Fleet News

Saab 9-5 2.0t Arc estate

Review

THE Swedes must laugh at us Brits in winter. As soon as the temperature falls below one degree centigrade, the whole country gets its collective motoring knickers in a twist and runs around as though the end of the world is nigh.

While we are all panicking, crashing and breaking down, the Swedes just plug on regardless as the snow descends and the ice sets.

So as the weather got bad over Christmas, what better way to brave the elements than in a Swedish car, especially as I don't have the luxury of a garage outside my city centre home.

As Boxing Day dawned, the Saab was covered in a thick layer of ice, but thanks to some clever jiggery pokery with the heating system - which I don't profess to understand - within minutes the screens were all clear and the car had warmed up nicely.

And with ABS brakes and traction control, driving in the most arduous conditions has not once given me the slightest cause for concern.

This Saab feels as though it has been built to tackle anything and you've only got to look around Britain's roads to see how many old Saabs are still running to realise just how strong they are. This is my second spell in the 9-5 and I specifically asked to take its keys over Christmas as I had an aged father to ferry about, together with a mountain of Christmas presents. Father found the car easy to get in and out of and needless to say, the cavernous rear swallowed all the goodies with acres of room to spare.

In my last test (Fleet News November 15, 2001), I praised the 9-5 for its build quality and generally pleasing driving experience but second time around I have begun to appreciate the smaller, finer points that I missed first time round.

The coffee cup holder built into the dashboard is a work of art in itself. It starts in an upright position, but press it gently and it folds outwards on a damped spring, gracefully curving through 90 degrees to lie flat. You have to see it to appreciate it. Then there are the sun visors - two on each side, so when you fold the first one out to stop sunlight dazzling you from the side screen, there is another to protect you from intrusion in the front screen. Simple enough, I grant you, but how many other cars offer this facility?

Other items worthy of mention are the little plastic clip in the windscreen which serves as an ideal holder for my residents' parking permit and the small document holder situated under the driver's knees on the front of the seat. Such attention to detail goes to show just how much thought has gone into the construction of this car.

My only major complaint with it is the same as in my last test - namely the ignition system which means you have to leave the car in reverse to get the key out. When starting up in the morning, you have to depress the clutch or the car lurches backwards into whatever happens to be behind. The other day, the clutch-dipping manoeuvre slipped my mind and I ended up cracking the front number plate on my neighbour's car. Quite how Saab thinks this is a safety feature is beyond me.

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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