It's probably fair to say that Saab isn't having the best of it at the moment. Following a bounce back from the dead with the largely impressive 9-5 saloon a year ago, Saab again appers to be in turmoil.
However Saab GB has a good stock of right-hand drive models in the UK and is pushing ahead with its Model Year 12 refreshes, including the Saab 9-3 Convertible, getting rather long in the tooth but probably one of the best-looking coupe-cabriolets on the market.
Get a FREE SAAB Brochure
Looking for a new car then why not start with a glossy SAAB brochure
It's a tough sector, with the Volvo C70 and BMW 3-Series Convertible to contend with and the 9-3 is almost ten year's old - a long time in anyone's logbook.That said, this one final refresh has managed to give the compact exec drop-top a lift - there's new rear badging as seen on the new 9-5, new 'ice block' headlights, a new bumper design and some new interior trim materials.
In the 9-3 Convertible Aero 2.0T there's great space upfront for two, and good room for two in the back. Luggage space suffers when the roof is down but there's a decent 352 litres when the roof is up. The interior still bears the hallmarks of a General Motors interior - hard, shiny plastics and parts-bin elements - which is unfortunate because there's a lot to like inside.
The honeycomb vents, goodsize navigation screen and cockpit-style interior are all nice touches that do what Saab is very good at - differentiating its models from the rest of the cars on the block.
A very clear dashboard layout is a strong point, as are the excellent seats that are adjustable in various directions. Built-in seatbelts on the sliding seats mean access to the rear is easy too, in addition to wide-opening front doors.
The 220bhp 2.0T petrol engine is a bit of a hoot. It's free-revving from low down the power range and pulls strongly - while the six-speed automatic transmission our car was equipped with was very smooth and very quick to change, particularly shifting down for a power burst.
It will sprint to 62mph in an impressive 7.3 seconds and go on to 146mph if you're eager to try it out on the Autobahn. Combined fuel economy is pretty impressive for such a car with a strong petrol engine at 38.2mpg, while carbon emissions are 173g/km.
That means road tax of £265 for the first year and £190 annually thereafter; while company car tax is £1,521 per annum at 20 per cent.
There's a whopping 350Nm (258lb-ft) of torque to play with, so the 9-3 never feels sluggish, despite the weight of the slick and fast folding roof mechanism. With the roof down it can get a bit buffetty at anything apporaching motorway speed, but the fabric roof does a good job of noise and wind insulation while it's up.
Sadly bringing the roof down may give you the feeling of wind in your hair, but it also introduces an element of stiff scuttle-shake - body flexing that stems from a lack of structural rigidity that makes for a poorly-controlled ride.
The Aero specification is strong too with dual-zone climate control, full leather, electric windows, CD player, 18-inch alloys, cruise control and rear parking sensors, remodelled bumpers, twin exhausts, bi-xenon headlamps and heated front seats.
Safety kit is strong too with ESC, six airbags and anti-whiplash head restraints as standard. However the stop-spec engine paired with the best specification means the 9-3 drop-top weighs in at over £32,000, a price that should undercut most rivals. Fitted with the autobox and satnav system in our test model the Aero 2.0T tipped the scales at £35,775 - which is starting to get steep for this car, even for the range-topper.
But there are plenty of things to enjoy here, that the 9-3 Convertible is still good to drive and smart to look at almost ten years after it hit the market is impressive, even if it's somewhat over the hill. A few hours after my test drive I saw a 9-3 Convertible bombing down the motorway - and it looked superb.
There's a new 9-3 scheduled for 2012 and it will be fascinating to see that car, perhaps the first Saab in over 20 years that won't be compromised by GM platform- and parts-sharing.
I do hope we see it because there's still lots about Saab - even in these troubled times - that is uniquely interesting. But for that to be Saab's epitaph would be sad indeed.
Saab 9-3 Milestones
Saab 9-3 Convertible Aero 2.0T
Engine and performance: 2.0-litre petrol engine; 217bhp at 5300; 350Nm (258lb-ft); 60mph sprint in 7.3 seconds; 146mph top speed
Boot space: 258 litres (roof down) - 352 (roof up)
Pros: High desireability; excellent 2.0T petrol engine; good interior space
Cons: Very expensive at high specifications; some poor quality interior touches; driving and ride compromised