2010 Saab 9-3 Review | Edmunds.com

2010 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 6-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 207 hp @ 5300 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 20/29 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2010 Saab 9-3

  • The next Saab 9-3 can't get here fast enough. A car that was once a quirky alternative is now just an also-ran in a crowded group of sport sedans. The SportCombi wagon is mildly intriguing, though.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Supportive front seats, wagon's huge cargo area, variety of body styles.

  • Cons

    Underwhelming power and fuel economy, subpar cabin materials and build quality, tech features are missing or antiquated, tight rear seat, ride can get rough, still on the pricey side.

  • What's New for 2010

    Saab is now under new ownership, but more important for consumers is the significant price drop for the 2010 Saab 9-3 sedan, convertible and wagon. Unfortunately, that price drop on the Aero models comes along with the elimination of last year's 280-horsepower V6 engine. New is the 9-3X SportCombi, a wagon model with a higher ride height, an electronic limited-slip differential and unique exterior trim.

Full 2010 Saab 9-3 Review

What's New for 2010

Saab is now under new ownership, but more important for consumers is the significant price drop for the 2010 Saab 9-3 sedan, convertible and wagon. Unfortunately, that price drop on the Aero models comes along with the elimination of last year's 280-horsepower V6 engine. New is the 9-3X SportCombi, a wagon model with a higher ride height, an electronic limited-slip differential and unique exterior trim.

Introduction

Grab the Akvavit and construct your flat-pack Ikea furniture -- Saab is alive! Dutch supercar maker Spyker made a last-minute purchase of the brand in early 2010 before former parent company General Motors shelved Saab for good. Sweden and Holland: It seems like a match made in fair-haired heaven. Yet even if Saab is still alive, its volume-selling product -- the 2010 Saab 9-3 -- is hopelessly stale.

The current 9-3 dates back to 2003, when GM-owned Saab decided to ditch the previous car's unique hatchback design for a more conventional sedan layout to better compete against top sellers like BMW's 3 Series. Unfortunately, it couldn't compete with the BMW in terms of driving dynamics or customer desire; additionally, the 9-3 had been greatly stripped of the uniqueness that served as a selling point. Fast-forward seven years, and the 9-3 has been merely updated while all of its competitors have been completely redesigned.

For 2010, the Saab 9-3 Aero's 280-hp turbocharged V6 has been eliminated and replaced with the base trim's 210-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4. While it's true that Audi also dropped its A4's V6 for 2010, the A4's remaining 2.0T engine has a significant torque and acceleration advantage over the Saab's. Saab points out that the new Aero comes with a price reduction of roughly $5,000, but given that the 9-3 Aero was grossly overpriced to begin with, this doesn't seem like much of a deal.

There is a bright spot, however. The 9-3 SportCombi wagon has always been a more appealing alternative to other entry-level luxury wagons. Its unique styling and copious cargo space are draws, and in Aero trim, it handles reasonably well for a wagon. For 2010, a new trim known as the 9-3X SportCombi also debuts; basically an answer to the Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70, it features a raised ride height, a limited-slip differential and special black lower body cladding.

The current 2010 Saab 9-3 is simply outclassed. Aside from its powertrain, the 9-3 has unimpressive interior quality for the class, a lack of high-tech electronic features and nothing to really make it stand out in a crowded field with such stalwarts as the Audi A4/A5, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, or cheaper premium cars like the Acura TSX, Nissan Maxima and Volkswagen's CC and Eos. Saab may be alive, but its long-term survival likely won't be the result of this 9-3. Thankfully, a new model is expected to arrive in early 2012.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2010 Saab 9-3 is available in sedan, convertible and wagon (SportCombi) body styles. Each is broken into 2.0T and Aero trim levels, while the SportCombi is available in an additional all-wheel-drive trim known as 9-3X. Front-wheel drive is standard on all, but both sedan models can be equipped with all-wheel drive (dubbed XWD).

The base 2.0T sedan comes standard with 16-inch wheels, automatic wipers, cruise control, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seatback, leather upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a seven-speaker stereo with CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The all-wheel-drive 2.0T XWD sedan gets 17-inch wheels, dual exhaust outlets and upgraded brakes. The 9-3X SportCombi also gets those items, plus an elevated ride height, an electronic limited-slip differential and different exterior and interior trim. The 2.0T Convertible gets a power-operated soft top, auto up/down windows and 17-inch wheels.

The Comfort package adds a sunroof, heated front seats, headlamp washers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Premium Sound package on the 2.0T Convertible bundles an 11-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer and satellite radio. The 2.0T Convertible Special Edition package adds xenon headlights, a special leather-wrapped steering wheel and satellite radio. Also optional on all 2.0T models is OnStar, which also includes Bluetooth.

The 9-3 Aero includes the Comfort package and OnStar, plus 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, front foglamps, an eight-way power passenger seat, upgraded leather upholstery, sport seats, different interior trim and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system (optional on the 2.0T sedan and SportCombi) with a six-CD changer and satellite radio. The front-wheel-drive Aero features a sport-tuned suspension, while the Aero XWD (sedan only) gets a limited-slip differential and a self-leveling suspension.

Optional on the Aero is the Premium package, which includes driver memory functions, power-folding and auto-dimming outside mirrors and rear parking sensors. The 9-3X Premium package adds many of the items from the Aero. Eighteen-inch wheels are optional on all 9-3s.

Powertrains and Performance

Every Saab 9-3 is now powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 210 hp and 221 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard on all, while all-wheel drive (XWD) is optional on the sedan models and standard on the 9-3X SportCombi.

On the front-wheel-drive 2.0T models, a six-speed manual is standard and a five-speed automatic is optional. On the XWD sedans and 9-3X, a six-speed automatic is standard. Aero FWD models come standard with a five-speed automatic transmission. The six-speed manual is a no-cost option on all models with a standard automatic.

With the manual and front-wheel drive, the 9-3 sedan and SportCombi return an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. Getting all-wheel drive results in a drop to 17/27/21, while opting for the automatic or convertible returns fuel economy somewhere in between.

Safety

The 2010 Saab 9-3 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, active front head restraints and side airbags. The sedan and SportCombi include side curtain airbags, while the convertible features taller side airbags that cover the head of each front occupant. OnStar is optional on the 2.0T and standard on the Aero.

In government crash tests, the 9-3 sedan and SportCombi received four out of five stars for frontal and side rear crash protection. They got five stars for driver side protection. The convertible was not tested. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 9-3 sedan the best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side crash tests.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Saab 9-3's cabin offers comfortable front seats (especially in the Aero) and good ergonomics, but the quality of the interior materials doesn't measure up to that of competitors in the class. Fit and finish also leaves something to be desired. The sedan and wagon are sufficiently roomy, but rear legroom is limited in the convertible.

Stereo and climate controls are a model of simplicity (a welcome departure from past Saabs), but in a class where topping the other guy's high-tech features is commonplace, the 9-3 is practically standing pat. There's no iPod interface, the navigation system is antiquated, there's no real-time traffic and Bluetooth is packaged with OnStar. At least there are few remaining kooky Saab features, like the console-mounted ignition and the "Night Panel" function that dims most instrument lighting (except most of the speedometer) for nighttime driving.

The Saab 9-3 does carry more cargo than many 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 29.7 cubic feet of storage space with the backseat up and an impressive 72.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat. That's more than most compact crossover SUVs.

Driving Impressions

The Aero's old turbocharged V6 wasn't exactly a heavyweight in its class, but at least it gave the 9-3 a fighting chance. The remaining 2.0T is really only capable of knocking out the underachieving engine found in the Acura TSX.

The 2010 Saab 9-3's ride is smooth and quiet over most surfaces, though the suspension can lose composure over especially bumpy pavement. The steering is a bright spot, as it is light and quite accurate. Body roll around corners is excessive with the base 2.0T model -- so much so that the term "mushy" could be applied. The sport-tuned Aero model improves things considerably -- as does the added traction of XWD all-wheel drive -- though it can't quite match the athleticism of its rivals.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews


8 of 8 people found this review helpful

Good all-around sports sedan

by on
Vehicle: 2010 Saab 9-3 2.0T 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6A)

Someone in review forum talking about future of the brand wrote that Saab should position itself as the $25K European sports sedan -- whether that is where the future is for Saab or not, I think it is a good way to position this model. It doesn't have a great interior compared to say an Audi A4 (my previous car), engine is not sublime, handling is OK (AWD helps considerably though I bought FWD version), brand cache is struggling and I will have to see on reliability. But after 2,000+ miles of driving, I have no major complaints. It's a good all around performer and if it doesn't quite excel in any obvious automotive review category, does enough to satisfy and bring the occasional smile.



6 of 6 people found this review helpful

Nice car with great incentives!

by on
Vehicle: 2010 Saab 9-3 2.0T 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6A)

Coming from a Lexus GS350 this is quite a difference. I love the way it handles and the XWD with the 6 speed auto is wonderful. I could not pass up the deal on this vehicle. Almost $12k off sticker. Despite what they say as this being an outdated car with not a lot to offer compared to the 3 series, A4, etc could not beat the price with this one.



3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Enjoying my saab

by on
Vehicle: 2010 Saab 9-3 2.0T 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)

This is my third Saab. I'm enjoying this new 9-3 a lot. The car is very quiet and has a nice smooth ride. I really like the sound of the Bose stereo. My car has Onstar and I like the turn by turn navigation which shows the directions on the radio display. I got a great deal on the car.



4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Better than i'd expected

by on
Vehicle: 2010 Saab 9-3 Aero 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 5A)

We wanted to replace a pick up for better fuel economy. Saab's tasteful design, functional and pleasing layout of controls, good fuel economy, safety, and good looks all factored into the decision. In the end our 7 year old Saab (purchased used) sold us on the new one. After several years of ownership, we still flip a coin over who gets to drive it. Instead of a van or CUV that doesn't handle like a car, we have a car that handles well, and still will accommodate a lot of stuff.



9 of 9 people found this review helpful

Saab lives

by on
Vehicle: 2010 Saab 9-3 2.0T 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)

Second Saab, chose over Audi and BMW. Vehicle handles great and does everything well for thousands less than equal competition.The wife had to have manual transmission, only reasonable competition was Subaru but she did not like the design.



Talk About The 2010 9-3

2010 Saab 9-3 Discussions See all Started By

rockylee
rockylee
04-28-2006
The company also is working on Opel-based replacements for its big 9-5 for late 2009 and the midsize 9-3 for 2010, according to European suppliers....


floatsey09
floatsey09
09-24-2008
I bought a 2006 9-3 Aero with the Cold Weather and Touring packages last February with only 2,000 miles on it. (not a typo). It's a six speed, and on highway trips I can average 29-30 mpg at 75-80 mil...


CarMan@Edmunds
CarMan@Edmunds
09-28-2010
The $3,500 cash incentive that you mentioned is not compatible with Saab's special lease program, but there is a $2,000 cash incentive available on the 9-3 Sedan that is....



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Gas Mileage

EPA-Rated MPG

  • 20
  • cty
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  • 29
  • highway
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