Saab 9-3 Convertible (2003 – 2011) Review

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


+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.

Insurance Groups are between 25–39
On average it achieves 90% of the official MPG figure

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

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


Real MPG

22–53 mpg

MPGs submitted


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.

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Ask Honest John

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

A Saab 9-3 Convertible for a pensioner and dog?

"As a pensioner I am thinking of buying one of the above to do about 3/4k mls pa for fun and hope to keep a long time.Is this a practical proposition and what is the spares situation. Can you possibly suggest anything else I should look at. My budget is £8k and Auto is a MUST and so is petrol due to mileage. It must have 4 seats however small so I can take my dog. My priorities are reliability and low ownership costs and comfort. Thank you"
A friend of mine has one. Presumably you mean the post 2003 model and presumably with a petrol engine? Avoid the 1.9 diesel. They rattle a bit and feel quite old, but they look good and there are lots of independent SAAB specialists throughout the country keeping them going.
Answered by Honest John

After a convertible for around £5000 - any suggestions?

"I am looking to trade up from my Mazda MX-5 to a four seater convertible. My budget is £5000- 6500 and it has to be petrol as I only do 5000 miles a year. Not fussed between manual or auto. I'm not really keen on the folding metal roofs. I've been considering the Saab 9-3, Audi A4, BMW 1 & 3 series and the Mercedes CLK. "
BMW 3 Series were folding hardtops from the E93, so you'd have to go back to an E46 to get a soft top. But 1 Series, A3 and A4 were all canvas. The problem is that they are all electro-hydraulic or pure electric and the system aren't brilliantly reliable. CLK roofs can be particularly expensive to fix. SAAB 9-3 looks good but feel very old and creaky these days.
Answered by Honest John

Buying a convertible for £4k

"I'm thinking about buying a convertible. I want a diesel, preferably an auto, up to about £4000. I have had a few BMW diesel cars in the past and I like the fact that they are reliable and have a cam chain. I don't know too much about the Audi A4, but I do like the style. What would you personally have and what would you recommend?"
I don't recommend a £4000 diesel because you will probably immediately need to spend £4000 - £6000 on a new DPF, turbo, EGR, etc. Get a petrol model. Definitely consider a post-2003 SAAB 9-3, but definitely don't go anywhere near the diesel version.
Answered by Honest John
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