Saab vs a whole bunch

I’ve asked people to write about their experiences driving some of Saab’s competitors. What did they like or dislike about it and what about it made you think a bit more about your Saab?

Vector220 provided us with some of his experiences a few days ago. He travels quite a bit for work and a lot of this travel time is spent behind the wheel of various rental cars organised by his employer. As you’ll see, some of these rentals are your true ‘rentals’, but there’s also some genuine Saab competitors there. In the previous instalment, Vector covered the Audi A4, Volvo V50 Flexfuel and VW Passat – all direct competitors.

In this instalment, Vector220 covers a few more garden variety cars, as well as a few genuine competitors.


Toyota Avensis (360 km):
Just another Japanese car. Not anything special but it did the work as expected. The seat wasn’t good, it didn’t give me the right support but it didn’t hurt after 2 hours straight so I can’t say it’s too bad.

When driving this car in the dark I was disappointed. The light is orange and the onboard computer is bright and the light is pouring all over the interior. Also, the reflection of this display is in the windshield so you can entertain your self trying to read the display in the reflection! Not a good and safe place, I think.

When listening to the pretty poor radio and at the same time turning the back window wiper on, the radio loses signal so all you hear is: “schrueeeeee” as the wiper is tuning in on the radio…superb! I was only doing 2 x 180 km journeys in this car so the lighting business may have been solved if I had read the instructions.

But my ceiling on this car is a clear 3 (out of 5).

Ford Focus (2100 km):
When travelling all over the northern part of Sweden the availability of air travel isn’t very good, so I drove a distance of 2100 km by car in 6 days.

This is…No, I must tell you in big letters….THIS IS THE WORST EXPERIENCE I’VE EVER HAD IN A CAR!

If the Volvo was noisy, it nowadays feel like a Lexus, if the seats in a Toyota were uncomfortable, they became something I longed for and the quality of materials was so terrible that a plastic detail fell off, and 3 out of 4 caps were gone after only the first gas stop.

The road was icy and a bit shaky. But not the worst I’ve travelled. My first crappy SAAB MY81 900 was a dream compared to this and would never fall apart like this Ford did. This car was a brand new one and had only 5400 km on the meter when I got my hands on it…

The seats gave me pains after 90 minutes, but after 2 hours of pain my legs lost all feeling so it became much better. But have any of you tried to walk with numb legs? The pain comes right back when the blood starts to circulate again.

The interior was the cheapest Ford could find but with all the gadgets a new car should have. AC, computer with a lot of functions, power windows all over, cup holders and stuff.

The instruments were in fact the only thing I came to like. Soft greenish light and the possibility to make the light pretty low. I really don’t want the instruments to be bright; in fact if I could turn the digits of and only see the “pointer” I would be happy. Only when driving in cities you need to see the exact speed.

I’ll give this Ford POS a good “1” – and that’s because I’m being nice! Possibly this rental is just the typical rental, but as I’ve said earlier, we have a great rental deal so this crap is not meant for us. I’ve told the travel manager and he will try to exclude FORD from our rental fleet.

Hyundai Sonata (620 km):
After picking this up I was heading for a 3 hour straight ride. I was surprised with the comfort and the silence in this car. The seats were ok, just a bit stiff in my back but in a rather good shape. The instruments were ok and the over all experience is: “A nice Japanese ride”

So now this Korean drive is becoming a threat for the real Japanese car makers I guess.

I picked up a colleague and was supposed to drive to the airport where we were to fly home. There were some delays, however, and we decided to take the car to another airport. In doing this, though we had a tight time schedule – we had to do a 200 km run in less than 1 h and 40 minutes in order to have enough time to check in.

But even after this run both he and I were surprised with the comfort. And the car used under 10 litres of gas for every 100 km. There was no problem getting the car up to speed, the handling was a bit nerve-wracking when running in high speeds though.

The interior looks a bit cheap, but hey, that’s expected. The space in the car was good for four and it had a rather big trunk. I think this car is a good car for the money. Not my cup of tea but not a bad car at all.

I’ll give this little sucker a fine 3.5

Skoda Oktavia (160 km):
This was fun – the rear window exploded completely when driving at 90 km/h!

I tried to throw myself on the floor but the seatbelt kept me in place. Ahhh, I’m being shot at! &#%! But the glass just imploded by itself. When I called the rental office they said: “Don’t worry, it’s not the first time. If you can take the car to the nearest town, just a couple of km ahead, we will get you a new one.”

So I did move on and that’s when the Hyundai Sonata came into my hands.

The Skoda was an ok car. A bit sterile but not irritating in any way. Better seats than the Passat and the Audi, which was strange since Skoda is their budget car. The engine worked well and provided a good response. Not a race car but enough to give you safety margins when doing highway driving.

But since I haven’t really tried this car I can just throw this car a 3-3.5

Volvo V70 (700 km):
Smooth and comfortable. But not a drivers car. You ride in this one rather than drive it.
The seats are even a bit better than in my SAAB (don’t tell anyone!) and the reason for this is that the seat is a bit longer than a 9-5 sport seat. No problem after a long day of driving.

The engine is quiet but weak. You need to plan for ages if you want to overtake someone.

The instrumentation is soft, a little tiny bit green, mostly soft white light. It’s possible to turn the computer display off and that is a good thing. The text in the display is green and very clear.

The controls to the AC and fans are an odyssey in how easy it can be to make everyone understand what to do. Three buttons and one knob. That’s it! All you need to control the climate in this car. No explaining, no reading, no trying to find out where to push and turn. The buttons is self explainatory, using icons.

The quality of the materials in this car is very good. 10 years ago SAAB and Ovlov were about the same in this matter. But now SAAB has to do better.

I do understand why this car is the best selling in Sweden, but I don’t like it anyway. I’ve grown up with Vovlo doing cars looking like boxes, feeling like boxes and as advanced as a hammer. This is not easy to overcome. And if I’m frank here, I’m just not interested in just riding a car, I want to be in control and feel the car doing what I tell it to do. But not sell out on the comfort, safety.

VW Golf (720 km):
This is my own fault. This car is smaller than we are supposed to drive. But when I ordered this it was 20:00 and I needed the car 07:40 at an airfield the next day.

Everything was closed so I took what I could get. And the car was exactly like that. It was lake a typical budget car. No extras, no cruise control, no power windows in the rear and so on. The engine screamed for help when driving at 120 km/h (4000 rpm).

But the interior was solid and “Germany black” in colour. This was like a small Passat with an engine suitable for short trips in towns.

This car will get a 2.5. But I won’t say it’s a crap, it’s just a totally different car and it’s not made for this kind of trip. A more expensive GOLF might even be good if they tweak the engine and put some more funny stuff in it. But the same “cool blue” lighting as the Passat is always a bad thing in my mind.


Every time I do trips like these I like go back to my own car. Just to compare them.

The 9-5 feels a bit outdated on the interior, the response time is a bit long when dropping the right foot, but after this short waiting, I’ll be going by all the others in no time if needed.

The Audi feels like they are going to take Saabs place in turbo charging if Saab doesn’t do anything soon.

The Volvo is not a threat. A completely different customer type.

The Korean and Japanese might do good cars, but the have a long way to go if to beating Saab

Over all, I still can’t find a better ride that what I’ve got ( a newer Saab is a better car)

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  1. I really think we should only include “comparable” vehicles to the Saab. Comparing a Focus to a Saab is rather pointless, don’t you think? It’s like comparing a pedestrian SUV to a Bentley, a BMW to a basic Toyota. I would certainly hope a basic Toyota or a Focus is a pile compared to a vehicle that is 3x time cost…!


  2. Oh I don’t know if it’s a bad thing to include lesser or dissimilar cars amongst these comparisons, there would be less to read! These reports are all hugely entertaining.

    Some of us haven’t driven a large number of types, for example my last 3 have been Saabs, and before that an insanely reliable Honda—which never whimpered in the entire 12 yrs I had it. Unlike the Saabs. On the other hand, it remained completely devoid of personality. Unlike the Saabs.

    There are exceptions once in a while. Recently I had the pleasure, or something like it, to drive a ’93 Jaguar XJ6 on a long trip through from the Netherlands to Germany—Amsterdam to Nurnberg and return. Considering the mystique of the brand, and the price when new, it was shocking how cramped and uncomfortable this ‘luxury’ car is,(the concept of ergonomics was known in ’93 wasn’t it?), and absolutely terrifying when going full out on the autobahn—we managed to coax this beast up to 120 mph—by far the fastest I’ve ever driven. And those BMW’s were still flying past us at warp speed.

    We occupied ourselves with counting Jags and Saabs, and as I recall there were just a handful of Jags and barely more Saabs. The old Jag did pretty well—we lived—but I wonder how a Saab handles at these speeds?

  3. ALthough the accounts are entertaining to read, I have to agree that some of these cars are hardly competetion for any Saab product.

  4. Agreed, some of these cars aren’t class competitors, but this was noted in the intro.

    A couple of reasons why I included them.

    1) Vector220 went to the trouble of writing them and out of respect for his efforts….

    2) One thing I’ve found is that living with a Saab day in and day out you can get a little complacent about how good it is. My stepdaughter has an 05 Toyota Corolla – one of the best selling cars in Australia. Well screwed together but about as comfortable as a plank of wood.

  5. The Jetta is a golf with a boot so I think the review is highly relevant. Remember the Volvo S40 / V50 IS a Focus. I was very close to taking an Octavia vRS out when buying my 9-3 (a 2.0 turbo 4 cylinder hatch with a huge boot – obviously nothing SAAB like there…) but the wife assured me she would leave me if I bought a Skoda. If you want closer comparisons don’t complain – send one in!!!!

  6. Ok, fine, I WILL make my own comparison; (And I’m only having fun here since the last guy put me up to it)

    ’87 Toyota Celica with 286k miles.

    I walked up to this car sitting nose-down in the ditch in front of my house. It’s faded blue paint glistening under the rain from the passing thunderstorm.

    After wiggling the key around in the door lock for 2 minutes the door finally unlocked and I was able to get in. I was quite dissatisfied by the flat seats and the worn upholstery showing the springs coming through- oh and the seat back that was so loose you wondered if the car was safe to drive. So, I started the car and was horrified by the engine noise. This car was SOOO loud inside. It might have been due to the bad-order resonator and the torn boot around the shifter, but there’s really no excuse for that. On the drive, I noticed a ton of clutch chatter and a very non-linear actuation of the clutch pedal. And the shifter was very imprecise- like the cable bushings were worn out. It just ‘seemed like’ the car had alot of miles. When I came to my first stop off at the end of the street the brakes squealed like a kicked pig and the rotors were so warped the steering wheel shook like a crack-addict coming down.

    On the outside the peeling paint on the stamped steel wheels and the door dings were completely unacceptable for a car of only 20 years of age. How could a manufacturer produce a car like this?!?? This $200 pile of scrap really made me long for my 60th anniversary edition that was $30k. Heck, even a $12k Focus would be better!

    ^^ this was kinda fun..! 🙂

    (this was my college car)

  7. That was funny. And as others have said, the reviews were interesting. I’ve been wondering lately if we aren’t partial to the brand because … well … because we’ve always had Saabs. I mean, c’mon we’re Saab owners, ya know.

    It would be good to have some objective reviews of how Saab turbos line up against Audi turbos. Or something like that.

    I drive an 80’s Peugeot a few years ago and found it’s turbo engine was pitiful compared to my 1988 8 valve non-turbo 900. Maybe that’s why I’ve stuck with the brand.

    But are recent offerings as good as the old ones? I really don’t know.

  8. LOL! Thanks for the brilliant writing, Vector220. I really enjoyed that.

    Your first thought when the Skoda’s back window blew out shouldn’t have been that you’re being shot-at. You live in Sweden, once of the safest places on the planet. When was the last time a motorist was shot in Sweden? In L.A. we have a name for it: rush hour. 🙂

    I can kind of see where Americans are overly-picky now about reliability. If we could buy cars here whose rear windows suddenly shattered, I think they’d be ranked below SAAB in Consumer Reports’ reliability ratings! :-0

    Seriously though, on the reliability front, do you have the equivalent of Acura, Lexus, or Infiniti for sale in Europe? Because those cars seriously skew the reliability, dependability, and cost-of-maintenance ratings here…

    That was a very fun read, vector. Very witty. I enjoyed that. I’m still laughing at the thought of your legs falling asleep as reprieve from searing pain in the Focus! 🙂

  9. Tanks a lot you All!
    Ratings on the ‘Orvlov’ V70 is: very strong 3 possibly a 4
    If it came with a better engine definitely a 4.
    But I will not, ever, buy myself one (ever again). That’s because in my mind a Volvo is just like a box (of chocolate…?!?). These brands may be competitors in the class but I think they attract two different kinds of people.

    I think that any comparison is OK. I mean, just to compare in a class means that you will miss any smaller or bigger cars even if they are good to drive, nice to ride and so on.
    “Move your mind” means (in my mind) try anything and compare it. I’m still with SAAB and I’ve owned Merc (diesels), (some) Volvos!, Audi 200, VW, GM Blazer, one Toyota. Now, I’m with my fifth SAAB and the first I’ve bought as brand new.
    I’m feeling good about my car, but to do so I really needs to se what everyone else is trying to do better.
    After all, I drive my own car for about 30.000 km every year so I need to compere to know this car is good.

    And of course we are partial. But then, what should one do? You need to se the world as it is and to do so you start by looking. The comparison makes you think. And when we know that we are partial our intellectual capacity makes us understand to see thing in other ways… and then you can start being impartial.
    And that must be the SAAB spirit? Right?

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