As a scabby-kneed schoolboy, I thought Saabs were cool too, but my favourite had wings: the 37 Viggen fighter. It looked the business – the small delta-shaped winglets ahead of the main wings and its clean functional form, purposeful, without excessive aggression.
The Saab 9-3 TiD is one from that same gene pool – as my two months with the car proved. At its heart, the 1.9 TiD engine has bedded in nicely. Performance is strong. And it’s all down to the lovely torque that comes to a head with dramatic effect at 1,800rpm, with very little tail-off until close on 4,000rpm. It means the TiD engine can pull high gearing – cruising at the motorway legal limit, the tachometer needle is just caressing 2,000rpm.
The 9-3 has already got the thumbs-up for its road behaviour (Fleet NewsNet ‘New Arrival’, January 13) thanks to Saab’s clever ReAxs multi-link active rear axle design. The boffins have engineered a small amount of rear axle steering into the suspension. It results in crisp steering responses and an eager turn-in to corners.
There is a downside – on long, fast motorway bends, a small amount of lateral pitching can be felt, as though ReAxs is unsure whether its response threshold has been reached.
Would it be worth paying out for the optional lowered ‘Sports’ suspension to alleviate this problem? Possibly, but maybe not at the expense of ride comfort.
For all its faultless two-month stint with me, I do have one grievance to air. Why only four very basic speakers to power the ICE? Those at the rear, although neatly hidden behind integrated grilles, are crudely installed and exposed to accidental damage if fully loading the generous boot.
An upgrade to Saab’s Infotainment System (ES1-7) – with seven speakers – wouldn’t break the bank. As it is, even a basic small hatchback’s speaker quota would put our Saab to shame. Thanks to our filthy so-called winter, the 9-3 has had an unquenchable thirst for washer fluid – even with a huge reservoir, twice-weekly refills have been called for.
Oil consumption over 4,862miles has been nil. Fuel consumption has taken a small dip since the last report – average 39.7 mpg – but with all honesty, it’s all due to my exuberance.
Model: Saab 9-3 Vector 1.9TiD 150
Price (OTR): £21,845
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
Company car tax bill (2004/5) 40% tax-payer: £130 per month
Insurance group: 11
Combined mpg: 47.9
Test mpg: 39.7
CAP Monitor residual value: £7,950/37%
HSBC contract hire rate: £373
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles