It took until its final week on our fleet and was aided by the trip computer being reset while the engine was warm, but our Saab 9-3 Sportwagon finally broke the 50mpg barrier, and achieved within 20% of the official fuel consumption figure.
The mid-50s mpg reading was achieved on the last long journey for the 9-3 – a round-trip to Gatwick Airport, taking its mileage over four months or so to 7,300.
So what can our stint with the 9-3 Sportwagon tell us about what Saab offers fleets? Well, it’s still an attractive car despite undergoing minimal styling changes since the Sportwagon was launched in 2005 (the 9-3 saloon went on sale in the UK in 2002), and the sub-120g/km for manual diesels in both saloon and Sportwagon (for 2012 model year) ticks an important box for drivers and fleet operators.
It means, for now, the lowest BIK tax rate for conventional engine cars at 13%, which is also good news for employers’ Class 1A National Insurance contributions.
But compared with cars like the Volvo V60, Honda Accord Tourer, Volkswagen Passat estate and Vauxhall Insignia Sport Tourer, the Saab certainly feels its age. It’s cramped in the rear (although the seats are very comfortable), while some of the Saab ‘quirkiness’ doesn’t always work.
Its unusual handbrake design is ideal for trapping thumbs, and in the many 9-3s I’ve driven over the past nine years, I’ve never seen one that lines up flush with the inset part of the centre console where it’s supposed to sit when released.
To be fair these are relatively minor complaints, and in terms of performance (with the caveat that it’s very difficult to replicate the official combined mpg figure of 62.8mpg) the Saab still compares well with rivals.
Over recent months the future of the Saab brand has seemed shaky, but now with vital funding from future owners beginning to come through, it means the 9-3 and 9-5 should begin production again soon, and last week pictures of the 2013 Saab 9-3 saloon – developed independently of former parent company General Motors – were leaked.
The company still has tough times ahead, but for now the future seems more assured thanks to the decent new 9-5 and the next 9-3 in the pipeline.