Review: SAAB 9-3 Convertible (2003 – 2011)

Rating:

Vastly better to drive than the previous version. Superb seats. Excellent crash test rating. A lot of convertible for your money.

A 3 Series convertible offers a sharper drive. Oil change is recommended every 5k miles on 4-cylinder Saab petrol engines.

Recently Added To This Review

23 May 2017

Complaint that when timing belt of SAAB 9-3 1.9TiD convertible was replaced prior to purchase at 69,000 miles in October 2016, the waterpump was not also replaced. This then seized in May 2017, throwing... Read more

19 December 2015

Seems to be a problem with the Takata automatic tensioning cable in the drivers’ side seat-belt retractor that could break, meaning the seat belt would not retract. NHTSA recall of 28,789 SAAB... Read more

1 July 2014

NHTSA recall of 28,789 SAAB 9-3 convertibles in the USA because the Takata automatic tensioning cable in the drivers’ side seat-belt retractor could break, meaning the seat belt would not retract.... Read more

SAAB 9-3 Convertible (2003 – 2011): At A Glance

If you've got the money you have three new soft tops to spend it on: The new Audi Cabrio, the new Mercedes CLK Cabrio and now the new SAAB 9-3 convertible.

Add the BMW 3-Series and the Volvo C70 to your soft topping list and there's plenty of choice out there.

Like the CLK, the improvements in the new SAAB are so huge they instantly push the old model past its sell-by date. Access cards and the old SAAB 9-3s were both your flexible friends. Potholes and traffic harming measures rattled their composure to such an extent you could feel the structure twisting and squirming. This didn't do much for the Cavalier handling of the car either, turning a severe understeerer into a game of scrabble when seriously pressing on.

You get none of that with the new 9-3 convertible. Instead of being based on an old Vauxhall it sits on the brand new Epsilon floorpan jointly developed by SAAB and Vauxhall engineers with a convertible version in mind. The structure is then stiffened immensely.

SAAB 9-3 Convertible 2003 Road Test

What does a SAAB 9-3 Convertible (2003 – 2011) cost?

SAAB 9-3 Convertible (2003 – 2011): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 4635–4668 mm
Width 1762–1780 mm
Height 1435–1437 mm
Wheelbase 2675 mm

Full specifications

As usual, the seats are superb. They and the steering wheel are almost infinitely adjustable so you achieve almost instant comfort. And SAAB has gone one step smarter than Mercedes here. The seat belts are built into the seats, so are easy to get hold of. They don't have to be handed to you by electric arms as in the CLK.

If it suddenly starts to rain, the thick good-looking top goes up in around 20 seconds, pretty much the same as the CLK cabrio. That automatically raises the SAAB's stowage compartment floor, increasing boot capacity from 235 litres to 356 litres. But obviously you can't put the top down when the boot is full of your holiday luggage.

You can carry bits on the back, though. An accessory boot spoiler doubles up as a ski/boogie board holder as you can see in one of the photos. Though top-up visibility is improved with a larger glass rear window and this is very much an all weather car, the interior is snug rather than bright and airy like the Mercedes.

Child seats that fit a SAAB 9-3 Convertible (2003 – 2011)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the SAAB 9-3 Convertible (2003 – 2011) like to drive?

SAAB was so confident it had done the job, our test was to drive over the cobbled city centre of Copenhagen, then go for a cross country open road blast. Our top of the range 210bhp Sentronic automatic Aero was so composed over the cobblestones and so sweet in city traffic, we were only conscious it was a convertible by the sky over our heads. It was pleasant, relaxing; the perfect city and suburban convertible, giving no hint of that 210bhp under its bonnet.

Out in the country, the Sentronic steering wheel buttonshift 5-speed autobox impressed me as much as the car's composure and handling. It's very easy indeed to downshift to overtake without taking your hands from the wheel. And if you then find you've dialled in just a little bit too much speed for the next corner you can judiciously left foot brake to achieve better turn-in without turnin' a drama into a crisis. Should you do something totally daft and completely roll the car, two strong steel roll bars pop up behind the back seats to protect everybody's heads.

We also tried the less powerful 175bhp 2.0t Vector model, again an automatic but without the Sentronic steering wheel shifters. It's still a good car, plenty powerful enough for most of us and with a slightly softer ride than the Aero which most convertible buyers will probably prefer. The lack of steering wheel buttons wasn't too much of a come-down either because though the Tiptronic shift is the wrong way round, it still works very well and, if you forget to shift down when you should have done, it does the job for you.

SAAB talked about value for money. You actually get more car in the SAAB than you do from Audi or BMW or Mercedes. In some cases, speccing a BMW 3 Series to the same level as a SAAB could cost you more than £7,000 more. And that, as well as the charisma of the car, is why SAAB expects to lead the premium convertible market in a few years time.

SAAB has done before, so this is no idle claim, and we do buy a lot of convertibles. Only now we don't have to be a bit soft topped to buy one.If you've got the money you have three new soft tops to spend it on: The new Audi Cabrio, the new Mercedes CLK Cabrio and now the new SAAB 9-3 convertible.
Add the BMW 3-Series and the Volvo C70 to your soft topping list and there's plenty of choice out there.

Like the CLK, the improvements in the new SAAB are so huge they instantly push the old model past its sell-by date. Access cards and the old SAAB 9-3s were both your flexible friends. Potholes and traffic harming measures rattled their composure to such an extent you could feel the structure twisting and squirming. This didn't do much for the Cavalier handling of the car either, turning a severe understeerer into a game of scrabble when seriously pressing on.

You get none of that with the new 9-3 convertible. Instead of being based on an old Vauxhall it sits on the brand new Epsilon floorpan jointly developed by SAAB and Vauxhall engineers with a convertible version in mind. The structure is then stiffened immensely.

SAAB was so confident it had done the job, our test was to drive over the cobbled city centre of Copenhagen, then go for a cross country open road blast. Our top of the range 210bhp Sentronic automatic Aero was so composed over the cobblestones and so sweet in city traffic, we were only conscious it was a convertible by the sky over our heads. It was pleasant, relaxing; the perfect city and suburban convertible, giving no hint of that 210bhp under its bonnet.

As usual, the seats are superb. They and the steering wheel are almost infinitely adjustable so you achieve almost instant comfort. And SAAB has gone one step smarter than Mercedes here. The seat belts are built into the seats, so are easy to get hold of. They don't have to be handed to you by electric arms as in the CLK.

Out in the country, the Sentronic steering wheel buttonshift 5-speed autobox impressed me as much as the car's composure and handling. It's very easy indeed to downshift to overtake without taking your hands from the wheel. And if you then find you've dialled in just a little bit too much speed for the next corner you can judiciously left foot brake to achieve better turn-in without turnin' a drama into a crisis. Should you do something totally daft and completely roll the car, two strong steel roll bars pop up behind the back seats to protect everybody's heads.

If it suddenly starts to rain, the thick good-looking top goes up in around 20 seconds, pretty much the same as the CLK cabrio. That automatically raises the SAAB's stowage compartment floor, increasing boot capacity from 235 litres to 356 litres. But obviously you can't put the top down when the boot is full of your holiday luggage.

You can carry bits on the back, though. An accessory boot spoiler doubles up as a ski/boogie board holder as you can see in one of the photos. Though top-up visibility is improved with a larger glass rear window and this is very much an all weather car, the interior is snug rather than bright and airy like the Mercedes.

We also tried the less powerful 175bhp 2.0t Vector model, again an automatic but without the Sentronic steering wheel shifters. It's still a good car, plenty powerful enough for most of us and with a slightly softer ride than the Aero which most convertible buyers will probably prefer. The lack of steering wheel buttons wasn't too much of a come-down either because though the Tiptronic shift is the wrong way round, it still works very well and, if you forget to shift down when you should have done, it does the job for you.

SAAB talked about value for money. You actually get more car in the SAAB than you do from Audi or BMW or Mercedes. In some cases, speccing a BMW 3 Series to the same level as a SAAB could cost you more than £7,000 more. And that, as well as the charisma of the car, is why SAAB expects to lead the premium convertible market in a few years time.

SAAB has done before, so this is no idle claim, and we do buy a lot of convertibles. Only now we don't have to be a bit soft topped to buy one.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.8t 33–37 mpg - 176–206 g/km
1.8t Automatic 31 mpg - 209 g/km
1.8t BioPower 33–37 mpg - 176–206 g/km
1.8t BioPower Automatic 31 mpg - 209 g/km
1.9 TiD 40–51 mpg - 145–189 g/km
1.9 TTiD 160 54 mpg 10.4 s 137 g/km
1.9 TTiD 160 Automatic 46 mpg 10.7 s 162 g/km
1.9 TTiD 180 54 mpg 9.1 s 137 g/km
1.9 TTiD 180 Aero 54 mpg 9.1 s 137 g/km
1.9 TTiD 180 Aero Automatic 46 mpg 9.5 s 162 g/km
1.9 TTiD 180 Automatic 46 mpg 9.5 s 162 g/km
2.0t 33–38 mpg 8.3 s 173–203 g/km
2.0T Aero 36–38 mpg 7.3 s 173–179 g/km
2.0T Aero Automatic 34 mpg - 214 g/km
2.0T Aerp Automatic 33 mpg 9.2 s 199 g/km
2.0T Automatic 33 mpg 9.9 s 199 g/km
2.0t BioPower 36 mpg - 186 g/km
2.8 V6 Aero 28 mpg - 242 g/km

Real MPG average for a SAAB 9-3 Convertible (2003 – 2011)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

89%

Real MPG

22–53 mpg

MPGs submitted

132

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the SAAB 9-3 Convertible (2003 – 2011)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Why are the brake lights flickering on my SAAB 9-3 Convertible when the engine management light shows?

I have a 2006 diesel SAAB 9-3 Convertible that showed a 'limited performance' message from engine management and then the brake lights flickered. Although the engine management warning light comes on I am not limited to 40mph. However, rpm seems sluggish and I cannot use cruise control. 7/10 times the warning comes up and sometimes resets itself. The switch under the brake pedal has been replaced and makes no difference. All the brake lights have been removed one by one and this makes no difference. I have no idea what is causing this annoying fault. There doesn't seem to be any damp or wet in the fuse boxes either.
The symptoms suggest that the EGR is clogged up and needs replacing.
Answered by Honest John
More Questions

What do owners think?

Our view gives your our opinion, based on driving hundreds of cars every year, but you can't beat the views of someone who lives with a car day-in, day out.

  • 5 star 67%
  • 4 star 17%
  • 3 star 17%
  • 2 star
  • 1 star

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