The 2004 Saab 9-3 provides the company’s entry-level compact sedan. It originally entered into the market in 1998 as both a sedan and a convertible. Like other Saabs, the 9-3 shows its aeronautical roots in the design of its dashboard, controls and windshield.
The 2004 Saab 9-3 showcases much of the same interior flaws as other Saab vehicles. The functionality is there, but it lacks the upscale look that buyers expect in this price range. Still, there it offers plenty that buyers want.
When it comes to compact cars, the 9-3 has one of the roomiest interiors. It includes top-notch storage space. The two-liter I-4 proves more powerful than expected and provides a smooth and balanced ride with excellent handling and precise steering.
Body Styles: convertible, sedan
Engines: 2.0-liter I-4
Transmissions: five-speed manual, six-speed manual, five-speed automatic
Models: Saab 9-3 Linear, Saab 9-3 Arc, Saab 9-3 Aero
Not much has changed with the 2004 Saab 9-3 sedan. The top-of-the-line Vector undergoes a name change to the more common Aero for 2004. The Arc loses its six-speed manual, but otherwise the makeover to the sedan occurred in 2003. The sedan still comes standard with a manual transmission and an optional automatic.
The convertible, however, undergoes a complete change in 2004. It receives the same treatment that the sedan received in 2003. Convertible models include the Arc and Aero, and both come with the same engine.
A few feature changes include the addition of new options such as bi-xenon headlights and rear parking assist.
In 2003, the Saab 9-3 sedan received a massive makeover that resulted in a sporty sedan. The 9-3 boasts an appearance similar to a standard coupe even though the sedan itself has four doors. The headlights and grille integrate into the body much like a sports car. The 2004 Saab 9-3 features small overhangs in both the front and back. The long wheelbase and wide track make it resemble the sportier models from the competition. Excellent aerodynamics lets it drives like one of them.
An impressive feature of the Saab 9-3? It seats five people comfortably even though it fits into the compact lineup. The rear seat uses a 60/40-split that folds when needed. However, the dash and instrument panel truly make this a Saab. Though the materials do not look luxurious, the components still seem well-made. The arc of the dashboard indicates traditional Saab styling. The gauges light up to a green color, but the optional Night Panel lets you black out instruments. Probably the most notable interior feature, second only to the roomy interior, is the abundance of trunk space; 14.8 cubic feet ensure that drivers can haul any amount of cargo. The space in the rear might feel a bit cozy from time to time, but it affords enough room for a comfortable ride for three people, making the total passenger space equal to five.
Performance & Handling
The sporty design of the Saab 9-3 does not get lost on the road. In fact, the claims to sportiness shine through in the handling and smooth ride. Tight spaces and moves seem simple and effective with the sedan or convertible. The 2004 Saab 9-3 makes the ride comfortable and easy even if it lacks the pizzazz that drivers find in the competition. The turbo experiences a bit of lag when traveling at low speeds, but overall the drive seems easy and the engine responsive. It even feels comfortable to drive with plenty of room and a lot of focus on driver preference. It offers adequate throttle response.
Driving the convertible body style of the 2004 Saab 9-3 remains even with the sedan. The convertible has a high performance with precise steering and above-par handling. It experiences some engine noise when reaching high speeds, but overall it offers a quiet and comfortable ride from start to finish.
As a Saab, the 9-3 moves ahead of the competition in safety. This does not come with features, but instead with the overall design of the body. The 2004 Saab 9-3 simply proves sturdier and safer, likely due to the aeronautical roots. Along with that, buyers receive dual-stage front airbags, side-curtain airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and Active Head Restraints. An Electronic Stability Program, Cornering Brake Control, all-disc anti-lock brakes, and electronic brake force distribution enhance safety.
EPA Fuel Economy
Saab 9-3: 23/34 mpg city/highway
- Roomy interior
- Ample cargo space
- Precise handling
- Comfortable ride
- Sporty feel
You Won't Like
- Lack of luxury inside the cabin
- Less sporty than some competitors
- Slight turbo lag at low speeds
Traditional Swedish styling with a sporty feel.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Audi A4
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- Volvo S60