It was dark at the time too, which made finding the appropriate repository for the key even more perplexing.
After five minutes of unsuccessful searching, I reluctantly admitted defeat and phoned those smug colleagues of mine to find out that the keyhole is actually next to the handbrake, between the seats.
I suppose that’s marginally better than on the left behind the steering wheel, which is where manufacturers such as Volvo seem to have taken to locating the ignition. I don’t know what’s wrong with the tried-and-tested right-hand port we’re all accustomed to. I sometimes wonder if designers are just trying to justify their existence.
Despite that unpromising start, the Saab and I are now good friends. Previous long-term tester Tony Toma praised its 1.9 TiD engine, adding: ‘It’s all down to the lovely torque that comes to a head with dramatic effect at 1,800rpm, with very little tail-off until close on 4,000rpm.’
He also admired the Saab’s ‘clever ReAxs multi-link active rear axle design’, which he said resulted in crisp steering responses and an eager turn-in to corners.
I fully endorse his conclusions and am also delighted at the 9-3’s fuel economy.
Following my stint in our thirsty Nissan Primera diesel that struggled to reach 30mpg, I’m thrilled to find myself needing to fill up far less often – the Saab is turning in nearly 50mpg with no adverse effect on performance.
Our previous tester admitted to being a little ‘enthusiastic’ in his driving so failed to reach Saab’s published combined mpg but I’ve just managed to match that figure exactly.
Model: Saab 9-3 Vector 1.9 TiD 150
Price (OTR): £21,845
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
Company car tax bill (2004/5) 40% tax-payer: £130 per month
Insurance group: 11
Combined mpg: 47.9
Test mpg: 47.9
CAP Monitor residual value: £7,950/37%
HSBC contract hire rate: £373
Expenditure to date: Nil