2005 Saab 9-2x Linear
Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Bob McHugh

It seems like a perfect match: two somewhat unconventional automakers; one an up-market Euro named Saab needing an entry-level product, preferably with all-wheel-drive; and on the other side of the globe, a Japanese automaker called Subaru with a successful compact car and expertise in all-wheel-drive systems.

The matchmaker in this coalition is General Motors which owns Saab and is a major shareholder in Subaru. The offspring of the union is a compact 4-door hatchback called the Saab 9-2X.

The 9-2X comes in two trim levels Linear and Aero. My test 9-2X was a base Linear ($28,950) with an optional power sunroof ($1,620) and a cozy cold weather package ($810) that includes heated front seats, heated outside mirrors and a front wiper de-ice feature.

The Linear version comes with Subaru’s 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder boxer (horizontally-opposed) engine and all-wheel-drive system. As you might expect in a Saab, the safety package is comprehensive. It also comes with 4-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock system and has 16-inch wheels with low-profile performance tires.

The high-performance 9-2X Aero ($37,735) comes with a turbo-charged 2.0-litre engine, which also powers the Subaru Impreza WRX sedan. Additionally, the 9-2X Aero model is distinguished with a sculptured hood air intake, fog lamps, power sunroof, 17-inch wheels, an automatic climate control system, a better audio system, the cold weather package, a leather trim package and sport seats.

The premium compact market is a relatively new phenomenon, but the Mini Cooper and the new Volvo S40 are good examples of this market segment. The 9-2X adds a new level of versatility to the mix, with its wagon-like cargo capability.

The Looks

2005 Saab 9-2x Linear
Click image to enlarge

The 9-2X car has a split personality, from a front view it’s unmistakably a Saab. The three-part grille, with angled dividers and headlights give the car a crisp, aerodynamic fascia. Headlights sweep around into the fenders and beneath the bumper a large opening funnels air to the radiator.

The overall length 4,460 mm (175.6 inches) is longer than an Impreza but it does share the same 2,525 mm (99.4 inch) wheelbase. As you move around the vehicle you’ll notice frameless door glass (not very Scandinavian) and looking at it from the rear you could easily mistake it for an Impreza wagon.

The Inside

2005 Saab 9-2x Linear
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I liked the seats and had no complaints about fit or finish. Yet, the interior was still a little disappointing. A Saab is supposed to be different and offer a unique perspective from engineers who like to fly planes – upside down or something.

The 9-2X controls are where you expect them to be and they do what you expect them to do. I’ve been here before. Where’s unconventional Saab? Where’s the ignition switch on the floor, an adjustable dash panel, an anti-theft lock on the gear shift lever, rear fog lamps, or even a park brake that operates the front brakes?

2005 Saab 9-2x Linear
Click image to enlarge

The front bucket seats and upholstery treatment were an interior highlight. All of the adjustments were via a slick manual system that even included a height setting. Rear seat legroom was the low.

Safety Equipment

In addition to front air bags, the 9-2X has front seat mounted side air bags. The front seats are also fitted with active head restraints, which help reduce the risk of neck injury in a rear-end collision.

The front seatbelts have pretensioners to tighten them in a collision and load limiters to release excessive belt pressure on the front-seat occupants.

The Drive

2005 Saab 9-2x Linear
Click image to enlarge

The 9-2X uses a symmetrical all-wheel-drive system and a horizontally-opposed “boxer” engine, supplied by Subaru. A uniquely tuned suspension and steering and a higher level of sound insulation complete the Saab transformation.

The test Linear model came with an automatic transmission, but was still a fun car to drive. Fairly smooth at idle, the normally-aspirated 2.5-litre engine sounds a little rough when you push it though its mid-speed range and smoothes out again around the 4000 rpm mark.

Although tweaked by Saab the driving dynamics are similar to an Impreza – not that there’s anything wrong with that! The faster Aero trim edition, with a turbo-charged engine, was clocked at 7.8-second from 0 to100 km at the Canadian Car of the Year evaluation event.

Competitors for the Saab 9-2X include the Acura TSX $34,900 – $39,400; Audi A4 $34,985 – $65,125; BMW 3-Series; $34,950 – $83,950; Mini Cooper $23,400 – $36,400; Subaru Impreza $22,995 – $35,495; Volkswagen Passat $30,190 – $45,650; and Volvo S40 $29,995 – $40,495.

The Score

A new Saab with all-wheel-drive for under $30,000 is an enticing prospect and the 9-2X is a very nice car. A little more Saab in the mix would make it even better.

Technical Data:

Base price $28,950
Options $2,430 (Power sunroof $1620; Cold weather pkg $810)
Freight $1,050
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $32,530
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact hatchback
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel drive
Engine 2.5 litre H.O. 4 cylinder, SOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower 165 @ 5600 rpm
Torque 166 ft-lb @ 6000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic (5-speed manual)
Curb weight 1411 mm (3110 lb.)
Wheelbase 2525 mm (99.4 in.)
Length 4460 mm (175.6 in.)
Width 1695 mm (66.7 in.)
Height 1465 mm (57.7 in.)
Cargo capacity 790 litres (27.9 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 10.3 L/100 km (27 m.p.g.) (Imperial)
  Hwy: 7.5 L/100 km (38 m.p.g.) (Imperial)
Fuel type Unleaded 87 octane
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Assembly location Yajima, Japan

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