Introduced in 2005, the Saab 9-2X tightens its line-up for 2006: there’s only a single trim line, and with one engine, a 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed “boxer” engine. The 2.0-litre turbocharged model offered in 2005 is not available for 2006. A five-speed manual transmission can be optioned to a four-speed automatic.

If it sounds like a familiar powerplant, that’s because this “Saabaru” is based on the Subaru Impreza. That means you get a Saab built in Japan, with Subaru’s legendary all-wheel-drive, and with a more upscale interior than the Subaru version.

The 9-2X includes power locks with remote, rear roof spoiler, 16-inch alloy wheels, variable intermittent wipers, rear wiper/washer, air conditioning, cruise control, tinted glass, three-spoke sport wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 split folding rear seat, cloth upholstery, CD with four speakers, anti-lock brakes and side impact airbags.

Optional items include a “cold weather package” of heated seats, mirrors and windshield deicer, and a “premium” package of leather interior, six-CD changer with six speakers, Xenon headlamps and front fog lamps.

The 9-2X is definitely an Impreza from the back end, but the nose features Saab’s unmistakable grille. Extra sound-deadening materials and higher-grade carpeting are obvious differences in the cabin, while underneath, the Saab receives quicker steering and a firmer suspension than the Impreza.

The 9-2X naturally offers all the road manners of the Impreza, including its sharp handling, flat cornering, and great brakes. The ride is firm, although its suspension absorbs enough that rough roads won’t bruise the kidneys.

The 9-2X is the only Saab to start under $30,000, which makes it a great entry level for those who want the nameplate but don’t have enough cash to move into a 9-3. Still, it’s a $2,405 premium over the base Subaru model; compare the features before you buy.

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