2011 Saab 9-3 Review

Pros & Cons

  • Supportive front seats
  • wagon's expansive cargo area
  • variety of body styles.
  • Underwhelming power and fuel economy
  • subpar cabin materials and build quality
  • tech features are missing or antiquated
  • ride can get rough
  • still on the pricey side.
List Price Range
$12,900 - $13,000

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Edmunds' Expert Review

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 superior entry-level luxury cars.

Vehicle overview

The Swedish word for roller-coaster is "berg-och-dalbana," which is a pretty good way of describing the past two years for Saab. The brand was scheduled to be sold by parent company General Motors, but the deal fell through. GM was ready to completely pull the plug on Saab, but then Dutch supercar maker Spyker made an 11th-hour save. Spyker is now promising a bright future that involves an entirely new car lineup bolstered by an all-new Saab 9-3.

Unfortunately, that all-new car is still at least a year away, and the 2011 Saab 9-3 you can buy today is simply the eighth year for a car that was never that impressive to begin with. Among entry-level luxury cars, the 9-3 is the equivalent of an aging Epcot ride in a segment filled with really cool berg-och-dalbanas.

The 2011 Saab 9-3 has a 210-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder as its sole engine offering; most of its competitors offer more vigorous performance and/or an engine upgrade of some sort. Its interior is a significant step below its competitors, and it lacks many of the electronic features that have become de rigueur the past few years. There is no iPod interface, for instance, and Bluetooth is bundled with optional OnStar telematics. Despite standard leather upholstery and wood trim, the 9-3 simply doesn't feel like the luxury car its price implies.

If there is a bright spot, it is the SportCombi wagon with its unique styling, copious cargo space and, in 9-3X guise, elevated ground clearance. In Aero trim, the SportCombi even handles reasonably well with sharp steering and controlled body motions. There is a dearth of competition nowadays for such a vehicle, which is something the 9-3 sedan and convertible do not enjoy.

However, there aren't enough wagon buyers left in this country to help the 9-3 ease Saab up the steep, precipitous hill it's beginning to climb. Until the new 9-3 arrives, Saab loyalists and compact luxury buyers should instead consider the 2011 Audi A4 and A5, 2011 BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G, 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the 2011 Volvo S60 and C70. Non-luxury-branded cars like the Subaru Legacy and Outback and the Volkswagen CC and Eos are also worth a look. In other words, there is an abundance of better rides than the 2011 Saab 9-3.

2011 Saab 9-3 models

The 2011 Saab 9-3 is available in three body styles: sedan, convertible and a wagon known as the SportCombi. 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 AWD (dubbed XWD).

The base 2.0T sedan comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, a rear foglamp, heated mirrors, automatic wipers, keyless entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, leather upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The convertible adds 17-inch wheels and a full power soft top. The 9-3X gets different 17-inch wheels, front foglamps, a taller ride height, roof rails and unique trim inside and out.

The Comfort package available on all 2.0T trim levels adds headlamp washers, heated front seats, an eight-way power passenger seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Other options include a sunroof, OnStar, Bluetooth and a Bose surround-sound system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio. The convertible has a different 11-speaker upgraded sound system that also includes the CD changer and satellite radio.

The 9-3 Aero gains 17-inch wheels on the sedan, while all body styles get adaptive xenon headlamps, front foglamps, two-tone leather upholstery and the 2.0T's optional features. The Premium package adds rear parking sensors, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors and driver memory functions. A version of the Premium package is available on the 9-3X and adds the Aero's adaptive xenon headlamps and power passenger seat. A navigation system is optional on the Aero and 9-3X.

2011 Highlights

There are no significant changes for the 2011 Saab 9-3.

Performance & mpg

Every Saab 9-3 is 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 but the 9-3X, which is all-wheel drive. AWD is also optional for the sedan.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the front-drive 2.0T models, and a no-cost option on the Aero, 9-3X and AWD sedans. A five-speed automatic standard is standard on the front-drive Aero models and optional on the 2.0T models. A six-speed automatic is standard on AWD models and the 9-3X.

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.


The 2011 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 emergency telematics is optional on the 2.0T and standard on the Aero.

The 9-3 has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) saw it receiving four out of five stars for frontal and side rear crash protection and 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.


With the 210-hp 2.0-liter turbo being the 2011 Saab 9-3's sole engine choice, acceleration is underwhelming for this class of car. Ride quality is also disappointing, as 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 -- but even here the 9-3 can't quite match the athleticism of its rivals.


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 competition'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 a 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, offering 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.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2011 Saab 9-3.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Love My First Ever SAAB
2.0T 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
Disagree with reviewers - know the new one is coming but a great deal with 0.0 financing sold me. First interior - yep - radio is a generation old and was plucked from the Suburban but sound quality is good and there is a jack. No gaps in my interior - all tolerances are close and materials are good quality. Car is quick with little torque steer - steering is spot on and ride is comfortable. Brakes are superb. Gas mileage is GREAT much better than expected. I have some trips with 35+ on the highway. Would have liked power seats on the passenger side. Bluetooth is basic but works well with android phone. Headlights are good as well. Manual 6 speed can be a little notchy.


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover12.7%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2011 Saab 9-3

Used 2011 Saab 9-3 Overview

The Used 2011 Saab 9-3 is offered in the following submodels: 9-3 Sedan, 9-3 Convertible, 9-3 Wagon. Available styles include 2.0T 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 2.0T 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6A), 2.0T 2dr Convertible (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 2.0T 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), X 4dr Wagon AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6A), Aero 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 5A), Aero 2dr Convertible (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 5A), Aero 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6A), and Aero 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 5A).

What's a good price on a Used 2011 Saab 9-3?

Price comparisons for Used 2011 Saab 9-3 trim styles:

  • The Used 2011 Saab 9-3 2.0T is priced between $13,000 and$13,000 with odometer readings between 52288 and52288 miles.
  • The Used 2011 Saab 9-3 Aero is priced between $12,900 and$12,900 with odometer readings between 78000 and78000 miles.

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Which used 2011 Saab 9-3s are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2011 Saab 9-3 for sale near. There are currently 2 used and CPO 2011 9-3s listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $12,900 and mileage as low as 52288 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2011 Saab 9-3.

Can't find a used 2011 Saab 9-3s you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Saab 9-3 for sale - 10 great deals out of 11 listings starting at $18,522.

Find a used Saab for sale - 12 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $19,084.

Find a used certified pre-owned Saab 9-3 for sale - 10 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $24,154.

Find a used certified pre-owned Saab for sale - 6 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $24,709.

Should I lease or buy a 2011 Saab 9-3?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Saab lease specials
Check out Saab 9-3 lease specials