Fleet News

Saab 9-3 Convertible TiD

Review

IN 1986, sales of the first Saab convertible began with a limited run of 400 vehicles for the US market.

Today, 20 years on and more than 240,000 worldwide sales later, the manufacturer has launched a new diesel-engined variant into its 9-3 convertible line-up for the first time to cash in on the growing number of soft-top cars now available with diesel power, such as BMW’s 3-series convertible and the Audi A4 Cabriolet.

The new 150bhp engine, available in Linear and Vector specifications, is offered with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.

It’s the same engine as found in various Vauxhall and Saab cars, offering CO2 emissions of 169g/km and combined fuel economy of 44.8mpg.

The key benefit of slotting this engine into the Saab is to offer lower company car tax bills to drivers, and Saab expects half of its annual UK allocation of 700 cars will go to user-choosers.

And it is easy to see why – the 150bhp TiD diesel will cost a 40% taxpayer £193 a month in benefit-in-kind tax, £38 a month less than the identically-powered 1.8t petrol version.

Saab fleet brand manager Paul Adler said: ‘The new diesel will account for about 10% of 9-3 convertible sales, equating to about 600 to 700 cars and of those, half will go to fleets.

‘The 9-3 is a key part of our portfolio and it is the iconic Saab. The new model will be popular with user-chooser fleets.’

Pricing starts at £25,370 for the Linear model, rising to £27,664 for the top-of-the-range sporting Vector – around £500 more than the 1.8t petrol models.

Behind the wheel

DURING the launch of the diesel Saab 9-3 convertible in the Italian Alps I was to be found enjoying the thrill of open-top motoring in conditions that would render me housebound in the UK for fear of freezing on the spot: minus 8 degrees.

And the experience proved to be great fun – although a thick winter coat and a deer stalker hat prevented icicles reaching places they shouldn’t. Understandably though, we got some strange looks from the locals we passed.

We tested the turbodiesel engine mated to an automatic gearbox. Our route was a mixture of long stretches of motorway interspersed with twisty mountain roads.

On motorways the auto box proved ideal, offering smooth gear changes and good mid-range pull. But when it comes to negotiating mountainside corners, I would prefer the use of a manual gearbox as the auto tended not to kick down enough to provide fast exits out of corners.

As the bright morning sun gradually disappeared behind the clouds, there came a time when the cold got too much so we pulled over and put the roof up. The process takes just 20 seconds and we need not have stopped had we not wanted to – it can be raised or lowered at the push of a button if the car is travelling at less than 20mph.

Build quality is excellent both inside and out and executives are quick to tell you that all models are hand-built at its Austrian manufacturing plant and not constructed using robots. And whether with the roof up or down the new diesel engine is quiet, being almost silent while on the move.

Driving verdict

EXCELLENT build quality, stylish looks and a pleasant ride are what drivers can expect from the Saab 9-3 convertible.

The addition of a diesel engine in the range makes it an even more attractive proposition for user-choosers thanks to lower company car tax bills and the usual diesel benefits of huge amounts of mid-range overtaking power.

Model: 1.9 TiD
Max power (bhp/rpm): 150/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 236/2,000
Max speed (mph): 124 (121)
0-62mph (secs): 10.4 (11.8)
Fuel consumption (mpg): 44.8 (38.2)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 169 (199)
On sale: Now. Prices (OTR): £25,370-£27,664
(Figures in brackets for automatic models)

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  • 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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