Neither as refined nor as good to drive as its rivals, but more comfortable

Our Verdict

Saab 9-3 Sportwagon

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

18 September 2007

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

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