Soft top

Here’s a question.

I’ve heard previously that Saab engineers considered the idea of a retractable hardtop but dismissed it for some reason in favour of the triple layer soft top that the car currently uses.

Does anyone have any insight as to why?

It’ll be quite interesting to see what they do for any future versions of the convertible. Right or wrong, hard tops are the fashion right now. I’ve got to admit they do look pretty slick in most instances.

But are there any concrete benefits? Did Saab’s decision makers do it for the right reasons or were the beancounters the principal architects?

I know very little of this, but would be fascinated to hear from anyone with their finger on the pulse of the issue.


This whole question was prompted by a review sent to me of the new Volkswagen Eos convertible.

Until the Eos came along, Saab had the only diesel convertible in Australia. The 9-3 Convertible TiD was released in January and the Eos has just been released now.

The kicker: It’s speed and economy are comparable to the 9-3 TiD Convertible. It seats four, it’s got high levels of safety equipment, though a somewhat plainer trim – and it’s $20,000 cheaper.

We have a problem….

You may also like


  1. Don’t forget the Eos sits a class lower as well. It’s basically a convertible Golf with some Passat bits.

    So it is smaller inside, and although it has rear seats, it’s not as roomy in the rear as the 9-3.

    I think one of the main reasons for the fabric roof is weight, and not much else. Space is also an issue, when a hardtop roof folds into the bootspace, there is virtually nothing left for shopping or storage. Yes, you also get less space using a fabric roof, but it takes nowhere near as much space as a folding hard top.

    I can see Saab doing a folding ragtop for the next 9-3 convertible though. Don’t forget, the A4 and the CLK both use a fabric roof, the Aston Martin DB9, the AMV8. The 3 series is bucking the trend though, and is moving to a hard top folding roof, so I can see the rest of the segment following when their new models come out.

  2. Weight I can understand, but IIRC, the new Mazda MX-5 hardtop takes no extra space that what the soft top does. Or maybe it’s just got the same boot space regardless of top up or down. Now I feel quite foggy on the issue.

  3. When buyers look at hard-top vs. soft-top, I think it’s easy to guess that they see the hard-top as a little more premium. The design of the car is usally really nice with the top up. Also, in the climate of northern Europe and northern U.S., I think the hard-top has more of a all-year-around feeling. The truth could be something else, but buyers usually don’t always go with the truth… 🙂

  4. -weight

    Maybe if the technology improves next one is hardtop.

    There has also been rumours that next open-top BMW M3 could be soft-top for same reasons as Saab was. Performance matters more than fashion.

    Swade, look for 9-3 press releases, this top-choice issue reads there if I remember right.

  5. Swade, yes the MX5 hard top does not take away any more bootspace. BUT, the reasons are several.

    Firsly, and most importantly, the roof is MUCH smaller than those found on the Eos and 9-3.

    Secondly, the boot space is fixed, regardless of the hood being up or down.

    And Thirdly, the roof just sits behind the driver and is a manual jobbie, no motors or electronics (same as the ragtop version of the MX5).

  6. Another good reason which is due to the extra weight is the weight transfer from roof up to roof down with a Hard top convertible, id say it could be as much as 50kg of weight and that is allot to be moving round which in turn will effect the cars handling. I agree with what Saab has done in keeping with 9-3. It does handle quite well for a chop-top and has a far better driving experience than the EOS ever if it had a soft top. Plus for me it looks more classic and is in fairness keeping to a long Saab tradition, 21 Years now. If they did make a hard top there would be a loud out cry, we may not still have a hatch but we do still have a Rag top, so stay quite or GM might just change that lol ssshhhhhhhhh

  7. or as we say round here, it has a face like a well slapped arse.

    also the Saab 9-3 Convertible 1.9 TID 150 BHP has the following advantages over the Volkswagen EOS 2.0 TDI
    7 more kW
    228 mm longer
    3 in longer wheelbase
    13 mm greater headroom in front
    33 mm greater headroom in rear
    1 in greater headroom in rear

  8. Just took delivery on an ’07 9-3 Convertible last month (doing my best to buck the US sales figures), and maybe it all just boils down to personal preference, but after looking at ALL of the convertibles within $15K US of the Saab, we just liked the Saab the best as an overall package. To my eye, the hardtop convertibles just don’t look as good as the ragtops. Seems like they’re trying too hard to be a coupe, and somehow the lines end up looking a little too choppy on the retracting hardtops. So count me firmly in the ragtop camp until someone makes a hardtop that truly begins to look like an integrated part of the body.

  9. Convertible hardtops tend to have very long/high boots, which can make them look unbalanced from the side. On top of that, they lose a lot of luggage space and gain a lot of weight. I am not sure what the upside is, other than the fact that they are fashionable right now.

  10. “Swade, yes the MX5 hard top does not take away any more bootspace. BUT, the reasons are several.

    Firstly, and most importantly, the roof is MUCH smaller than those found on the Eos and 9-3.

    Secondly, the boot space is fixed, regardless of the hood being up or down.

    And Thirdly, the roof just sits behind the driver and is a manual jobbie, no motors or electronics (same as the ragtop version of the MX5).”

    Right you are on the first two. However your third point is wrong, at least here in the States. In our market the MX5’s hardtop is power, and it is 12 seconds from closed to open. Very quick, especially compared to the larger tops of the Eos or the 9-3. There is no compromise in the trunk space, as Mazda likes to remind everyone, but what they don’t mention is that several inches of seat travel were taken away so that the top could be stored behind the seats. It means that the first generation Miata had more room than the current PRHT MX5.

  11. The 9-3’s silhouette is so much better than any 4 seater hardtop i can think of.

    The folding tin top dictates the shape too much with awkward shape boots with odd proportions.

    Long live the Saab rag top i say – its been a winner for 20 years and im sure its got many more to go!

  12. Peter, I’m fairly sure the UK one is a manual jobbie as standard and power is an option.

    I could be wrong though, I’ll check the Mazda site and come back on that.

  13. Peter – looks like the UK one also gets the powered hood as standard, I wonder where I picked up the manual bit then, sure I read it somewhere. The motors for it must be rather tiny 🙂

  14. I agree with Swade, the EOS will steal some sales, unless the looks put people of. A friend of ours was going to replace their 206coupe cabrio with another but saw my SAAB and decided to by a SAAB convertible. The size of car was not important.
    For most, if not all buyers, style is the most important thing – everything else is secondary. If they like the style of the EOS they will buy it. I prefer the SAAB myself soft top or not, it is the only truly “desireable” car in the range.

    I dont see the weight as an issue either, as I pointed out in a previous post, a hatch 9-3 could be up to 50kg heavier than the SS, but hatch fans seemed happy to pay the weight penalty and convertibles are usually heavier with all the under body strengthening in anycase.

    I don’t know if it is a good idea but if Mazda caved in and put a roof on the MX5,something they never really wanted to do, I think it shows where market expectations are heading.

  15. Consider this.

    Whilst being 7 inches longer in wheelbase, the 9-3 and the Pontiac G6 are both based on the GM Epsilon platform. Remember that the G6 convertible is indeed a hard-top as well. So the architecture for the 9-3 is there, with only some mods to be made, in order to become a hardtop. It is quite possible.

    My question is do they need that extra 7 inches to tuck the roof in?

    And, has anyone paid attention to the specs of the MY08 9-3? Could they be using the 112.3 inch over the 105.3 wheelbase? Of course we don’t know yet, the specs haven’t been published – all we have are spy pics! So, anything is possible! We may see a longer 9-3 throughout the model line, with a hard-top vert!

  16. Here is a good chance for Saab to remain independant, by sticking to the classic soft-top. The hard-tops will be only a short term trend thing, they are simply too heavy if we look at the practical side.
    In the future chasing weight will be more important, even in the convertible market.

    Of course, things usually end up the opposite of what I think, but that’s another story…

  17. Not sure why they killed the hard top, but good for them. Soft tops look better up, take up less room and are cheaper to build. Hard tops are nice in in climate weather but why buy a convertible with bad weather in mind?

  18. I leased a 2004 9-3 Aero Convertible and have now purchased a 2007 9-3 Aero Convertible. Really enjoy the car. I test drove the Volvo C-70 and it was sluggish compared to the Saab and the trunk space disappeared when the top was down. The EOS looks akward from the side with the top up, but does have the DSG option, which is great. The new 6-speed auto in the Saab is a big step forward, however. I live in the U.S. Midwest where the temp range is -20 to +100 F each year with lousy weather and the soft-top works fine. Very cozy in the winter. If you want to drive a convertible, why shouldn’t the car look like a convertible, even when the top is up? That is the idea.

  19. I own two convirtables, a Saab and a Mini. When we bought the Mini we looked around at all the convirtable options available and I did not like the hard tops because of the following:

    – They look very awkward, The new BMW 3 series is the only one that looks half decent but they cannot make the roof line match with the rest of the car, and all the french ones look like some one has tacked a boot on the back and the look rediculous.

    – They are soooo heavy. When you chop the top off and add steel to the chassis to strengthen the car it is always heaver. (mini is 100Kg heaver then standard) then you go and put a metal roof back on you are just killing the weight of the car. which leads to fuel ecconomy and poor acceleration. (mini cooper S is $50,000 in Aus. and is fastest cabrio under $100,000)

    – Boot Space is killed when the roof is down of a hard top. In the Saab I can fit two large suitcases, two backpack and a couple of shopping bags in the boot with the roof down. Most hardtops are lucky to fit in a handbag with the roof down. and the boot is full of leavers and gears.

    – Insulation – The SAAB is actually has better insulation then most sedans as all they have a sheet of metal and some lining. I lived in North Queensland for 6 months in mid summer with temps over 40 degrees C. and high humidity and the aircon rearely came off low speed.

    – Speed of retraction. Both the mini and Saab retracts quickly which can be done at the lights, with the Saab being able to retract while moving (Followed a current model Saab cab the other day on the freeway and they slowed down to 40Km/h and put the roof up as it started to rain)

  20. All my porsches have been coupes but the Lamborghini I just ordered is a softop.

    Seriously though, the engineering/functioning factor also offers cloudy choices.

    Hard top= more structural rigidity
    Soft = lower weight & centre of gravity.

    Soft is king for a reason.


  21. Kevin is right, I like driving a convertible that looks like a convertible, top up or down. And the 9-3 is simply the best looking 4 seat convertible out there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *