Likeable, but feels a long way off the pace

What is it?

The car you’re looking at is the new Saab 9-3 2.0 XWD. It combines Saab’s 207bhp turbocharged petrol engine with the variable four-wheel drive system previously only available in the V6 Turbo X and 1.9 TTiD models.

What’s it like?

The Saab 9-3 2.0 XWD offers all those commendable Saab qualities of understated image, a comfortable interior, good safety levels and, er, that’s about it.

The 2.0 XWD gets a much more comfortable ride than most other models in the Saab 9-3 range, with good damping and body control making for unruffled progress over most road surfaces, though the occasional deep break in the road can have the car jarring noisily.

And the four-wheel drive system works brilliantly. Even in the harshest of winter conditions the torque-sensing system works unobtrusively to keep the car moving forward.

A limited-slip differential is available as an option, and though it wasn’t fitted to our test car we know from experience with the Turbo X that it works well.

The four-wheel drive also makes the engine’s 221lb ft of torque much more usable than it is in the standard front-wheel drive car, but it’s still no precision tool.

The steering offers little feedback and, though the free-revving engine and XWD system make it a more enjoyable companion than the 1.9 diesel, it still doesn’t encourage spirited driving so much as it does smooth, swift and completely predictable progress.

But the really damning figures are found in the eco bracket – an area in which Saab claims to specialise.

The 2.0-litre engine tested here returns 32.3mpg on the combined cycle and emits 207g/km of CO2. A BMW 320i M Sport not only costs thousands less but will also return a combined figure of 46.3mpg and emit 146g/km of CO2, while offering almost identical performance.

Should I buy one?

We can only recommend the 9-3 XWD if you really have fallen for the Saab’s styling, as there’s little else that its rivals don’t do better. This is a likeable car and a relaxing way to cover distance; but the competition has moved on.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
mistermainman 20 December 2008

Re: Saab 9-3 2.0 XWD

frankpcb wrote:
I don't think women should be writing car reviews, hence her ignorance on the comparison to a BMW, a better comparison would have been to an Audi 2.0 turbo quattro
I really don't think there's room for that type of comment on this thread mate. Everyone else is having a good old fashioned thrash about the article, which I was thoroughly enjoying until your frankly offensive remark (even being a male myself).

Fair enough if you don't agree with the whole BMW/Saab comparasion, but that's just totally uncalled for.

MrTrilby 18 December 2008

Re: Saab 9-3 2.0 XWD

Colonel Snappy wrote:
The 116i and 318i drive beautifully

Have you actually driven a 116i? They're hateful. The 120d and 130i are both huge fun in very different ways, but the 116i is just broken. The steering, gearbox and engine all seem to have been designed by completely different people who never spoke to each other, and the car just doesn't drive right, at any speed. I have to agree that low spec/engined BMWs are just rubbish and you might as well have a Vectra in drag. The higher specced ones are just superb though.

jonfortwo 18 December 2008

Re: Saab 9-3 2.0 XWD

I love Saabs and i am no great fan of BMW`s but..................

Saabs have always been fast and comfortable, BMW`s fast and sporting........

If SAAB (or should I say GM!) decide that SAAB are going to do fast and sporting then they are going to be put up against BMW for comparison.

How exactly can a last generation Vauxhall chassis, considered average at its introduction, ever hope to compete with a bespoke german rear drive chassis.....its such a nonsense.

Gm never have, and never will, understand the SAAB brand.

....and some of the best drivers i know are women who drive BMW`s