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Saab 9-3 2.0t


TURBOCHARGING is one of Saab's fortes - for more than two decades its naturally aspirated products have taken on a new lease of life, and usually a lift in public image, after being given a helping of unnaturally assisted power. The Swedish manufacturer has now replaced the 2.3-litre petrol engine in the 9-3 with a boosted Ecopower 2.0-litre unit. And, to quote colleague Mike Gunnell who has a 9-3 2.0 Ecopower on long term appraisal, what a difference it makes.

Actually, there isn't much extra in terms of maximum power output and torque - a rise of 3% and 4% respectively to 154bhp at 5,500rpm and 162 lb-ft of torque at 3,600rpm. But where the four-cylinder Ecopower 2.0t makes the jump from chalk to cheese in this premium upper medium car is how it delivers that power and torque: smoothly and with strength. The 2.3 was never gutless, just uninspiring. Ecopower, on the other hand, is a great engine. It's quick, but quiet; gutsy, but refined.

Boost pressure is regulated at a mild 0.4 bar and the light pressure turbocharger operates from low engine speeds, which means better mid-range performance without having to shift down the gearbox as frequently as one would with a 'natural', and without the whack-in-the-back of a high pressure turbo. With a five-speed manual in the five-door model, combined fuel consumption is 30.1mpg, top speed 134mph and 0-60mph acceleration time 8.2 seconds.

Availability is across the range in five-door saloon, three-door coupe and convertible body styles and two trims - S and SE, with on-the-road prices from ú19,645. The other 9-3 engines are a naturally aspirated 2.0i with 130bhp and priced from ú16,645, the 115bhp 2.2 TiD from ú18,145, a 185bhp 2.0 Turbo starting at ú22,995 and the flagship 200bhp 2.0-litre Turbo Sport delivering 146mph and 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds from ú27,450 on-the-road.

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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