Another guys thoughts on the 9-1

Over the weekend I featured the thoughts of one of our regular visitors here at TS about the upcoming Saab compact car. I’m going to continue to refer to this car as the 9-1 until further notice.

There were a few comments to the initial 9-1 story that mentioned the car that Saab build might be aimed more at the Mercedes A-Class than at other European compacts. That means, functionally speaking, we could be looking more towards something like this….

mercedes%20a%20class.jpg

….rather than these…..

BMW1.jpg audiS3.jpg VolvoC30.jpg

Frankly, that scares the bejeeepers out of me.

It’s not a case of trying to keep up with the Joneses and doing what the others are doing. It’s a case of maintaining and extending your identity, preserving and fostering your heritage and building a solid, functional base model to build your brand on into the future.

Thankfully, those reports have been quite thin and so far unsubstantiated.

Like many others, I’m looking for the upcoming ‘9-1’ to be that car that Carl-Peter Forster talked about last year:

Saab design should be Swedish, clean and modern, with carefully selected chosen materials like pale woods. It’s not difficult to create a Saab look. It has a great heritage but has lost much of it. How the hell could it give up the wraparound windshield? I would rather invest in that than electrical systems. The next generation will be distinctly Saab.

That speaks to me of 99 and 900.

It invokes memories of 3-door and 5-door hatchbacks that were twice as big inside than they looked on the outside. It makes me think of the first time I hit the gas in a 900 Turbo. It brings to mind the eccentric design and ultimately the undeniable practicality that these cars represented.

Classical timeless design.

Unexpected performance.

Supreme utility.

If there’s one thing that gives me hope that it’ll be more at home on the track than in the garage – it’s the Aero-X. Saab made a bold statement with the Aero-X as a basis for future Saab design. That statement was ‘sporting’.

This new design language will be presented first and foremost with a new 9-5 some time before this new 9-1 ever sees the lights of a car show. How they adapt this design language to the 9-1 will be a key factor in its success, however.

Variations

I’m hoping for this to be THE return of the Saab signature hatchback. Models with odd numbers of doors only, please, with the possible exception of a 2-door coupe or roadster.

Saab built an entire customer base through the 1970’s and 1980’s largely on the combination of versatility and performance. It enhanced this reputation with a bit of bling in the form of the convertible in the mid-80’s.

Personally, I see this as the perfect formula for success with this model line. Make a car that’s clearly smaller than the 9-3 with a sporting philosophy and a practical layout.

Of course, the most exciting model will be the Aero version, but having a good entry model can be just as important. Subaru are learning this lesson right now in the UK, where they’ve sold out of the new 1.5l entry version of their Impreza. Build it well and get bums in seats – the best way to build a brand. The fancy stuff can come once the foundations are built.

Powertrain

All gasoline models should be Biopower and there should also be the provision for diesel in the appropriate markets. The Biopower Hybrid drivetrain could be a certain possibility by the time this car comes out.

Does it need a V6 option at the high end? I’m not so sure. Getting more from less has always been a strong suit for Saab and I think this car should maintain that philosophy.

Drivetrain

AWD and FWD only please.

AWD for the more hardcore versions to keep the power on the ground. FWD as standard on all other models.

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The potential for the 9-1 is huge.

Fuel prices are only trending one way. The competition is fairly thin now in the premium compact segment but it will certainly be stronger by the time this car arrives and several players will have been in the segment for some years. All those pictured above being the most obvious.

Saab have an opportunity to build a car that will win back the enthusiast whilst winning over some new customers as well. The trick to making it work will be a solid identity as a Saab and a clear differentiation from the 9-3.

I’ve got every belief that Saab’s designers and engineers can get it right. It’s going to be an exciting time.

Here’s a good starting point. Just update the styling cues and you’re off….

9x500px.jpg

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14 Comments

  1. I looked at a link which pointed to an A-class type vehicle, posted by MuzX. I just shuddered when I saw the image.

    I love the BMW-1 on the photos above, but the 9X can look even better based on these photos of it:
    http://www.conceptcar.ee/saab/9x/index.html

    I always do a slow burn when I think this could have been in production already if not reined in by GM.

  2. “This new design language will be presented first and foremost with a new 9-5 some time before this new 9-1 ever sees the lights of a car show.”

    If you remember various interviews with Saab people earlier this year, they all said that the new design language will be introduced with the new 9-4X. We somehow seems to forget that one car, which I personally think will be shown already next year…

  3. the A-Class is one of the daftest vehicles in the world. we don’t need to go there. ever. in terms of people moving, ctm’s right: the 9-4 would be more appropriate, and its mini SUV styling more capable of making sales.

    i prefer the Aero-X front
    styling over the original 9X, though both are still too Americana and need a bit more Swede-ing up.

    food for thought: if Saab took the current FWD chassis, engine, electronics, interior from the 9-3 and put the ’87-on C900 body with say the Aero or Airflow kit and sold it as a new car for AU$40K-AU$60K or thereabouts, how many do you reckon would sell? 50? 200? 1000? 10,000?

    it seems to me that far too many of us just want a better C900. we love the styling, we love the interior, we love the practicality of the Combi Coupes. All we need are fresh cars with available parts and better gearboxes!

  4. The 9-X is great looking, although with such a long bonnet you could probably fit a V12 engine! Use the 9-X as a starting point, add some AroeX design elements (bonnet, grille, wheel arches) and give it a decent trunk size with the flexibility of the 9-X and you’re home dry. For us with winther conditions 6-8 months every year, please give us AWD also on cheaper models and not only the Aero version. Dream 9-1? As described with a 1,7L diesel/hybrid engine, AWD (Haldex would be quite OK) and DSG like automatic box.

  5. Maybe not exactly like an A class, but like the Audi A2: lower, longuer, with sofisticated design and technology…

    I’m imagining an A2 with the cockpit windscreen, and it looks good in my head! 🙂

  6. Tiago,

    Whilst I can appreciate the work that goes into such things, I’ll have to say “noooooooo”

    I’d like my 9-1 to be a hot-hatch. Those A2’s just didn’t strike me that way at all. Little minivans. Miniminivans perhaps.

  7. I’m showing my age, and I’m probably in the minority, but my inspiration for a 9-1 would be the 96. Despite the lack of streamlined profile, it’s got quite a good drag coefficient and is a good size as a starting point for a compact car. I see it with an efficient 3 cylinder engine (not 2 stroke, of course!) which, with a turbo, in a small car, could be adequately zippy. The 96 was not exactly a hatchback, but the trunklid opened quite high, and the back seat folded down to give amazing cargo space.

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