1996 Saab 900 SE Turbo 5-Door
1996 Saab 900 SE Turbo 5-Door

It’s safe, it’s functional, it’s economical and it’s Swedish – yes, it’s a Saab. Founded in 1937 as a builder of military fighter planes, the Saab name is actually an acronym and the English translation is Swedish Aircraft Company. The first Saab production vehicle, the Saab 92, did not appear until 1950.

The aerodynamic styling lines of that first Saab 92, the aircraft-industry engineering ideas and even its front-wheel-drivetrain are all part of what makes a Saab, a Saab. The floor mounted ignition switch, an anti-theft lock on the gear shift lever, wipers and washers on the headlights, a park brake that holds the front wheels instead of the rears and fog lights front and rear are all normal for the unconventional Saab.

The first generation Saab 900 was introduced in 1978 and it lasted an incredible, by today’s standards, 15 years. By then, General Motors had purchased half of the Saab car building business and GM now owns it outright.

The ’94 Saab 900 has a stiffer chassis and a more aerodynamic shape than the previous 900. Although the overall shape and the outside dimensions were roughly the same there’s more interior space, a bigger front windshield and more glass all-around for better outward vision.

A highly functional design the 900 has an exceptionally large trunk. With the rear seats folded the 900 has wagon-like cargo space in the rear. Unique safety features included a 3-point seatbelt in the centre rear position and integrated child seats were optional.

Available initially only as a 5-door hatchback in S and SE trim levels, a two-door hatchback was added later in the model year. The SE trim package adds on traction control, leather upholstery, climate control type air conditioning, alloy wheels, power moon roof and power front seats.

This 900 comes with a more conventional transverse front-drive drivetrain set-up than the previous 900, which had the transmission in front of the engine. The base engine is a 2.3 litre DOHC 16 valve 4-cylinder engine in the S and a new 2.5 litre, 24-valve V6 engine came in the SE.

The 5-speed manual transmission was also a new design and fuel consumption figures with the 2.3 engine are 12.8 L/100 km in the city and 8.0 L/100 km on the highway. The automatic comes with sport, economy and a winter drive-shifting mode that allows a gentler second gear take-off on a slippery surface.

The 900 product line swelled in ’95 with the addition of a convertible and a low-pressure turbo-charged 2.0 litre 4-cylinder engine. A new-and-improved anti-lock braking system was fitted in ’96. The brakes were improved again in ’97 with larger discs and a front seat redesign expanded the seat cushions and added storage pockets. The V6 version was dropped in ’98 as the 900 was phased out of production in preparation for the launch of its replacement the 9-3.

Cars that dare to be different always have a special appeal and the Saab 900 definitely fits into this category. Although a little quirky, Saabs boast a distinguished safety record and the 900 gets a top-in-class rating for accident survivability from the Highway Loss Data Institute. There are a limited number of service repair outlets and the cost of doing repairs is generally higher than average, on the other hand – it’s a Saab!

Recalls on the Saab 900 include the following:


  1. The front brake shields should be replaced with a new design that provides better protection of the brake pads and discs while driving in snow or heavy rain.

  2. Possible fatigue cracks around the attachment bushings on the height adjusting mechanism in the driver’s seat.
  3. The ’94 coupe may have manually adjusted front seats that do not properly lock the seat rails. Faulty trigger springs should be replaced.


  1. Front seat assemblies may be missing arc welds that join the seat back recliner mechanism and this could result in seat back failure, if impacted from the rear.

  2. It may be possible to accidentally disengage reverse gear by striking the shift lever. If the park brake is not applied, the car roll from a parked position.


  1. Vehicles with the 4-cylinder engines may have a throttle pedal that binds. Dealers will replace a zinc-coated throttle lever bushing with a nickel-coated one



  1. The 2.3L engine may have a defective Bosch Motronic engine control module. It intermittently causes the idle speed to fluctuate, after restarting with a warm engine.

  2. An incorrectly aligned steering column shaft on the ’95 convertible could cause a fatigue failure. Dealers will inspect and/or replace the steering column assembly.

Used Prices Saab 900 (April 2000)

Year Model Price today Price new
1994 S 5-Door $10,000 to $13,000 $30,650
1995 S 5-Door $12,800 to $15,800 $30,222
1996 SE Turbo 5-Door $15,100 to $18,100 $38,948
1997 SE Turbo 5-Door $19,800 to $23,300 $40,125
1998 SE Turbo 5-Door $23,300 to $27,300 $41,302

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

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