And after more than 3,000 miles in the 9-3 Sportwagon, I’m getting to know it pretty well. The 1.9-litre TiD diesel engine is still proving to be frugal, achieving well over 40mpg which would put it in the good books of most fleet managers. The 9-3’s load-bearing capabilities are also turning out to be useful – it’s already been on a family trip to Scotland, completed a house move and endured several Christmas shopping trips all with ease.
The boot space also has a floor which handily folds upwards to form a useful box to hold shopping bags and other items that often end up rolling around in the boot.
Mind you, I am finding it a constant struggle to open the boot lid. Click the switch on the key fob and the boot unlocks – but it takes more than a firm hand to actually open the rear hatch.
Even a couple of burly colleagues have had the same trouble. I’ll keep an eye on it and if it doesn’t improve, the car may have to pay a visit to the local Saab dealer.
The satellite navigation option, which is part of the £1,660 infotainment package, gets you from A to B without choosing the most obscure route possible, like some systems. It provides clear instructions and is simple to operate, although even on the largest screen view the map does not include street names, which could be a useful addition. Also, when driving after dark, the screen is a little too bright.
There is also a night dimmer switch as part of the satellite navigation system but it resets back to a bright setting when changing screens.
Saab has added a ‘night vision’ switch on the centre console which, when pressed, eliminates many of the lights on the dash and around the speedometer.
This seems to take you from one extreme to the other – extremely bright to nothing. It has also made me realise how often I look at the clock.
The ignition, unlike most cars, is in the centre console next to the handbrake which is flanked by a silver surround.
It looks great but as the bunch of keys attached to the car fob slide over the surround at every corner and turn it doesn’t sound so great. Metal sliding on metal has forced me to remove the house keys and carry two separate lots around.
These niggles could sound petty but for a fleet driver covering hundreds of miles a week they could soon begin to become an annoyance. Adele Burton
Model: Saab 9-3 SportWagon 1.9 TiD 150 Vector Sport
Price (OTR): £23,495 (£26,464 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 164
Company car tax bill (2005) 40% tax-payer: £151 a month
Insurance group: 12
Combined mpg: 46.3
Test mpg: 43.1
CAP Monitor residual value: £8,475/36%
Expenditure to date: Nil
Typical contract hire rate: £418