What is it?

The latest, most powerful Saab 9-3. The 9-3 1.9 TiD is good for up to 150bhp. But even this sort of power in a diesel-powered small exec saloon is quickly becoming the equivalent of turning up at a party with a cheap bottle of plonk, when everyone else has brought vintage Puligny Montrachet.

BMW’s best-selling 320d offers 174bhp, and the new A4 2.0 TDi is going to be offering comparable grunt.

Enter then, the new Saab 9-3 1.9 TTiD. On sale from early 2008 (the newly facelifted 9-3 has just hit the showrooms) it will be offering 180bhp and 295lb ft of torque. As the extra ‘T’ on the bootlid suggests it’s a near-identical engine to the current offering but the extra grunt comes courtesy of an additional, though smaller, turbocharger and internal strengthening.

What's it like?

One of our criticisms of the current Saab diesel is that it lacks the refinement of German rivals. Sadly it’s more of the same with the more powerful version – with just that last few percent of polish missing when you put your foot down.

But you can’t fault the zestiness with which the new motor endows the baby Saab. It’s got impressive urge from near tickover, all the way through to the red line. and it feels remarkably free-revving for a diesel.

Like the lesser versions the TTiD has the option of an auto 'box and with 180bhp it’s now a sensible choice. Our self-shifting test car had near imperceptible changes and well-judged ratios that always seemed to tap into the maximum torque.

The rest of the Saab’s vices and virtues come bundled in of course. The mild restyle has been effective in sprucing up the looks and it’s still got one of the most comfortable cabins – regardless of price.

Should I buy one?

Only if you want to be a bit different. Most other cars hovering in the Saab’s price bracket are far superior to drive, so despite the new diesel it’s hard to commend it over a BMW or Audi.

Chas Hallett

  • First Drive

    Saab 9-3 SportWagon

    Minor tweaks both simplify and improve the 9-3. Likeable, but lagging behind
  • First Drive

    Saab 9-3 1.9 TTiD Sport Wagon

    Revised 9-3 offers decent performance, but refinement, ride and handling still aren’t good enough

Driven this week

  • Volkswagen Polo SE 1.2 TSI first drive review

    Volkswagen Polo SE 1.2 TSI first drive review

    First drive
    23 July 2014 6:13pm

    New convenience and safety gadgets, plus a great new TSI engine, help keep the Polo close to the top of the class

  • Mercedes-Benz C-class

    Mercedes-Benz C-class

    Car review
    23 July 2014 1:05pm

    Can our perennial runner-up in this class finally reach the top spot?

  • Renault Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy UK first drive review

    Renault Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy UK first drive review

    First drive
    23 July 2014 10:09am

    Host of upgrades give Renault’s flagship hot hatchback the edge it needs to just stay ahead of an increasingly competitive pack

  • Audi A7 Ultra first drive review

    Audi A7 Ultra first drive review

    First drive
    23 July 2014

    The appeal of the A7, which offers smart looks, refinement and luxury, has now been bolstered by the improved economy of a new Ultra version

  • Lexus NX

    Lexus NX

    Car review
    22 July 2014

    An over-firm ride and a lack of driver engagement detract from the appeal of Lexus's rival to the BMW X3, Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q5