2006 Saab 9-3 Review | Edmunds.com

2006 Saab 9-3

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Saab 9-3 Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.0 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 210 hp @ 5500 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 20/28 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2006 Saab 9-3

  • Roomy and fun to drive, the 2006 Saab 9-3 is a solid buy among entry-level luxury cars. Just don't expect the razor-sharp reflexes and highly refined interiors of its German and Japanese competitors.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Handles well for a front-drive car, frugal yet powerful engines, generous passenger room, class-leading trunk space, excellent crash test scores.

  • Cons

    Suspension should be stiffer on Aero models, ride can be harsh over bumps, interiors lack upscale look and feel, V6's turbo lag.

  • What's New for 2006

    A new wagon body style called the SportCombi has been added to the Saab 9-3 lineup for 2006. Additionally, Aero models get a new, more powerful turbocharged V6, which packs 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Linear and Arc trims have been merged into a single base 2.0T trim, and the Aero's old 210-hp turbo four is standard on this model. Finally, all 9-3s now come with body-colored door handles.

Full 2006 Saab 9-3 Review

What's New for 2006

A new wagon body style called the SportCombi has been added to the Saab 9-3 lineup for 2006. Additionally, Aero models get a new, more powerful turbocharged V6, which packs 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Linear and Arc trims have been merged into a single base 2.0T trim, and the Aero's old 210-hp turbo four is standard on this model. Finally, all 9-3s now come with body-colored door handles.


The 9-3 is one of a long line of small sedans and coupes from Saab. Although Saab has sold cars in the U.S. since the late '50s, it wasn't until the debut of the 900 in 1979 that mainstream car buyers really became aware of the Swedish carmaker. Sales grew throughout the '80s, as the 900's unusual styling and turbo power plants made it an offbeat alternative to the typically staid offerings from Germany. The original 900 enjoyed a long production run of nearly 15 years until it was finally replaced by an all-new version in 1994.

For the 1999 model year, the 900 became the Saab 9-3. Along with the name change came upgrades to the suspension, steering and interior furnishings, as well as a minor exterior freshening. This was also the year that GM took full ownership of the company. Minor enhancements over the next several years kept the Saab 9-3 fresh, but stiff competition in the entry-luxury segment called for an all-new design. The sedan got a roof-to-rubber makeover in 2003, and the convertible followed suit in 2004. For 2006, a wagon called the SportCombi joins the ranks.

Even though Saab's signature hatchback body style is gone, the 9-3 is still easily identifiable as a Saab car because of its familiar body lines to its aircraft-inspired cockpit. The tradition continues under the hood where the 9-3 relies on two turbocharged engines for motivation. There's a base 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 210 hp and a more muscular 2.8-liter, turbocharged V6 capable of 250 hp. Power is sent through the front wheels, but improved steering system design all but erases the torque steer that plagued previous models. When compared to the competition, the Saab 9-3 stacks up favorably as one of the better-handling front-wheel-drive cars on the market. With the arrival of the SportCombi this year, the 9-3's agile handling characteristics may now be enjoyed in a practical sedan, a utility-packed wagon, or a top-down weekend cruiser. The brakes on all three are powerful, and the steering is quick and responsive in the turns. The base turbo feels more powerful than its 210-horsepower rating would suggest, and the 2.8-liter boasts even greater athleticism.

On the inside, the Saab 9-3 offers a modern-looking design and plenty of high-tech features, including a rollover protection system in the convertible. The sedan and SportCombi wagon offer more passenger space than the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, while the trunk is one of the biggest in its class. There's no doubt that the new turbo V6 provides a welcome boost to the 9-3 range, which was previously at a bit of a disadvantage against German and Japanese competitors. Whichever body style you choose, the 2006 Saab 9-3 is a distinctive alternative, with enough performance, style and practicality to keep all the smart money from leaning toward a 3 Series and A4.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The Saab 9-3 is available in sedan, wagon (called the SportCombi) and convertible body styles, all of which come in 2.0T and Aero trim. The 2.0T trim offers full leather seating, a 150-watt stereo, keyless entry, stability control, an eight-way power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and 16-inch alloy wheels. The sporty Aero model adds bolstered sport seats, chrome instrument surrounds and interior trim, a lower body kit, a lowered sport suspension, a 300-watt stereo and 17-inch alloy wheels. Convertibles come with a fully automatic power top. Options across both trims include seat heaters, bi-HID headlights and a DVD-based navigation system.

Powertrains and Performance

Two engines are available on the Saab 9-3. Standard on 2.0T models is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four that makes 210 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. Aero models get a 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 capable of 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. All 2.0T models get a standard five-speed manual gearbox, while Aeros get a six-speed manual. A five-speed automatic with manual-shift capability is optional on 2.0Ts, while Aeros are eligible for a six-speed automatic.


The Saab 9-3 features active head restraints and seat-mounted side torso airbags. The sedan and SportCombi wagon come with full-length side curtain airbags, while convertibles get a rollover protection system that integrates pop-up roll bars, reinforced A-pillars and the front seatbelt pre-tensioners. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and traction and stability control are standard on all models. The Saab car was named a "Best Pick" in frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests conducted by the IIHS.

Interior Design and Special Features

Some climate and stereo controls can be difficult to operate, but a standard "profiler" system allows drivers to program a host of individual settings that can be recalled at the press of a button. The sedan and the wagon are sufficiently roomy, but legroom can be tight for adults seated in the back of the convertible. The Saab 9-3 can carry more than most cars in its class; it offers 15 cubic feet of trunk space in the sedan and 12.4 cubes in the convertible. The wagon offers 14.8 cubic feet of storage space with the backseat up, and 45 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear bench seat folded flat.

Driving Impressions

The 2006 Saab 9-3 is one of the better-handling front-drive cars on the road. A stiff chassis translates into a car that's easy to place in the corners and satisfyingly precise on the highway. Still, we wish the sporty Aero model felt a little sharper when driven aggressively on twisty roads. Both engines deliver a strong pull throughout their power band. The V6 is especially impressive, though it does suffer from turbo lag at low rpm. The automatics downshift quickly but can be slow on upshifts, while the manual transmissions shift just fine but tend to feel rubbery through the gates.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

I miss my swede racer

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Vehicle: 2006 Saab 9-3 Aero 4dr Sedan (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M)

sold my '06 9-3 Aero Aug 2013 & replaced it w/a 2009 2.0T for fuel efficiency & I regret it every day. The 2.0T is plagued w/sensor probs that throw the car into limp home mode. Bought my 2.0T in Nov w/69k miles & it's been in the shop 2X & will be going again next week. I've only put 2500 mi on it. But I digress, this review is for the '06 Aero. The car was perfect for me. Sold it with 116k mi & it was still running beautifully. Needed a new radiator & some minor suspension repairs but the car still moved like it did when i bought it w/31k mi in 2008. Selling the 2.0T to look for another '06 Aero with the button dash. Feel like I gave up a child in August. haha

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

2006 saab aero

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Vehicle: 2006 Saab 9-3 Aero 4dr Sedan (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M)

The car drives beautifully. The ride is firm, sporty firm that is. Some may find it uncomfortable on the cracked roads of Michigan. Performance wise, the car will provide more power than you'll ever need. Don't be surprised if you find yourself driving at 110mph the first week or two you get it. The ride is so smooth you don't even realize you're driving at high speed. The acceleration is simply astonishing. Whether you're already driving at 70 or 30mph you'll feel the same phenomenal pull! I have been able to drive the car on all surfaces and I must say it handles horribly on the snow. I ended up facing the wrong direction when I took a Michigan left (at only 5mph!!!)

12 of 18 people found this review helpful

Oops wrong car.

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Vehicle: 2006 Saab 9-3 Aero SportCombi 4dr Wagon (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M)

Well I got suckered by the lure of a 'Good deal" I needed a cheap family vehicle and I found a 2006 SportCombi Aero with 56K miles for only 11.5K, paid cash and now I know why it was so cheap. It started having problems on the way home from buying the stupid car. It's got this weird surging hesitation under partial throttle. A grinding clanking from the engine, and a weird high pitched whine from the audio system even if it's turned off. This is a one owner dealer maintained car with full service records, so I know it was taken care of. I'm really disappointed because I liked the performance in a car that I don't see dozens of every day. UNIQUE, I like that. Unreliable and broken NOPE.

2 of 20 people found this review helpful

Not safe

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Vehicle: 2006 Saab 9-3 2.0T 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 5M)

While driving at 11:30 pm on a small country (paved) road with my high beams on, my warning system indicated "Left High Beam Failure. About a minute later the left head light was in flames. Within 15 minutes the entire front half/engine of the car was in flames and subsequently burned/melted the entire front half of the car. There were less than 80,000 miles on the car. After month and a half Saab still has not investigated this issue and refuses to acknowledge the issue. I have pictures of the fire that I am happy to share. It was a horrible experience, and I am not sure how Saab can have such reputation for safety.


by on
Vehicle: 2006 Saab 9-3 2.0T 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 5M)

I have had three SAAB's and am currently still driving my 89 900S. What an utter disappointment. I know on paper this car is much better than previous models. Sitting down in the car, my first impression was that I had lost my best friend. The car has none of the charm that my other SAAB's have had. It felt like a gussied up cavalier. None of the materials in the car seemed first rate. With the current financial problems (and I see why, it doesn't feel like a SAAB SAAB) coupled with the not so nice feel of the car, guess I won't be bringing home the next one. I drove the new S60 and it felt more like a SAAB than this car.

Aero convert

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Vehicle: 2006 Saab 9-3 Aero 2dr Convertible (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M)

I bought this car used a year ago and it has been great fun. Sporty and luxurious with lots of convenience features. A solid performer the v6 turbo packs a nice punch and the 6 speed automatic shifts better and quicker than I could, so I never feel required to use the paddle shifters. The variable valve timing really opens up the motor under full throttle as it lets out a ferocious scream. Yet quiet and extremely smooth in typical driving. And Saab stands behind the product, they did a free major repair for me even though the car was 5,000 miles past the warranty period! Massey Saab of Orlando is the best.

Talk About The 2006 9-3

2006 Saab 9-3 Discussions See all Started By

on the SAAB (4K), the Anniversary edition 9-3 is only about $1500 more than a basic 4-door GTI. I drove the SAAB and while nice, not as fun or refined as the GTI (especially the DSG type transmissio...

2006 SAAB 9-3 2.0t Black with grey interior. 11,000+- miles, Auto. $18,900. The warrenty would still be good. What about the free scheduled maintenance?...

9-3 aero sportcombi automatic w/touring pkg and cold weather pkg for $30k. Shame my buyers for my current vehicle were no-shows this weekend. From looking here and other forums, it looks like $30k eve...

Read more about the 2006 Saab 9-3

Gas Mileage


  • 20
  • cty
  • 28
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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