Just purchased a used 9-3 2004 arc automatic. It has a 100000 miles on it. This is by far the nicest car I have ever driven. I don't understand why the reviews are so mixed on this car. Now you can get a $40000 vehicle for under $10000. All I hear is people complaining about little things on this car. Performance, ride, and looks, three great reasons to buy it. I test drove others in this price range of $8000, nothing came close!
I truly believe that GM got it right when they retooled the 9-3 convertible for 2004. The older 9-3 convertibles had way too much flex in the chassis. Going over bumps made it feel like it was playing a game of Twister. 2004 convertible utilized GM's epsilon platform from Europe which firmed up the chassis 300%. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration but it really is firm. Acceleration is more than adequate considering that the engine is a GM inspired 2-liter Ecotec engine with a turbo charger. Same basic engine as found in the old Chevy Cobalt
My 2004 Saab 9-3 convertible has been wonderful. Fun to drive, with an amazing acceleration on a 4-cylinder turbo engine. When going out with the family, we use the back seats which seat adults comfortably, although a bit cramped, but this beats a 2-seater any day. Reliability has been good, and the car has been well maintained. Only complaint is occasional problems with the electrical system: windows, convertible top, radio, ignition. None has been fatal but I have experienced 2 incidents where car would not start. Note: I have the automatic, not manual, model.
I feel very sad to see Saab went under. Its probably not surprising because today every car maker is going mainstream and the only way to survive is to get bigger, which Saab failed to achieve. But Saab definitely didn't fail to make a solid and sporty 9-3 convertible. They don't drive as well as a 3-series, but not off by much and the car itself is much, much more special. Not the mention the excellent value. Buy yourself a gently used 9-3 rag top today and find a trusted Saab shop, it will bring you years of happy top down motoring and attract lots of envy eyes.