to drive and be driven in .
STYLING 6 /10: A very subjective category here.
With belated apologies for the entirely gratuitous title, but today I took a straw poll in the office (ok there were three plus me), the consensus was that this is one topless Swede that they would not particularly fancy! The fact that our car is gunmetal grey with a black roof and white leatherette upholstery may not exactly help. In my opinion it does look much more attractive in the very bright, livid even, metallic green or blue colours, or in traditional "Saab black".
However, topless cars are all about style and posing, yes, it is winter, but my straw poll brought forth comments such as "lumpy" "over solid" "heavy and old fashioned" and "downright ugly".
In the final analysis this is, after all, MY opinion; I think that there are far worse looking cars on the road, although I have to say that this is one VERY colour sensitive car - I would certainly not order one in gunmetal grey!
OVERALL BUILD QUALITY AND FINISH 9 / 10 Does it look as though it was slung together?
No it does not! Looking carefully at this Saab Convertible, it is every inch a solidly, well built car, fit and finish are remarkably good, as is the paint finish. In this area you can start justifying that price tag!
Coming back to the folding fabric roof again momentarily, its' fit and the beautifully well oiled way that it erects or retracts, shows real signs of engineering perfection. Certainly on this score I am very impressed with the Convertible Saab.
SAFETY 9 /10 If it comes to the worst, how well are you and your family going to come out of it.
The Swede's are renowned for producing safe cars - that being a primary reason why General Motors (Vauxhall) bought Saab, whilst Ford snapped up Volvo. In both cases it was a case of buying their existing technology rather than developing their own.
With a convertible car, other safety factors come into play apart from the standard crash and pedestrian safety ones. Most important is roll-over protection, after all you do not have a conventional steel shell here. The Saab is massively reinforced, that is largely where all the saloon's missing interior space has been taken up in this car. Built into the rear head restraints are steel pop up roll bars, hidden underneath trim panels until the car starts to tilt over, at which stage they pop up. At the front the windscreen surround is reinforced to the extent that it will support the weight of the car upside down.
Naturally this car has all the air bags that you have a right to expect in this day and age, ABS brakes (a legal requirement on all new cars now) are backed up by an emergency brake assist system.
As a driver I also have to rate safety on how a car feels as you drive it. Due to its size and weight the Saab certainly feels solid, although you can feel the chassis flex (indicated by the glass in the drivers door shaking and interior panels creaking) on rougher surfaces, especially going through bends.
ERGONOMICS 9 / 10 Before I can start the engine and drive away I need to feel at home in the "working environment". The relationship between the controls and how I, the driver, am able to instinctively operate those controls is, all important. This for me is make or break, before I drive a car, if it does not instinctively "feel" right in this department then I will never like it or ultimately buy it.
I am not deducting points here for leatherette upholstery! No, seriously, the facelift has made a big difference in here - the ergonomics are vastly improved over the previously far too over complex dashboard. The new simplified heater and stereo controls are a pleasure to use, whilst the new instrument graphics have also cleaned up the dashboard too. Gone also is the ugly bulge top centre which contained the clock, trip computer read out and radio display, all of this information has now been integrated with the two existing main dashboard screens.
Regrettably, still present is my biggest bugbear on the 9-3, the finger crushing, styled for the sake of it, hand-brake.
VISIBILITY: 7 / 10
For this type of car it is surprisingly good. As with any Saab, a commanding driving position and superb forward and side vision make ordinary every day driving a pleasure. However, reverse parking is not so easy, the fabric roof creating substantial blind spots - only partially compensated for by the excellent door mirrors. Rear parking radar I would regard as an essential accessory on this car, the rear boot line is high, adding to the blind spot problem.
Incidentally, the rear window is glass and is heated like one in a conventional saloon.
SPACE: 6 / 10:
In the front the 9-3 Convertible is very spacious indeed. The front seats offer near sublime comfort, Mrs R and I both agreed that they were the best seats that we had sat in all day. This latest Convertible goes one step further by very neatly integrating the seat belts in the back rest. Not only does this offer unhindered access to the rear seats, but it also means that whatever size the driver or passenger are, the seatbelt is always perfectly located and very comfortable to wear.
The rear seat passengers will not feel so well catered for. There is very little shoulder or leg room and what looks like a central arm rest is not. The rear seat is not wide enough to seat three abreast either.
By Convertible standards, the boot is large with the top up, and still relatively spacious with it folded. The boot opening is usefully large, some convertibles provide very poor access to their luggage space, especially with the top down, Saab have designed this aspect well.
STYLE 8 / 10:
Swedish swish I think is the styling theme here and in this face lifted car it carries it off very well indeed. I much prefer the interior of this one to our year old - more plushly trimmed, pre-face lift, 9-3 Vector Saloon.
MATERIALS, FIT & FINISH 8 / 10: Aspreys or Ratners?
I've already flogged the leatherette issue to death - suffice to say here that looking at it, you'd be unaware that this is an almost entirely plastic interior. The plastic materials used throughout are good, improvements in material quality are clear to see between this 2007 model car and our 2006 Saloon.
One benefit of choosing the white interior option is that the headlining is also finished in white. For a soft top, this gives a very light and airy ambiance to the interior. In fact, so well is the hood interior finished, that it is almost a surprise to discover that it folds down. Unlike in the Astra Twin Top, when up, there are no mechanical parts of the hood on show at all.
AUDIO & CLIMATE CONTROL SYSTEMS 9 / 10: Strange grouping?
This has to be the most improved aspect of all on this 2007 model. There is now a clear demarcation between climate and stereo controls, this did not used to be the case and a new 9-3 is all the more easy to live with thanks to it.
Saab have been generous enough to include a full eight speaker system, even in this bottom of the range car, it has a single, dashboard mounted CD slot and a very good radio, both fully integrated with the dashboard and impossible to steal.
Any readers who have driven or owned a Saab will not need me to tell them here about the climate control system - in practice it proves well able to cope with Swedish winters and Californian summers!
ON THE ROAD ..
Time to start it up and to offer you a driving assessment.
NOISE, VIBRATION & HARSHNESS 9 / 10 Silk purse or sow's ear?
Along with the Astra Twin Top, I was very impressed with this diesel engine installation in a convertible car. There are definite improvements in refinement over the Saloon, this is probably the very best application of the ubiquitous 1.9 turbo-diesel engine.
At all speeds, top up or, especially, DOWN, this is a very, mechanically, quiet and smooth car in which to ride or drive. The easy changing six speed gearbox is well matched with the light and progressive clutch.
There is a £1200 automatic gearbox option for those who do not want to change gear for themselves.
PERFORMANCE 6 / 10 Sh*t off a shovel or a constipated tortoise?
The 9-3 1.9 TiD is not a fast car, at least not when it has to carry the Convertibles considerable bulk. A 0-60mph figure of 10 seconds may be regarded as irrelevant, but to me it did not feel that fast even. Certainly the Astra Twin Top, or BMW 320Cd, could run rings around it in performance terms.
However, this type of car is not about pure performance, the diesel 9-3 convertible is refined and, in truth, as quick as it needs to be.
RIDE & HANDLING 5 / 10
Here is where I was not so keen on this car. On smooth, well surfaced roads the Convertible flatters to deceive. Drive it slowly on twisty roads or a typically bumpy English B road and you will be quite comfortable. However, attempt to go any faster than that, or to actually enjoy the drive, and you will find some rather old fashioned characteristics coming to light, which none of the other cars tested, remarkably apart from the new Volvo C70, suffered.
The car rattles, creaks and wobbles through bumpy corners at speed. You can see both the doors and dashboard shaking, the latter you may read elsewhere described as "scuttle shake". Whatever, it is bad enough to make you back off and drive more slowly than you would in an ordinary, saloon or hatchback.
THE CONVERTIBLE FACTOR No score, but an added heading here.
For those who like to enjoy top down motoring at every opportunity (as I did in the old days!), you will need to know how comfortable a drive this car provides with that large roof folded away. There lays the problem. The roof is huge, as is the open space created when it is down.
On a still, hot day, side widows up or down, this is a draughty place to be, uncomfortably so as you reach 70mph.
The £300 wind-break accessory would appear to be money well spent; the trouble here, is that when it is in place, you loose the rear two seats, the 9-3 becoming a two seater!
In other respects it is hard to criticise the roof itself - especially the way it goes up or down at the flick of the dashboard switch - that is as much effort as it takes, no clips, no popper studs, just stretch out your left index finger!
CONCLUSION - Would I buy one myself and would we want to drive it to Poland in a day?
No, and errrr, NO!
Please do not get me wrong, this is not a bad car. However, in my opinion it is an expensive one, when you can buy a more capable, more spacious, more secure (metal roof), faster and more economical Vauxhall Astra or, preferably, new Ford Focus CC for £6000 less.
As for driving it to Poland, if it were a "touring holiday" then yes, I would take a 9-3 TiD Convertible. However, for our mad German autobahn dash, this car is altogether too pedestrian and flexible - in the wrong way!
FINAL SCORE: 126 / 170 - 74.1%
Putting that score into perspective are the following cars based on identical scoring criteria:
ALFA ROMEO 147 1.9JTD Lusso (5 Dr) - 67.8%
FIAT PUNTO GRANDE SPORTING 130 Mjet - 75.9%
HONDA ACCORD i-CTDi Saloon - 80.0%
HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC SE - 78.2%
HONDA JAZZ 1.4 SE CVT-7 (Automatic) - 74.7%
SAAB 9-3 TiD Vector - 68.2%
SAAB 9-3 TiD Linear CONVERTIBLE (2007 Mondel) - 74.1%
VAUXHALL ASTRA TWINTOP 1.9 CDTi DESIGN - 78.8%
VAUXHALL MONARO VXR - 71.1%
VW PASSAT TDi 140 S ESTATE - 71.7%
VOLVO S60 D5 SE - 70.6%
Although I don't own one, I do get the chance to drive one on a reasonably regular basis. The model I've driven is the 2.0 S, basically the lowest model. Looking remarkably similar to the 900 model (apart from the headrests and grille), the 9-3 claims to have over 1000 other minor improvements over its older version. Looks wise, there is little question of its aesthetics, especially with the roof down (takes about 20secs to complete). Its main competitor is the BMW 3-series, and to tell you the truth I'd probably pick the Beemer of the Saab. In Saabs favour are -perhaps- the most comfortable seats you will find, and a glass rear window. The BMW has a plastic window that can be zipped out to replace. The ride in the Saab, is smooth, but often feels wallowy, especially round a tight corner. This would be attributable to the extra weight to reinforce the convertible and also the Cavalier based chassis! All of the Cabrio range come with good quality leather seats, and very solid workmanship - feels like you're piloting a vessel at times. Performance for the 2 litre is approx 12 secs 0-60mph, with a 130mph top speed. The engine is gas-greedy but good at cruising speed. There are however, nice Swedish touches, such as the dark panel button (knocks out all non-vital dials and lights to reduce glare), and ignition placed beside the handbrake. I believe this is for safety (stops your knees getting smacked in the event of an accident). On the whole though, a nice car but there are better ones around.