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2011 Saab 9-3 Review

The 2011 Saab 9-3 has good safety ratings and available all-wheel drive. However, reviewers thought that some competitors surpassed it with better performance and nicer interiors.

Pros & Cons

  • A lot of trunk space
  • Available all-wheel drive
  • Good safety ratings
  • Underpowered engine
  • Back seat lacks legroom
  • Less interior tech than competitors




Critics' Rating: 7.6
Performance: 7.9
Interior: 7.4
Total Cost of Ownership: 9.1
Safety: 9.6
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2011 Saab 9-3 Overview

When it was new, test drivers really liked the 2011 Saab 9-3 for its strong brakes and nimble handling. Those are two key ingredients for good performance, but reviewers weren’t impressed with the 9-3’s underwhelming 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. However, if you’re not power-hungry and want available all-wheel drive, the 9-3 is one of few choices out there among used small cars. Front-wheel drive models get up to 21/31 mpg city/highway, which is good for the class. The AWD 9-3 sedan averages a lower 20/29 mpg, but those figures are still class-competitive. In addition to a sedan, the Saab-3 comes as a convertible or wagon.

Inside, the 9-3 sedan has supportive front seats and more cargo space than a lot of sedans in its class. The back seat has good headroom, but like many small sedans, test drivers said there’s not enough legroom. The 9-3 comes with automatic wipers, dual-zone climate control, a power driver’s seat, leather seats and a seven-speaker stereo. Rivals like the 2011 Volvo S40 have a standard USB port and Bluetooth, but Bluetooth was optional and a USB port wasn’t available when the 9-3 was new. Navigation, satellite radio and a Bose stereo were also optional. Overall, test drivers were disappointed with the 9-3’s interior quality, saying its cheap materials and poor construction didn’t meet their standards for an upscale sedan.

If you need all-wheel drive or lots of cargo space, the 2011 Saab 9-3 may meet you needs. However, if you want a lot of standard features and a powerful engine, you may want to shop competing 2011 small cars.

See the full 2011 Saab 9-3 specs »

Other Cars to Consider

If you’re looking for more standard features, check out the 2011 Acura TSX, which has standard leather-trimmed seats, Bluetooth, a USB port and a moonroof, among other features. On the downside, all-wheel drive isn’t available, and reviewers didn’t like the base engine. However, they liked the TSX’s available V6. The TSX also offers strong safety ratings. The TSX was also our 2011 Best Upscale Small Car for the Money.

The 2011 Volvo S40 is a good alternative to the Saab 9-3 if your heart is set on a Swedish sedan. While the 9-3 is sparsely-equipped, the S40 has a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity. Reviewers also liked the power and steering of the S40.

Compare the 9-3 to the TSX and S40 »

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