2006 Saab 9-2x
2006 Saab 9-2x. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

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At first glance, Saab and Subaru don’t have much in common, one being from Sweden and the other from Japan. But look a little more closely and some parallels appear: both spent years building quirky cars and attracting small but loyal customer bases. The two companies have both attempted to reinvent themselves; Subaru’s attempt was successful, Saab’s – at the hands of owner General Motors – was arguably less so. On the topic of GM, there’s a link there too, as GM had a small stake in Subaru for a number of years.

It was under that now-dissolved relationship that the subject of this week’s used car review, the Saab 9-2X, was sired. General Motors wanted a less-expensive, entry-level model for Saab, to slot in below the 9-3 sedan. GM approached Subaru, who handed over the blueprints to its Impreza hatchback, and the 9-2X was born.

Initially, the 9-2X was offered in Linear and Aero forms, familiar trim levels to anyone who pays attention to Saab. The Linear model used the naturally aspirated, 2.5-litre flat four from the base Impreza, and the Aero got the 2.0-litre turbo version from the Impreza WRX. Horsepower, at 165 for the Linear and 227 in the Aero, were identical to the ratings for the Subaru models those engines came from. Transmissions, too, were the same: a five-speed manual was standard and a four-speed automatic an option. In 2006, the Aero model was dropped. It’s unclear whether there will be a 2007 9-2X, but speculation and rumour has it that it will be discontinued to make way for a future small crossover vehicle that might be called the 9-4 or 9-4X.

The main differences between the 9-2X and the Impreza it was based on were limited to looks and comfort. The 9-2X got a Saab-like front end with the company’s corporate grille, and different taillights and wheels. It also got a suspension tuned to provide a more comfortable ride than the Subaru, and more sound deadening material to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).

2006 Saab 9-2x
2006 Saab 9-2x. Click image to enlarge

Subaru has a good reputation for quality, and that translated nicely into the 9-2X’s new Swedish threads. A number of complaints have been levelled at the car by owners posting to www.Saab92x.com where the most common problem is uneven front tire wear caused by a front end that’s hard to keep in alignment (more info here: http://saab92x.com/viewtopic.php?id=3487). Premature brake wear is common too, and many buyers were disappointed by the quality of the paint, which many say scratches easily and is not up to the standards of a higher-end brand like Saab. No recalls have been issued for the 9-2X, however.

Safety is good, however, with the 9-2X earning four and five stars for driver and front passenger protection in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) frontal crash tests, and four stars each for front and rear occupant protection in side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 9-2X a “good” rating in its frontal offset and side impact tests. The 9-2X came standard in both years with side airbags, but traction/stability control was not offered.

2005 Saab 9-2x
2005 Saab 9-2x. Click image to enlarge

According to Natural Resources Canada, fuel consumption for the Saab was virtually the same as that for the Impreza, at 10.5 L/100 km in the city and 7.3 L/100 km on the highway for models fitted with the manual transmission.

The matter of pricing is an interesting one. Used values, according to Canadian Red Book, range from $20,800 for a 2005 9-2X Linear, to $23,375 for a 2006 Linear model, and finally to a high of $26,400 for a 2005 Aero. For comparison’s sake, a 2005 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS Sport Wagon is worth $18,825; a 2006 2.5i Sport Wagon is worth $21,425 and a 2005 WRX five-door is valued at $28,950. Going by those numbers, the ’05 9-2X Aero looks like the best deal, given the $2,500 discount compared to the WRX from the same year. As always, real-world asking prices (found in a search of 9-2Xs listed AutoTrader.ca in Ontario) vary wildly, from close to Red Book value to almost $32,000 for a 2005 Aero model.

We’d suggest holding out for a price you like rather than paying whatever a greedy buyer might try to get for their car. If you can’t get a 9-2X for the price you want and you’re not stuck on owning a Saab, go for an Impreza instead. Be aware that 2005 Imprezas didn’t come with side airbags (standard on all 9-2X models and all 2006 Imprezas) and you’ll lose out on some of the extra comfort features the Saab got, but otherwise, you’ll drive away what amounts to the same car with a different name.

Online resources

www.Saab92x.com – The forums here aren’t spectacularly busy, but this is the first place we’d go for help with one of these “Saabarus.” The moderators and members are knowledgeable and helpful and there’s plenty of useful information on the common issues that affect the 9-2X.

www.saabcentral.com – 9-2X discussion here is split up into two sections: one for technical talk relating to maintenance and repairs and another section dealing with performance modifications.

www.saabnet.com – A comprehensive site that covers all manner of Saabs. The 9-2X and its owners get their own discussion forum (in addition to forums for all other past and present Saab models). There are also forums dedicated to performance modifications, detailing and future Saab models. The site’s design is a little antiquated, but it’s easy to navigate and has lots of good information.

www.saabforums.com – This looks like a new site, judging by the deficit of information as compared to the sites listed above. There’s a 9-2X forum, but it doesn’t see a lot of activity.

Manufacturer’s Website

  • www.gmcanada.com/ss/english/vehicles/saab/saab.html


No recalls

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.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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