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.

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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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