Saab 9-3 Coupe 1998 - 2002

Saab 9-3 Coupe 1998 - 2002

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • Elegant design
  • High-performance turbo model
  • Good build quality and safety
  • Decent boot space


  • Suspension still not perfect


Although the 9-3 looks almost identical to the older SAAB 900, it was in fact almost a completely new car. The Swedish designers claimed that they had made more than a thousand improvements on the older 900. Just like the new generation 900, the 9-3 was based on the popular General Motors Epsilon platform, the same platform used for Vauxhall Vectra and Cadillac BLS.

Exterior and Interior

The index 9-3 is homage to the famous Swedish industrial designer Sixten Sason who designed the famous SAAB 93 in early 1950s. The car’s philosophy hasn’t changed a lot in 50 years, it’s a compact hatchback offering great safety features and superior handling. The 9-3 design is a slight improvement from the model 900 with smoother lines, a more modern grille and improved body-colour front and rear bumpers. The classic look of the SAABs has attracted a substantial number of enthusiasts and the 9-3 didn’t disappoint in this area. It looks like a SAAB and could be recognised instantly as part of the brand. Just like all the previous compact SAABs, the 9-3 is not available as a sedan, only as a hatchback and cabriolet. SAABs are usually built to a high quality standard and the same can be said about the 9-3. The classic interior features the best materials and is put together really well. The bi-colour theme and the tidy control layout helps to makes it look really elegant. The hatchback offers comfortable seating for five while the cabrio is a 4-seater.

Performance and Economy

It is advisable to choose the 2.0-litre turbo version. The naturally aspirated engine simply doesn’t make any sense as its got 20bhp less, it’s rather reluctant to accelerate and offers only 28mpg. The turbo helps the engine be more efficient by both improving the power output and fuel-economy. Thus, the 2.0-litre turbo helps the car accelerate from 0 to 60mph in 8 seconds and returns 33mpg. For even more economy, choose the 2.2-litre diesel that can offer up to 45mpg and considering that it has got over 100bhp, it is still pretty dynamic. SAABs have always been expensive, but the enthusiasts know what they’re paying for: it’s quality, power and safety. Buying a used SAAB 9-3 is not cheap as SAAB’s tend to hold their value. It’s also not the cheapest car when it comes to maintenance and servicing.

Like to Drive

Out of the thousand modifications made to the new model, a substantial number were applied to the suspension. SAABs of the early 90s were often accused of lower than average handling abilities. The engineers were trying to solve it in this model and to a certain extent they succeeded. The car possesses a good ride quality. It performs well both on smooth and bumpy roads. The turbo model offers great dynamic features and the owner is guaranteed good time behind the wheel.

Faults and Repairs

The turbo engines, although exciting when you put the foot down, are prone to cooling-related problems if not cared for properly. SAAB is a difficult car to maintain, but if maintained properly, it has a very long lifespan. A sophisticated car like this should come with a full service history, so that you can evaluate what repair work has been carried out and if the car has seen the maintenance it deserves. Knowing the inherited suspension problems that all SAABs have to a larger or lesser extent, the suspension of a used SAAB 9-3 should be thoroughly checked. The SAAB being the legend that it is means that there are many enthusiasts and specialist services around, so there’s no need to service the car with the official dealer outlets, which are usually very expensive.