A question for 9-3 SportCombi owners – do you see the lack of 3rd row seating as a downside?
Well, BusinessWeek does.
It’s statements like this that make me question the validity of the rest of the review – which would be a shame as our host, Thane Peterson, really likes the SportCombi. So I’m going to take it as a vehicle-class oversight on his part and as a positive thing. He sees the SportCombi in such a worthy option to your standard crossover vehicle that a seven seat configuration is almost expected.
This is a different class of vehicle, however, one that offers SUV haulage with sports sedan handling. Saab versatility.
Once he gets over the lack of space for kids 3 and 4, Thane likes what he’s presented with:
The 9-3 SportCombi is much better than its marginal U.S. sales would indicate. If you have a family but also want a sporty, fast-moving vehicle in your driveway, this is a good compromise. It looks a little like a stylish Subaru, and handles a lot like a well-made European car.
It looks a lot more stylish than a Subaru, sonny-jim. And once it gets XWD later this year it’ll make Subaru almost irrelevant in the discerning customer’s eye.
Slide behind the wheel, and the Aero SportCombi’s performance matches its looks. My test car had a stick shift, but if you pay up for the automatic, you can also get paddle shifters that add to the driving fun. The Aero is quite quick: I got 0-to-60 times of 7.0 to 7.4 seconds.
The owner’s manual helpfully notes that if you happen to hit 143 mph, the turbo kicks off to slow the car down.
I could discern no turbo lag when I punched the gas. You would barely know the turbo is there if it weren’t for a gauge on the instrument panel.
And then there’s some discussion of the haulageabilityness of the SportCombi, which is becoming one of my favourite points for discussion….
At 183.2 inches, the SportCombi isn’t all that big. In fact, it’s only an inch longer than the 9-3 sedan. However, folding down the rear seats still gives you a huge 70 inch-long, 45-cubic foot hauling space (vs. 40.8 inches and 14.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up). There’s also a pass-through in the middle of the rear seat for carrying long items like skis when you have passengers in back.
I should mention again for the benefit of those that might be visiting here for the first time, those figures for the 9-3 SportCombi put it well ahead of many SUV competitors in terms of cargo capacity. It also has higher towing capacity combined with better mileage (save for the hybrid SUVs).
The full numbers on those stats are available here and it makes for a very interesting list.
The final verdict?
If you want European handling but don’t want to pay up for a German car, this is a good choice. That’s doubly true if you live in one of those neighborhoods where every other car seems to be a Subaru, and you want something different.
I’d go one step further than Mr Peterson and say that it’s a bloody practical drivers car that stands on it’s own two feet regardless of the price point of it’s competitors.
Vive le SportCombi!!