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Saab 9-3 Convertible 2.0T Aero road test report

2.0T Aero

Back in the mid‘ 80s Saab effectively reinvented the 4-seater convertible. With a powered and robust fabric roof featuring a heated glass rear screen, the 900 Convertible was, for the first time, a genuine all-year-round proposition. Though much copied since, the current 9-3 – introduced in 2004 and updated in 2007– remains a popular choice.

Road Test Reports Says4 star rating
A front-facing image of the Saab 9-3 Convertible

Image number 2 of the Saab 9-3 ConvertibleImage number 3 of the Saab 9-3 ConvertibleImage number 4 of the Saab 9-3 Convertible

Performance Performance - 4 stars

The current 9-3 engine line-up includes a variety of 4cyl, 1.8, 1.9 and 2-litre engines fuelled by either petrol, diesel or biofuel. plus a range-topping 2.8-litre V6 petrol unit. I tested the second most powerful – the 2.0T Aero – which pushes out a generous 210 horsepower along with a punchy 221lb/ft of torque. Mated to a 6-speed manual (a 5sp auto is an option) this turbo motor provides enough pure speed to satisfy all but diehard speedfreaks. 0-60mph comes up in 7.7secs while easy overtaking is facilitated by a 5th gear 50-70mph time of 9.3secs. Its 140mph top speed is pretty academic unless you happen to be on a German autobahn.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 3 stars

Saab Turbos were fun to drive, but they also earned themselves a reputation for turbo lag (delayed throttle response), torque steer (steering tarnished by engine power thru’ the front wheels) and, in the case of the convertibles, for scuttle shake (when the dash and screen moves independently of the rest of the car). This 9-3 is definitely much improved on all counts although, on a bumpy B-road, there is still some evidence of both scuttle shake and torque steer, neither of which feature on German rivals. No complaints about the ride though, which is compliant and comfortable.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 4 stars

Aside from the aforementioned scuttle shake (which is arguably more a design issue than a build quality shortcoming) the 9-3 Convertible is hard to fault. The interior is well appointed and retains some traditional Saab quirkiness, while the powered roof eschews the current trend for bootspace-hungry tin tops by being made from a hard wearing, three-layer cloth fabric. It’s also worth noting that Saab as a manufacturer faired quite well in the 2009 JD Power UK Vehicle Ownership Study coming 14th out of 29 by scoring 784 points against an industry average of 781.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

Unlike most computer simulations and crash tests, those at Saab are designed to replicate what happens in real collisions on real roads, based on the findings of a database covering thousands of real-life accidents. The 9-3 Convertible also benefits from additional structural reinforcements along with a DynaCage rollover protection with pop-up roll bars, front seats with fully integrated seat-belts, active head restraints, adaptive front airbags, head/thorax side airbags mounted in the front seats plus various safety-related abbreviations including ESP. As a result, the 9-3 Convertible was the first soft-top to achieve Euro NCAP's maximum 5-star crash test rating. Central locking, an alarm and an immobiliser are all standard.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

First, but perhaps not foremost, is the 9-3’s concealed dash-mounted cup holder; it’s ‘butterfly’ mechanism and actuation never fails to both amuse and impress. In the front there’s all the space (more with the roof lowered) and comfort that you’d find in the saloon, while in the rear there are two good-sized seats, both with acceptable legroom. All seats (if not leather) are covered in a breathable but water-repellant Hydroblox textile. The largish, 258-litre boot extends to 352-litres when the roof is up. An iPod compatible CD audio player plus climate and cruise controls are standard on the Aero while Bluetooth phone technology and satnav are options.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

This £32,069 2.0T Aero manual is quite a sporty model so with fuel consumption at 35.3mpg combined, economy isn’t it’s strongest suit. (The 180PS 1.9 TiD 180 model manages 48.7mpg.) Correspondingly, CO2 at 190g/km puts this model into tax band J, or £215 annual road tax, while the insurance is group 16. Service intervals come at a reasonable 18,000 miles and the basic warranty is for 3-years or 60,000 miles. Although Saabs aren’t as characterful or quirky as they once were, this Aero definitely offers a certain charm that it’s German rivals lack.

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