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Saab 9-3 Sport Saloon 1.9 TTiD EcoPower Turbo Edition road test report

1.9 TTiD EcoPower Turbo Edition

At the 2009 Geneva Motor Show Saab showcased its new EcoPower Technology. Now while this could be passed off as just another example of green marketing spin, it’s hard not to take note of a powerful, 140mph executive saloon that returns an impressive 53.3mpg on the combined cycle.

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

Image number 2 of the Saab 9-3 Sport SaloonImage number 3 of the Saab 9-3 Sport SaloonImage number 4 of the Saab 9-3 Sport Saloon

Performance Performance - 4 stars

This Turbo Edition 9-3’s 1,910cc, 16-valve TTiD EcoPower engine employs a sophisticated twin turbo system – a small turbo for low revs, a bigger one for higher rpm. It produces a useful 178bhp along with a hearty 295lb/ft of torque and on the road this translates to generous and accessible performance under almost all circumstances. Throttle response is quick – there’s no turbo lag here – and the engine is both quiet and refined. With a 6-speed manual transmission (a 6-sp auto is an option) 0-62mph can be achieved in 8 seconds dead along with that more than ample 140mph top speed.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

Although the front wheel-drive 9-3’s chassis isn’t quite as sporting as, say, a rear drive BMW 3 Series’, it does provide a relaxed and rewarding driving experience. The current 9-3 was introduced in 2007 and it heralded a marked improvement in the model’s driving dynamics. However, under certain rare and largely deliberately induced circumstances, traces of the model’s torque-steer can still occasionally be detected. Despite this, the car has well-weighted, responsive steering and it rides well thanks to its finely honed suspension and damping which competently irons out the bumps.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 4 stars

Saab enjoys a long-standing reputation for durability and ruggedness, and on the basis of my time with this and other recent Saabs, it’s a well-deserved reputation. The interior is well appointed and well finished and still retains some traditional Saab charm (or quirkiness), such as the ignition key slot being located down by the handbrake. In the 2008 JD Power manufacturer’s league table Saab scored 78% and so came 19= (out of 28). In the 2009 JD Power Satisfaction Study the maker improved on its previous year’s results by coming 14th out of 29 with a score of 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. In the Euro NCAP crash tests, the 9-3 Saloon achieved a maximum five star rating, while in the US the car shone similarly in crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard safety features include second generation active head restraints, dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags and roof rail airbags as well as brake assist, brake force distribution, cornering brake control and ESP (Electronic Stability Control). Central locking, an alarm and immobiliser are also all standard.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

Seat design and comfort has long been a Saab trademark, and true to form the 9-3 has extremely well contoured and comfortable front seats. Although it doesn’t have the most spacious interior, cabin ambiance is good, there’s ample room in all directions for four or five occupants and there’s a generously proportioned boot with a 425-litre capacity. This Turbo Edition model also boasts dual-zone climate control, cruise control, trip computer, front fog lights, leather trimmed seats (heated in the front), rear parking assist and a 150 watt, 7-speaker CD/audio system, all as standard equipment.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 5 stars

As mentioned at the top, this £22,495 EcoPower model’s combined mpg figure is 53.3 (40.9mpg urban, 64.2mpg extra urban) – impressive by almost any standards. Not unconnected is its also impressive 139g/km CO2 emissions figure, which places it in tax band E, or an affordable £110 per year road tax. Insurance falls into Group 14, while service intervals are at 18,000 miles, and this is all accompanied by a 3-year/60,000 mile basic warranty. With many, highly accomplished rivals, competition for this Saab is very stiff, but few others can offer such economy, while arguably none can offer the 9-3’s discreet and distinctive image.

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