15 December 2003

Saab has lifted the lid on its new entry-level 9-2X. The 'Saabaru', so nicknamed because it is based on Subaru's Impreza wagon, will start at under $25,000 (£14,500) when it goes on sale in the USA and Canada on 1 July after an LA show debut.

Other markets - including the UK - are under consideration, but a decision is unlikely before next year. 'There's a 50-50 chance,' said a senior Saab source. 'The European market is keen to have 9-2X, though with no diesel option there are limitations. We would probably treat it as a niche model, offering only the Aero.'

The forthcoming Volvo V50 and BMW 1-series are among the cars in Saab's sights in what it dubs the 'premium sports compact' sector, and the 9-2X gets a head start with four-wheel-drive and all-alloy flat-four engines.

The base Linear features a 165bhp 2.5 and the range-topping Aero a 227bhp 2.0 turbo that propels it from rest to 60mph in a shade over 6.0sec. Both models come with either five-speed manual or four-speed auto 'boxes.

Despite a Saab-style makeover, the 9-2X's Impreza roots are clearly recognisable. Under the skin, the suspension has been tuned by Saab engineers in a bid to retain the Subaru's impressive handling while reducing some harshness in the ride.

Generous kit includes CD player, cruise and climate control, alloy wheels, electric windows and mirrors, front and side airbags up front and active head restraints.

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