Fleet News

Saab 9-3 2.2 TiD Vector

Review

THERE is a special ritual to becoming a Saab 9-3 driver that made me feel part of a privileged club as I climbed into the new Fleet News long-term test car.

Most drivers will hold the key in their right hand and search under the steering wheel for the slot to start the car.

Tradition states it should be there, but if you think about it logically, it could be anywhere. In the Saab 9-3, the ignition switch is next to the gearlever.

The key itself is a stubby black plastic affair, without a hint of metal in sight - it is all done with electrodes apparently. Just in case, there is a proper key hidden inside.

And it is not just the key that is different. When the handbrake is off, the handle merges into the shape of the transmission tunnel, forming a small arch on one side. The other side is filled with a flimsy-looking blank where the handbrake for left-hand-drive models lives.

Once all this has been sorted out, the dashboard holds some surprises as well. Rising from the transmission tunnel like a plastic mountain is the centre console, holding radio, CD and buttons for the trip computer.

It is topped off by air vents, while the screen offering information from the trip computer and any other information the car can give is set back near the windscreen on top of the dashboard.

The instruments are all clear, with some wonderful Saab touches, such as Night Panel. At night, it can switch off all distracting lights, so only the speedometer is showing. Even that can be adjusted to show 0-90mph only. If you go any faster, the rest of the dial automatically lights up - so I am told!

Car designers often say a vehicle's handshake is the steering wheel and it is vital to get that right, which our Saab does.

At first, the column-mounted indicator stalks felt light and as a result flimsy and cheap, but with use they are a boon - easy to use, more sturdy than first impressions suggest and hosting useful features such as cruise control.

Under the bonnet of our car is a 2.2-litre diesel offering 123bhp and 206lb-ft of torque from 1,500rpm. That equates to 0-60mph in 10.3 seconds and a top speed of 124mph. More importantly it achieves 40 to 60mph in 6.5 seconds - useful for overtaking.

At idle, the engine sounds clattery and when revved hard the traditional harsh diesel note can't be missed, but at cruising speeds it is all but silent.

However, we have had some early problems with the car over the past few hundred miles. The engine management warning light has come on intermittently and restricted performance, recommending that we visit a dealer.

Saab GB was quick and efficient in taking the car to be examined, but there are no signs of a problem, so hopefully its initial niggles have cleared up. We will let you know for the next test.

Our top-of-the-range Vector model has standard 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, traction control, electric heated door mirrors, electric windows, climate control, airbags galore and standard cruise control.

It also has a £1,200 Convenience Pack, including dual electric seats, rain-sensing wipers and parking assistance, along with a £235 heated front seat option.

With CO2 emissions of 177g/km, a driver will pay tax on 22% of the car's P11d value this year, rising to 24% next tax year. With a P11d price of £20,320, plus £1,435 for options, a driver will be a taxed on £4,786, so a 22% tax-payer would be charged £1,052 annually, or £88 a month.

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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