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Car reviews - Saab - 9-3 - TiD range

Launch Story

Saab logo19 Jan 2007

By CHRIS HARRIS

SAAB’S new-year diesel assault is a three-way offensive that includes Australia’s first-ever oil-burning convertible.

On sale now, the 2007 9-3 range includes TiD turbo-diesel versions of the popular four-seater soft top, along with the expected sedan and SportCombi wagon variants.

Saab is charging between $2000 and $2500 for the privilege, according to which model is chosen, although a $5000 jump is needed to go from the cheapest petrol to the cheapest diesel 9-3, even if the TiD adds niceties such as leather, heated front seats, climate control, cruise control, and 16-inch alloy wheels.

As a buyer incentive to Saab’s debuting diesel effort, $3000 worth of fuel will be included with every TiD sold before the end of March 2007.

The 9-3 diesel arrives in two specification versions – Linear 1.9TiD and Linear Sport TiD.

The latter adds 17-inch alloy wheels, colour-coded exterior trim and a host of other specification upgrades to all body styles, and also includes a sport chassis package on the sedan, parking radar on the SportCombi and an electric driver’s seat on both.

Shared with a number of European-sourced General Motors and Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia vehicles, the TiD unit is the same 1.9-litre, twin-cam, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine found in manual versions of the Holden Astra CDTi.

This cast-iron, 1910cc engine features common rail direct and multiple injection technology with 1600 bar injection pressures, along with chain-driven camshafts and hydraulic tappets, a steel crankshaft and connecting rods, a variable geometry turbo-charger, a dual-mass flywheel, an aluminium intake manifold and electronically controlled exhaust gas recirculation to help reduce emissions.

It delivers 110kW of power at 4000rpm, and 320Nm of torque between 2000 and 2750rpm, with 90 per cent of that available between 1750 and 3250rpm.

From standstill, the diesel sedan hits 100km/h in 9.5 seconds, 0.7 seconds faster than the SportCombi and 0.9 seconds ahead of the Convertible.

Just as importantly, the TiD manual sedan returns 5.8, 7.7 and 4.7L/100km (auto: 7.0, 9.8 and 5.8) in the respective Combined, Urban and Extra Urban (roughly Average, City and Highway) European cycles.

The TiD SportCombi wagon adds 0.1L/100km to the manual figures (and 0.2 to the sedan auto), while the TiD Convertible’s figures are 6.3, 8.4 and 5.1L/100km (auto: 7.1, 10.3 and 5.7) respectively.

Interestingly, the 9-3 TiD manual sedan’s fuel consumption average is actually 0.2L/100km better than the smaller and lighter Holden AH Astra CDTi manual hatchback’s, that uses the same engine.

Talking carbon dioxide emissions now, the TiD’s 157g/km rating (auto: 177g) compares with 183g (auto: 205g) for the ‘cleanest’ petrol 9-3 equivalent. These are UK-bound 9-3 figures.

Driving the front wheels is an Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic transmission shared with the top-line Aero 2.8-litre turbo V6 petrol (all other petrol-powered 9-3s make do with a five-speed auto), while the manual TiD features a new cable linkage six-speed gearbox that also spreads to all other 9-3s bar the base Linear 1.8t, which retains the old five-speed manual device.

Reflecting the higher torque output of the diesel, Saab has positioned the TiD above the 110kW/240Nm Linear 1.8t Sedan, as well as the 129kW/265Nm Linear 2.0t Sedan, SportCombi and Convertible models – which, by the way, all share the same 1998cc capacity.

For now, only the $39,990 Peugeot 407 SR HDI and $42,990 Passat 2.0 TDI undercut the 9-3 TiD, while some rivals, such as the Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI Classic cost over $20,000 more.

Saab is confident that most 9-3 diesel buyers will be conquest sales from other brands.

Staying deliberately conservative in its estimations, Saab expects around 35 per cent of all 9-3s to be TiD models. Using the 841 sales total from last year as a guide, it should count on around 300 diesel models finding homes in 2007.

Saab is also hopeful that the diesel SportCombi will give the recently released but somewhat underperforming wagon a sales fillip.

According to Parveen Batish, director for Saab in Australia and New Zealand, releasing the 9-3 TiD in three body styles is "... a real coup for the brand."

"(It) gives Saab a real position of strength in the diesel market," he says, citing the respective 99.3 and 180 per cent hikes in private and non-private diesel passenger car sales during 2006.

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