Used Saab 9-3 Convertible 1998 - 2002 review

Category: Convertible

The Saab 9-3 Convertible still looks classy, but needs regular maintenance

Used Saab 9-3 Convertible 1998 - 2002
  • Used Saab 9-3 Convertible 1998 - 2002
  • Used Saab 9-3 Convertible 1998 - 2002
Used Saab 9-3 Convertible 1998 - 2002 review
Star rating

What's the used Saab 9-3 sports like?

The Saab 9-3 Convertible might look just like the 900 model that preceded it, but beneath its familiar shape lies a heavily revised design. In fact, it shares its underpinnings with the contemporary Vauxhall Vectra.

Many Saab drivers like the understated sophistication of these models, and most cars are usually well cared for, making them a potential good used buy.


The Saab 9-3 Convertible still looks classy, but needs regular maintenance

  • The 9-3 has understated elegance, turbocharged performance and decent practicality
  • It looks much better than it drives and can consume tyres rapidly

But, there's more to its appeal than that. For a start, this is a convertible that can happily take four adults, provides a decent boot and protects its passengers from wind when the top is down.

However, the loss of the roof does nothing to help the handling. And, because the chassis flexes so much, the 9-3 doesn't cope with poor quality road surfaces very well.

Saab has a proud history of turbocharged engines and the convertible is proof of that. However, the diesel engines available in the 9-3 hatchback didn't make it into the soft-top.

Ownership cost

What used Saab 9-3 sports will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Saab 9-3 sports?

The 9-3 needs regular servicing every 12,000 miles. The fact that the Saab shares many of its components with the Vauxhall Vectra means that replacement parts don't cost the earth.

What could cost you, though, is a potentially damaging mix of front-wheel drive and turbocharged engines. This is bad news for the front tyres, and you may have to change them on a frequent basis, depending on your driving style.

Some owners also complain of not being to get close to the official fuel economy figures, which are just under 30mpg for all models.

Our recommendations

Which used Saab 9-3 sports should I buy?

One reason for the 9-3's popularity was its powerful turbo engines, but there were two non-turbocharged petrols available when the car was launched: a 2.0-litre and a 2.3, with 130bhp and 150bhp respectively.

However, turbocharged units replaced them within a year. The 2.0t develops 154bhp, while the 2.0HOT (high output turbo) has 205bhp. There's also a mid-power 2.0t with 185bhp, while the most powerful engine is the 2.3t Viggen unit with up to 230bhp.

The most powerful engines are too much for the chassis, so the 185bhp 2.0-litre version is our favourite - it's fast enough without getting you into too much trouble.

The automatic gearboxes hurt performance and economy, so you'll probably want to avoid them. All models have reasonable levels of kit as standard, but the later SE trims are a good bet and many will have the optional leather interior, so look out for them.

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