All-new for 2005, the Saab 9-2X Linear has been dubbed a “Saabaru”, and with good reason: Saab’s new entry-level wagon is based on the Subaru Impreza.

That means you get a Saab built in Japan, with all-wheel-drive, a horizontally-opposed engine and a key that goes into the ignition, rather than the console. Maybe it’s cheating, but it means that the 9-2X is built on a very good foundation, and the interior is nicer and more upscale than when you order it from Subaru.

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 comes as the Linear, with a 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder “boxer” engine from the Subaru Impreza, or as the Aero, with a 2.0-litre turbocharged boxer four from the Impreza WRX. Both start with a five-speed manual that can be optioned to a four-speed automatic, and both are wagons.

Each comes in a single trim line. The Linear includes rear roof spoiler, power windows, air conditioning, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, rear washer/wiper, 60/40 folding rear seat, height-adjustable driver’s seat, and CD player with four speakers. Canadian buyers get a premium over U.S. consumers: 17-inch wheels, power sunroof and a “Cold Weather Package” of heated front seats, heated mirrors and front and rear wiper de-icer are standard, instead of optional as they are in the U.S.

The Aero also comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, sunroof and the cold weather package, and adds automatic climate control, fog lights, leather-wrapped wheel, and six-CD stereo with six speakers.

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. There’s enough turbo lag in the Aero that the Linear makes for a more pleasant overall driving experience.

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. As good as the interior appointments and suspension tweaks are, it’s $2,240 to go from a WRX to the Aero, and as much as $5,955 from the Impreza to the Linear. The Subaru also offers a longer powertrain warranty. And you won’t spend all your time listening to, “Hey, isn’t that one of those Saabarus?”

The 9-2X is built in Yajima, Japan.

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