April 26, 2010
I have the SE model with manual transmission and it is truly an excellent car. It is very fun to drive, and very fast with the high pressure turbo. The 5 speed shifts very smoothly, and it is packed with features like heated seats, automatic headlights, etc.
There is a LOT of space in this car. Very versatile hatchback, and the seats are very comfortable on long trips.
I average about 24 MPG on mostly around town driving. It will do 30+ on the highway easily.
One thing to watch out for with Saabs of this age is oil sludge. If synthetic oil has not been used and/or it has not been changed every 3000 miles, they are very prone to sludge buildup, which, if not taken care of, will kill the engine. I recently had to have the oil sump dropped on my car to have the gunk cleaned out, about a $600 job, so don't buy one of these without complete service records unless you don't mind having this procedure done after you buy the car. Also, be sure to use synthetic 0W-40 oil and Premium fuel (at least 91 octane in the base, 93 in the SE and Viggen) once you buy it.
Saab reliability is directly correlated to maintenance. If you are willing to put the time and money into upkeep, a 9-3 may be the best car you've ever owned. If not maintained, though, they can be a nightmare.