Saab 9-3SC vs Volvo V50

This review comes from Bengt P. As you’ll see below, he’s just picked up a 2008 Saab 9-3 to replace his Volvo V50. When Bengt mentioned in comments a few days ago that he was going to pass on his impressions there, I wrote to him and offered the chance to make a full article of it. Here’s what he’s come back with.

Thanks Bengt, and enjoy everyone. The pictures are clickable, as usual.


Four days ago I picked up my new car, a 9/3 SportCombi 2008 and I thought that I should give you my first impressions and also a comparison with my former car, a Volvo V50 T5 2004, when I still have fresh memories of it. Note that I am not new to SAAB. Before the Volvo I had a 2000 9/5 SC 2.3 and has also owned a 1990 9000 Turbo and a couple of 900s.

My SAAB has the following specifications:

Engine: 1..9 TiD, diesel, 150 hp, 320 Nm
Gearbox: Manual 6-speed
Equipment level: Vector Active. I think this equipment level is not available on all markets but it is basically the Vector + some extras
Color: Jet Black
Wheels: Alloy wheel 5-spoke Y 17×7″ called ALU 45 in Sweden

Volvo Saab

I had decided to not by a petrol car, and ethanol was never an option despite a lot of advantages with taxes etc here in Sweden, but I am sorry to say that I don’t believe in it when it is produced in the way it is today and also because of the fuel consumption itself. My friend’s 9-5 SC + caravan consumed 18 l/100 km this summer.

So, time for diesel.

Of course I considered the 180 hp TTiD version but I didn’t have time to first wait a couple of months to get a test drive, and then wait for the delivery. I heard from the dealer this week that they expected the TTiD to arrive sometime late December. Another reason was that I thought it was time to grow up and ask myself if it was worth another 1300 € and if I really needed the extra power. After a test drive with the TiD I came to the conclusion that this engine was fully enough for me. (My Volvo V50 T5 was equipped with a 220 hp engine so there should be a big difference). If life gets too boring, it is good to know that my hometown is the same as BSR’s and that their upgrade to 184 Hp/412 Nm costs 850 €.

So I picked up my new SAAB 4 days ago. I was a little nervous about the wheels because I had only seen them in pictures before, but they were just as nice as I hoped for (grown up??).

So far I have noticed the following:

– It is a real SAAB, it feels like coming home.

– The SAAB feels larger than the Volvo in almost all aspects

– The Volvo seats are very good but the SAAB seats are better! They are slightly bigger, have better support for the upper part of your back and are not as hard as the Volvo seats.

– The Volvo interior is more minimalistic or more “Scandinavian design” compared to the SAAB. Minimalistic is also the keyword when describing the space available for mobile, wallet or whatever you need to put somewhere in the Volvo. The SAAB interior is much more cozy and “warm”. There are no big differences in material quality in the interior but Volvo feels slightly better. I don’t like the tachometer in the SAAB, it feels very cheap and un-exact and please bring back the progressive speedometer

– The Volvo is more of a sport car than the SAAB with quicker responses, harder suspension but also “bumpier” and un-comfortable. The SAAB handling is very good but feels slower and more comfort oriented. The SAAB is very silent compared to the Volvo. The differences in noise and comfort are something you notice all the time especially on the sometime bad roads around my hometown.

– It is hard to compare the engines. They are two very different machines. The T5 engine is very powerful and flexible. I doesn’t matter which gear you use, the power is always there. The SAAB diesel engine is a little bit weak at low rpm but then it is very strong and powerful. You have to drive this car in another way, a little bit like the old turbos. I like the engine very much and once again it is very comfortable and quiet with just a little more than 1500 rpm in 90 km/h.

Conclusion so far:

I am very satisfied with my new car and I don’t miss the Volvo at all. Despite the fact that the both cars are of similar size, almost the same price, produced by Swedish manufacturers owned by American companies etc, the cars are very different. Much more different then I would expect.

In my case it is an easy choice; I would chose the SAAB before the Volvo 9 times out of 10.

Saab 9-3 SportCombi

Saab 9-3 Interior

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  1. The Combi really stands out in Black. Nice choice. The V50 from olvov is also a good car, but I agree with your review – I’d have to go with the SAAB 9 out of 10 times.

  2. Don’t sweat the horses, Bengt.
    The 6spd manual box will allow
    you do go faster than most
    cars on the road, whether you
    have 150hp or 250hp.

  3. Just like to add…attended the motor show in Sydney over the weekend.

    The exterior is impressive though i noticed little change in the interior.

    Mostly this is good but my quality pet-peeves are as follows:

    Tacho does look a bit cheap as does the hard plastic fascia around the instruments.

    The lid at the rear centre console isn’t secure enough, easy to wiggle it side to side at the hinges.

    Rubber matts in the console are also a cheap touch, remind me of taxis.

    Too much hard black plastic in the centre console. Cheap cheap cheap and boring.


    I won’t go so far as to say it ruins it for me but it comes bloody close.

  4. The Saab looks so good. Since the T5 is supposed to be the top motoralternative for the V50 it would be more accurate to compare the engine against Saab 9-3 aero V6 with 255 horsepower. In that case I would choose the Saab 10/10 times….

  5. Good review. Very nice to hear someone who actually has owned Volvo and thinks like you just described! Exactly how I felt after testdrive of V50. Though I thought V50 was not sharper on turn in, maybe Saab is bit more on the softer side but will corner hard without any problems and signs of understeer what V50 does a lot.

    There´s no comments on rough diesel engine noise. Maybe they have upgrated sound insulation on TiD engine also? When I test drove ´07 TiD I felt that engine was rather noisy at idle. Also it was possible to feel it through the steering wheel. Still this doesn´t make it a bad engine. I love diesels and I´ll be getting one myself pretty soon if everything goes as I´ve planned.

    Those consumption figures for towing caravan sound horrible. Regular petrol engines do get something like 12-15 l/100km which is also very much, but 18l/100km is freaking crazy. Compared to diesel which can easily hold it under 10l/100km. And diesel torque will make towing much more convenient experience. If there´s heavy load, TiD will give maximum torque already below 2000rpm.

    T5 engine is wonderfully tuned piece of machinery. I´ve driven it few times and I cannot say a bad word of it. Well, maybe fuel consumption. But it´s still reasonable considering the performance.

    That black 9-3 Vector looks killer! New look without bumper or sidestrips makes the car look more sleek. And missing roofrails also has an effect of a coupe to me. It´s the windowline that lowers down (and bottomline raises) makes the car look so good.

    So congratulations once again! Great choise!

  6. MarkoA:
    About the noise:
    I can’t compare the 2008 diesel engine noise with 2007 because I have never tested the 2007 diesel. Of course you can hear that it is a diesel but I have no problems with it and I can’t feel it much through the steering wheel.
    About the ethanol consumption:
    It is not only the friend I have mentioned that have problems with ethanol consumption. It is a known fact that actual consumption figures differs a lot compared to figures published by the car manufacturers. I am a little worried that both SAAB and at least Swedish government are happy just by the fact that it is an ethanol car and not bothers about the ethanol consumption figures at all. I feel that it must be better for the environment if a car consumes 90 l/10 km instead of 130 l/10 km no matter if it is ethanol, diesel or gasoline. A CO2 emission from ethanol is not better for the environment then CO2 emissions from the other fuels. The good part with ethanol is of course that 85 % of one liter E85 fuel minus production emissions minus transport emissions etc consumes CO2 while growing but I am not convinced at all. I think that SAAB, in their environmental work, should focus more on reducing the E85 consumption and, instead of increasing the power (and consumption) when running on E85on the same engine, offer smaller engines with same power (and less consumption), if you understand what I mean.
    /Bengt P

  7. Hey Bengt, did you get fuel operated park heater in your diesel car? I´m not sure about the other markets but at least in finland it´s a standard on diesels and according several diesel owners, it´s very comfortable help during cold wintertime.

  8. And also it seems that there´s some difference because the steeringwheel on ´07 vibrated quite badly after coldstart of the engine. Of course it´s possible that something was wrong with that car, but I don´t think so because it was tester at the dealers, with 7500kms on clock.

    Anyway, I really loved the way the diesel engine pulls on lower rpms. TTiD must be a real blast!

  9. Marko:
    The park heater is standard and it is very nice have when winter is comming. This morning it was -4 celsius here but since I set the timer yesterday all ice had melted from the windows.
    Swade, you didn’t see all variants of swedish climate when you visited this summer 🙂

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