The cars we buy for YouTube videos don’t usually stick around very long. Every now and then, though, we get a vehicle that’s too good to sell.
Of the three cars bought for the Ultimate Daily Driver Challenge video last December, Alex’s rusty Ford Puma and Ethan’s rank Fiat Multipla were sold on within days. But the Saab 9-3? I was definitely keeping hold of that.
It was way less broken than the 540,000-mile B5 Audi A4 I was driving at that point, and after switching out the seized front brakes, it’s been plain sailing. I’ve since added another 5000 miles, and the mighty Saab is still going strong with nearly 180,000 on the clock.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
It genuinely is the ultimate £500 daily driver
The Saab, as I like to remind Alex and Ethan quite often, won that challenge video. And as the only one of the three cars that has actually been daily driven after, it’s proven itself a worthy winner.
I can throw all my filming kit in it, it’s comfortable, and it has enough mod cons that it doesn’t feel really dated. It has cruise control, air conditioning, automatic lights, auto wipers and more - and it all works!
The 9-3 is almost worth £500 for the cupholder alone. It flicks out of the dash with surprising violence, and amazingly, it shows no signs of breaking after all these miles. Yet.
I keep forgetting where the ignition is
I still find myself trying to put the key in the ‘usual’ place, but on the 9-3, it goes in a slot on the centre console. Apparently, it’s to stop you from knocking your knee on it while driving. It’s just a bit different, and one of my favourite things about the car.
The air vents are needlessly intricate
Man, Saab were keen to make the 9-3 seem different to the related Vauxhall Vectra, weren’t they? Along with the weird key placement and the violent cupholder, another 9-3 quirk is the air vents.
They’re incredibly intricate, with a stack of four vent pieces sat behind the front one giving a sort of 3D-effect. They look cool but they also seem like a pain in the arse to fix.
Night Panel is genuinely helpful
The part of Saab that makes fighter jets has been separate from the car bit since 1990, but no one told the marketing people, who milked that vaguely linked cow for all it was worth. So, the 9-3 has a jet fighter-inspired ‘Night Panel’.
I thought this would be a gimmick, but coming back from a late shoot recently my eyes were feeling strained, and Night Panel really helped. The only thing is I get a bit scared that the car’s going to overheat as I’m using it - I’d want to see the temperature gauge creeping up long before a warning light comes on!
It feels surprisingly quick
The 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine is, believe it or not, a Fiat JTD engine. It makes 148bhp, which doesn’t sound like much, but the torque is decent at 236lb ft. It’s surprisingly nippy for a broken old diesel, and it doesn’t belch out black smoke when you put your foot down like a lot of old DERV stuff.
The gearbox is probably the thing that'll kill it
Along with the seizing brakes, the five-speed automatic gearbox was also playing up on the shoot day at Curborough last year, and it’s still bad now. When it’s cold it doesn’t seem to make up its mind, but it’s better and selecting cogs once it’s warm. I reckon it’ll be the gearbox that’ll finish the Saab off, but hopefully, it’s got plenty of miles left in it before then.