Fleet News

Saab 9-3 1.9 TiD 150 Airflow

Review

WORKING on the basis that ‘what the customer wants, the customer gets’, Saab has launched a whole new family of cars within its 9-3 range.

Available exclusively to corporate buyers, the Airflow models offer the kind of benefits that aspiring young executives want – namely the fact that it looks sporty and won’t hit them too badly in the pocket.

Essentially, sporty is what company car drivers want most these days – you only have to ask Audi and BMW and they will tell you that respectively S line and M Sport are the biggest sellers in their line-ups.

So Saab is getting in on the act, although don’t get the impression that Airflow means ultimate performance.

What this trim level is all about is making a 9-3 Airflow look better than a standard model, adding extra kit and cutting the price by nearly £1,000.

This trim is available on saloon and SportWagon bodystyles and with a choice of four engines – 1.8 and 1.8 turbo petrols and two TiD turbodiesels offering either 120 or 150bhp.

The TiD 120 will be the biggest seller in the range, but we’re testing the faster model available in 150bhp guise.

Although it has a lot more power, it doesn’t give away too much to its stablemate in more prosaic areas – fuel economy is down to 48.7mpg combined compared to 52.3, while CO2 rises from 147g/km to 157.

Even so, the 150bhp model still falls into a low 21% benefit-in-kind tax band. And with a low front-end price, and extra equipment added as standard such as dual-zone climate control and an MP3-compatible stereo, drivers can enjoy a well-specced car for relatively little a month.

But what drivers will be most interested in is the exterior additions – 17-inch alloy wheels, colour-coded door handles and deeper front and rear spoilers which make the Airflow model stand out more from lesser models.

Despite the addition of larger alloy wheels and lower-profile tyres, the 9-3 still blends comfort and involving handling.

It’s not as firm as an A4 S line or 3-series M Sport, but it does a good job of making this 9-3 feel sporty.

The diesel engine under the bonnet is the familiar General Motors unit and is a cracker – frugal and offering strong pulling power from low down the rev range. It can be noisy, though.

The Airflow cars also benefit from the interior revisions that apply to all new 9-3s.

This means a far better looking interior than before, with a more premium feel, too.

Together, the changes give the 9-3 family a fresh appeal in the fleet arena and help it capitalise on the ‘semi-premium’ sector just above the volume offerings.

The lowdown

P11D value: £19,707
CO2 emissions (g/km): 157
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 21%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 12
Combined mpg: 48.7
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £6,175/31%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k) £446

We like:

 

  • Running costs
  • Driver tax bills
  • Sporty looks
  • Upgraded interior

    We don’t like

     

  • Lowest RV
  • Noisy engine

    THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER

     

  • Alfa Romeo 159 1.9 JTDM Turismo
  • Audi A4 2.0 TDI
  • Volvo S40 2.0D SE

    P11D PRICE

    AIRFLOW spec brings 17-inch alloy wheels and sports bodystyling to the 9-3 to make it look more attractive in the company car park. It also costs nearly £1,000 less than the Linear model it is based on. The base-spec Audi looks very expensive in this company.

    9-3: £19,707
    159: £20,322
    S40: £20,467
    A4: £22,197

    EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES

    THE Volvo just sneaks into the lowest benefit-in-kind tax here and will cost a 22% taxpayer £75 a month in company car tax. The Saab is a band higher, but its lower front-end price keeps the bill at £76 a month. The Alfa Romeo will cost £78 and the Audi £85 a month.

    S40: 154g/km/20%
    9-3: 157g/km/21%
    159: 159g/km/21%
    A4: 159g/km/21%

    SMR COST

    THE Volvo is well behind in this sector thanks to much higher labour rates. This leaves the others closely matched, although it is the Audi which takes victory – costing £2,100 to service, maintain and repair over three years/60,000 miles thanks to its variable service programme.

    A4: 3.48 (pence per mile) £2,088 (60,000 mile total)
    159: 4.15 £2,490
    9-3: 4.20 £2,520
    S40: 6.03 £3,618

    FUEL COST

    BOTH the Saab and Volvo are claimed to return an average of 48.7mpg on the combined cycle, resulting in a likely diesel spend of around £5,000 over 60,000 miles. The Audi lags behind on 47.1mpg, costing around £600 more over the same period than the Saab.

    9-3: 8.57 (ppm) £5,142 (60,000 mile total)
    S40: 8.57 £5,142
    159: 8.87 £5,322
    A4: 9.64 £5,784

    DEPRECIATION COST

    ALTHOUGH the Saab has the lowest residual value prediction of this quartet, it wins this section thanks to having the lowest P11D price. CAP estimates the 9-3 will retain 31% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, compared with 33% for the 159 and S40 and 37% for the A4.

    9-3: 22.55 (ppm) £13,530 (60,000 miles total)
    159: 22.62 £13,572
    A4: 22.74 £13,644
    S40: 22.86 £13,716

    WHOLELIFE COST

    THE Saab leads the way on front-end price, fuel costs and loses the least money in depreciation, resulting in victory here. It will cost a fleet just under £21,200 to run over three years/60,000 miles – nearly £200 less than the second-placed Alfa. The Volvo is £1,300 adrift.

    9-3: 35.32 (ppm) £21,192 (60,000 mile total)
    159: 35.64 £21,384
    A4: 35.86 £21,516
    S40: 37.46 £22,476

    VERDICT

    FOR drivers graduating from a volume offering into this ‘semi-premium’ sector, the choice comes down to two cars – the Saab and Alfa Romeo. The Volvo is too expensive on wholelife costs, while the Audi feels sparse in this entry-level trim. Both the 9-3 and 159 put up a strong case for themselves for fleet managers and drivers.

    But it is the Saab, with its recently revamped interior bringing quality up a notch or two, which just sneaks the win thanks to its slightly lower running costs and driver tax bills.

     

  • WINNER: Saab 9-3 1.9 TiD 150 Airflow

     

     

  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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