What's New for 2002
The base 9-3 three- and five-door models have been replaced by a value-priced SE five-door. High-performance Viggen models get a new interior color and a carbon-fiber instrument panel.
The 9-3 has soldiered on as Saab's entry-level sedan for years now, and with a major redesign in the works for the '03 model, the 9-3 gets only minor changes for 2002. The base two- and four-door hatchbacks have been dropped in favor of a single value-priced four-door SE hatchback. The 205-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder remains along with the standard five-speed manual transmission; a four-speed automatic is optional. New 16-inch wheels and an exterior body kit spruce up the outside, while a power driver's seat, sunroof and a wood-grained instrument panel liven up the interior. In commemoration of Saab's 25 years of turbo engine technology, SEs also get special leather and cloth seats embossed with "Turbo" lettering and leather door panels.
The two-door SE convertible remains in the lineup for 2002. It gets all the same upgrades as the SE five-door, in addition to an optional Sport package that includes 17-inch wheels, rear spoiler and a sport steering wheel. The high-performance Viggen models return, as well, boasting 230-horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque from their 2.3-liter turbocharged powerplants. Available as a two- or four-door hatchback, or two-door convertible, the Viggen not only serves up high performance, it gives you the tools to appreciate it by including a free trip to Saab's exclusive Viggen Flight Academy high-performance driving school.
All 9-3 models feature Saab's patented pendulum-design B-pillar, which deflects side impacts away from head and chest areas; the world's first head-restraint system to reduce the risk of whiplash-type injuries; and seat-mounted two-stage inflating head-and-chest side airbags.
The Saab 9-3 is a fun-to-drive, equipment-laden near-luxury car. While it is a good car in its own right, the problem is that there are plenty of better cars in the 9-3's price class. If you're looking for something different from a run-of-the-mill Euro sedan, the 9-3's added dose of personality might work for you. However, if you want the best entry-level luxury sedan for 2002, you'll need to look elsewhere.