Working 9-3 to keep pace with its rivals
German. Spooky reliability and dashboards modelled on your sideboard stood them in good stead for a long time but more recently, big horsepower figures and sharky styling have been relied upon to draw the customers in. The 9-3 TTiD 180bhp model covered here is a variation on this theme, blessed with a twin-turbocharged diesel powerplant and a front end that’s more aggressive than a basket of honey badgers. 180bhp is a useful amount to squeeze from a 1.9-litre diesel engine. Getting big power from a comparatively small capacity engine has helped Saab retain a strong fuel economy showing and keep weight down. This is weight over the front axle too, right where it could have highlighted the shortcomings of a powerful front-wheeldrive car. Saab models of the past often had trouble deploying their hefty bhp outputs effectively. As the turbocharger got into its stride and the wave of torque hit, the front wheels would struggle for grip. Today’s front-wheeldrive 9-3 models effectively overcome these problems with a carefully-honed chassis achieving superior grip and the smooth power delivery of the TTiD unit.
The engine uses a pair of turbochargers working in sequence. A smaller blower spools up quickly to boost pulling power at low revs while the big hitter comes on stream once the engine’s into its stride. It all helps make this 9-3 TTiD an amiable companion for everyday driving.
The latest improved 9-3 inherited its dramatic frontal styling from the Aero X concept car that caused quite a stir at the 2006 Geneva motorshow. It’s definitely not short of aggression and the 9-3’s malevolent front end seems sure to have the desired effect on outside lane dawdlers when it looms up in their rear view mirrors. The 9-3 has been campaigning since 2002 and it’s no longer feeling as fresh as it once did in comparison to the big guns in the compact executive sector. The interior is not without its merits, however, with excellent seats and simple controls.
With a convertible, a saloon and a SportWagon estate, the 9-3 covers a fair bit of ground. Saab are only asking a premium of around £500 over the 160bhp model but even, pricing in the £23,000-£28,000 bracket puts this car directly up against some very stiff competition. Which is why the low running costs are so important.
The 9-3 is showing its age in some key areas when compared to its longstanding German adversaries but the refreshed styling and the car’s core strengths mean it still has something to offer.
Average fuel economy of nearly 63mpg and an 8second 0-60mph sprint are not to be sniffed at.
AGGRESSIVE EDGE: Saab’s latest 9-3 boasts a 180bhp TTiD engine and new styling.