Car reviews - Saab - 900 - 900i 2-dr convertible
Surprisingly capable, usable and dependable convertible that loves the open road
Room for improvement
Parts and servicing can be costly leisurely performance from non-turbo 2.1 engine
25 Jun 2003
WHEN it comes to affordable convertibles, there is not a lot to choose from on the Australian market, which is strange considering the warm weather and outdoor lifestyle.
Saab is one of the few manufacturers to have exploited the soft- top market niche and has done so for a number of years.
Saab built the 900i Cabriolet to boost the marque's image and sales in the US in the mid-1980s. The original plan was to sell 1000 cars annually but sales had reached more than 40,000 by 1993.
The convertible is based on the 900i sedan platform so it offers sensible and practical open-air transport.
It has the Saab family quirks such as the ignition switch between the front seats and a north/south engine design with the transmission underneath combined with front-wheel drive.
The original Cabrios are luxuriously equipped and powered by a high performance, turbocharged engine with a new price which put them at the luxury end of the market.
The non-turbo 2.1-litre, 16-valve version of the convertible was released in early 1992. It did not have as much power as the turbo and was not as luxuriously equipped.
What made it irresistible to buyers was the bargain new price of $45,600, versus $85,500 for the turbo.
Saab did not have much opposition at this price and sold as many convertibles as the limited production facility could produce.
The Cabrio looks much better than the sedan and the distinctive high-mounted sweeping rear spoiler is a real eye- catcher.
It can easily carry four adults but the roof storage area narrows down the rear seat space so there is no room to carry an extra passenger.
The overall package is a practical and comfortable car.
The luxury and safety equipment is not comprehensive but there is a long enough list to satisfy most people.
The Saab has air-conditioning, central locking, anti-lock brakes and cruise control. There are also a security-coded four-speaker AM/FM sound system and electric mirrors while alloy wheels were an option.
The 2.1-litre engine brought the Saab technologically up to date with a twin cam, 16-valve cylinder head and fuel-injection.
The power output is a respectable 103kW at 6000rpm with 180Nm of torque at 2900rpm.
Driving the convertible is much the same as the sedan except it attracts far more interest from other drivers.
The steering and cornering are safe and predictable with a comfortable ride.
Quite a bit of extra metal was needed to strengthen the Cabrio's body so it is heavier than the 900 sedan. The penalty is the Cabrio can not match the sedan's acceleration or fuel consumption.
The Cabriolet has held its price well as demand for well cared for examples usually exceeds the supply.
Saabs are relatively straight-forward designs but different enough from the mainstream to justify specialist attention. A thorough pre-purchase check by an expert is cheap insurance against buying problems.
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