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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Classic Saab with understated elegance

Against Not as desirable as German rivals

Verdict A viable alternative to a BMW or Audi

Go for… 2.0 t

Avoid… V6

Saab 9-3 Convertible
  • 1. With the roof up, you'll notice wind noise over 50mph, but it’s not excessive
  • 2. Room in the rear is acceptable, and luggage space is decent
  • 3. If you get blue or black smoke from the exhaust, there’s a good chance the turbo's failed
  • 4. The hood is generally reliable, but there was a recall related to it, so check the work has been done
  • 5. The turbo engines need a particular type of oil, so check it has always been used
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Saab 9-3 Convertible full review with expert trade views

Saab has been selling four-seater convertibles for over 20 years, and the 9-3 is better to drive than the older models, with its sharp steering and plenty of feedback.

The ride is comfortable and, with little body roll through bends, the 9-3 is a more than capable car, if not as sharp to drive as the class-leading BMW 3 Series convertible. That's especially the case with the most powerful engines, which can expose the limits of the car’s traction.

Inside, too, the focus is on comfort, and the wide range of seating and steering wheel adjustment means anyone should be able to get comfortable. The cabin is a pleasant place to be and, generally, the build quality is good. Even space in the rear is acceptable, and the luggage space is reasonable.

With the roof up, you'll notice wind noise over 50mph, but it’s not excessive. And, even when you drop the top, you should be well isolated from any buffeting.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Classy and plenty of image. 2.0t best value. 2.0T Aero sought after

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Originally, three turbocharged petrol engines were introduced: a 1.8-litre with 150bhp and two 2.0-litres, with 175bhp and 210bhp. These were later joined by a 2.3-litre V6 with 247bhp and a 1.9-litre TiD diesel with 150bhp. The most powerful petrols come with a six-speed manual ’box.

The less powerful petrols suit the car’s chassis well, considering its limits of grip, while the V6 and diesel versions work well with the optional five-speed automatic gearbox.

The 9-3 Convertible received the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP’s crash tests and all models have twin front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes and a roll-over bar behind the rear seats.

All 9-3 Convertibles have a electric roof, which neatly folds into the boot. Base models have air-con, electric windows, a CD player, electric heated mirrors and alloy wheels. Vector and Aero models have climate and cruise control with leather.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Supply has been short and values have climbed as a result

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Not only does going for the less powerful petrol versions make sense from a driving point of view, but you’ll also save money on the running costs. The 1.8-litre gives about 32mpg on average, compared with 25mpg for the V6. The diesel returns 44mpg and opting for an automatic with any engine reduces economy by only 2mpg.

The 1.8 and diesel have an insurance grouping of 13, so premiums should be reasonable, but that climbs to group 18 for the V6.

With service intervals every 18,000 miles, garage bills should be manageable, but you can still save by visiting one of the many independent specialists. The 9-3 shares some components with other members of the General Motors family – the Vauxhall Vectra, for example - so parts needn’t cost the earth.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Classy and plenty of image. 2.0t best value. 2.0T Aero sought after

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

To be sure a turbo engine at its best, you should always look for a full service history. Dealer stamps are best, but specialist marks are an acceptable second, especially on older cars. Beware of garages which don’t know what they’re doing – the turbo engines drink a particular type of oil, and only those who know what they're doing will have used it.

On a test drive, run the engine until it’s hot and then rev the car when stationary. If you get blue or black smoke from the exhaust, then there’s a good chance the turbo has failed. Walk away. And, do the same if there’s any sludge on the inside of the oil filler cap. It’s probably a sign of head gasket failure.

The hood mechanism is generally reliable, but there was a recall to stop the hydraulic pipes getting trapped, so make sure it’s been done. And, as you would on any convertible, check the hood for wear and tear.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Supply has been short and values have climbed as a result

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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