Saab 9-2 - promising project for the golf class

Saab and the Golf class. An eternal problem; The Swedes never managed to establish a small series. The Saab 9-2 was the second attempt in 1999, after having been attempted a few years earlier. At that time under a different name.

The Saab 900 compact had now been shelved. Then Audi came with the first A3. The Ingolstadt company showed that there was definitely money to be made in the compact class. The A3 was expensive despite being a Golf in disguise. But an attractive design and the shine of the 4 rings outshined everything. And Audi could celebrate and let the champagne corks fly.

The Saab contribution for the golf class - the 9-2
The Saab contribution to the Golf class - the 9-2

Saab 9-2 vs Audi A3

In contrast, the mood in the GM camp was rather depressed. The A3 took a massive number of customers from the Opel Astra, the image of the brand from Rüsselsheim was once again on the wane, and there was now free capacity at the main plant. What Audi and VW can do, Saab can do that too, one must have thought in the stable backa.

And hot plans were made.

In 1998, Saab was on a mental flight. The new 9-5 hit like a bomb and brought many new customers to the brand. Saab has already seen wings grow where there were no feathers. Additional models were planned, none of which made it to market, and a future capacity problem at the plant was suspected.

Audi A3 - courtesy of Audi AG
Audi A3 - courtesy of Audi AG

Not without reason, because the technical development had novelties. The variable compression ratio (VCR) engine made progress, a hybrid model was almost ready for series production. They also wanted to occupy the niche. The first vehicle to feature Per Gilbrand's revolutionary VCR engine was to be a new Sonett. A small, chic sports car, planned for 2002 or 2003. As with the successor to the 9-3 Cabriolet, no free capacity was found in Trollhättan for the Sonett. Discussions began with Magna about subcontracting both vehicles.

Saab 9-2 based on Astra G

The Saab 9-2 should not be made in Sweden either. Saab CEO Robert Hendry wanted to have the compact car built by Opel because it would have shared the base with the Astra K. The G series replaced the legendary bad Astra F series in 1998 and was a real step forward. With a high-quality interior - brought to Saab level - the idea would not have been without charm.

In 1999, pictures of the upcoming 9-2 were published, which were based on the successful 9-5 series. The shell-shaped bonnet was typical of the brand. The hockey stick on the C-pillar was also present, the rear picked up the style of Saab 9-3 and 9-5. The front with the classic grill – everything was right.

Saab 9-2 1999
Saab 9-2 1999

Could the project have worked? A compact Saab that is an Opel like the Audi A3 is basically a Golf? The answer may be surprising. It could have worked. The Astra G Series was underrated and much better than the public realised. It suffered from the disaster of the F series and its lack of quality, when Opel completely misjudged the market and went cheap before quality.

Image transfer to the golf class

It was probably that one perfect moment that was missed. The brand on the up, the success of the 9-5 that outshined everything. Its progressive image would have been transferred to the compact, one could have generously overlooked the Opel origin. They would have had work in Rüsselsheim and quantities at Saab.

But then the project disappeared and everything turned out very differently. What happened? The reasons must have been varied. One for this was in Rüsselsheim. Opel got into serious trouble and Robert Hendry was called to Germany to rescue him.

After him came a former Volvo manager who wanted to do everything differently. He concreted the highway into the abyss for Saab and made decisions that could no longer be corrected - and ultimately culminated in the end.

A compact car with Saab lettering was still put on the road during his time. The 9-2x, which unfortunately was just a disguised Subaru. The saga of a Saab compact car is not yet finished. It goes further, and under Spyker and Victor Muller the topic was found again in product planning.

What is really amazing is the fact that the Saab compact car even survived the demise of Saab Automobile AB. Had the cards been played wisely, a small Saab would have rolled into dealerships around 2013.

14 thoughts on "Saab 9-2 - promising project for the golf class"

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    @ EF-Moose (One Model Policy),

    these are valid thoughts. Strictly speaking, Saab has never shrunk, just never grown ...

    I find it fascinating that even large manufacturers have consistently done something similar for a surprisingly long time. It wasn't so terribly long ago that Mercedes didn't actually have a model range either. Audi, VW, Volvo, whoever...

    When Mercedes launched a station wagon for the first time or later a 190rd model with the Baby Benz (3), these were sensations that caused a lot of attention.

    Today no one questions the meaning and purpose of further diversification - even if it's the 08-XNUMX variant of whatever.

    There is no longer an SUV that is not also available lowered and no more sports car that is not also available with more ground clearance and all-wheel drive ...

    The only thing that doesn't seem to exist anymore are manufacturers like Saab, who don't do everything ...

    It's like using dishwashing liquid or cream cheese. You're standing in front of ever larger shelves in the supermarket, crammed to the brim with more and more flavors (cream cheese) or fragrances (washing-up liquid). Identifying the base product (be it a good car, an unscented dishwashing liquid, a universal cream cheese) is becoming increasingly difficult.

    That annoys me.

    By the way, I almost threw up washing the dishes by hand in a holiday home. Unfortunately, the winter edition of a washing-up liquid with the color and consistency of pus and sweetish scents was within reach. I feel the same way about many current cars - they bother me as unpleasantly as penetratingly scented washing-up liquid with a questionable look. Above all, however, they seem to me to be just as superfluous and expendable ...

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    It's remarkable how different tastes are... I would still buy it as a new car today. In a great red. And bright interior. It doesn't take much imagination to imagine what the car would have had to offer on the drive side. (There it is again)
    But even without the 9-2, we can enjoy design gems with downsizing engines constructed decades ago. It's a good thing that this stupid word didn't exist back then...

    Have a nice rest of the weekend to all Saabists.

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    Yes, there it was again - the 5 € in the Prasensch thesis - would have had a bicycle chain ....
    What happened if …. 9-1, 9-2, 9-6, station wagon, hatchback, compact and and and...
    Unfortunately, we must not forget that we were one of the smallest car manufacturers in the world - you always wanted to survive on the market with a model - the wallet was usually half empty, never half full!!
    Everyone knows that a small car usually rounds off a brand's portfolio in a positive way and always generates decent numbers for a manufacturer - be it as a second car or as the (SORRY!!) partner car.
    I think that was also not entirely unknown in Saab - Sweden - but - if it wasn't for the notoriously empty wallet
    were …
    One should not always assume wrong marketing strategies - unfortunately, with the size of Saab and its economic dependencies on e.g. GM, business issues have always been an issue that should have disappeared forever (lost to this day) from most technically far-sighted projects ...

    Nice WE and SAAB greetings from Thuringia

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    The Opel Astra k only came onto the market in 2015. Since Saab was bankrupt for a long time!
    In 1998, the Astra g came onto the market with optically good qualities... gap dimensions, interior space, etc. the most important thing, however, was the improved rust the IAA 1997, people even sang at the presentation...old love doesn't rust...! However, the technical reliability was not good, especially the own diesel engines from Kaiserslautern drank oil!
    Whether this basis would have been good for Saab is questionable!

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      @Christoph Is of course correct. F follows G, the text is corrected. Thanks!

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    Visually not quite my case either, but would probably have found its buyers. I feel the same as Gerd Pitschmann, the special rear design of the 9-5 station wagon, also that of the 9-5 NG doesn't work for me optically, there is an M-Class from Mercedes and also an older Peugeot station wagon model that has this idiosyncratic design. The 9-3, on the other hand, is a very timeless and still modern station wagon.
    Small correction: it is probably the Astra G that has replaced the Astra F, the Astra K is almost "brand new".
    But thanks in any case for the, as always, exciting article behind the SAAB scenes.

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    Sorry, but that's not my design at all. It goes around the front, fits the 9-3 and 9-5 of the time.
    At the back it reminds me of the E36 Compact with an attached 9-5 tail - doesn't work for me at all. I don't like the 9-5 SC rear section, whereas the 9-3 SC is very successful and absolutely timeless.

    Perhaps they should have looked at the Scirocco 1 back then, the perfect Italian hockey stick with a slightly sloping line. That would also have had something from the 900 😉

    But it's a personal thing, doesn't have to be right. Only mine he would not have become so sure.

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    Incidentally, a Golf VIII is even a few cm wider than a 9-3 has ever been - with the SC and Variant being about the same length.

    I've never understood sawed-off trunks and an artificially cut utility value of a platform, the first southern German attacks on the Golf class (3 & C class compact) were exactly that, simply sawed off at the back. I've always found it completely grotesque.

    The fascination of the golf class still puzzles me to this day. I have great sympathy for manufacturers who have neglected them. However, I have to admit that my regret at the loss of Saab is greater.

    But here the cat is biting its own tail. I regret the loss of Saabs precisely because the brand has always swum against the current and has done many things differently. If they had always done everything “right” (e.g. displacement cannot be replaced by anything except displacement), then they would not be Saab either.

    But be that as it may, for me personally there is no more attractive car in the Golf class today than the 9-3.

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    I find the design appealing and appropriate. Maybe a little slimmer here and there but still typical SAAB. A look inside would be just as exciting.

    In view of the number of units and possible market shares, it would have been another important step. One can only speculate about the price structure and the targeted buyer segment, right? It's amazing that the project lost momentum when one person left. Wasn't the SAAB/GM management so convinced? Or even another internal stall order with priority for Opel?

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    The little Saab would certainly be mei in the early 2000s. become an AUTO. So it became a golf...
    Too bad ... I had always been waiting for a small Saab ...
    Greeting André

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    problem solved

    The Golf class has grown so much that you can also buy a 9-3 SC.
    It is definitely much more elegant and exclusive than all current alternatives.

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    If you look at the pictures then the 9-2 could have stood against the A3. According to today's opinion, both were probably a bit chubby (?), but that was 20 years ago. Too bad you missed the chance.

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    Looks really sluggish, I don't know if it would have arrived. And would my daughter, who drives the DS3 today with great pleasure, have liked it and could her father have won her over to Saab?

    There would and would be a lot, but we are slowly getting used to that at Saab.

    A Saab 9-2 or better 9-1 was definitely missing in the model range.

    @Tom, there were photos of a kind of mini blend called 9-1. Do you know anything about this?

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      @aero50 The web is full of 9-1 Photoshop drafts. Saab itself showed various designs in the 2021 presentations, the project was in an early stage at the time. I have never seen the "real" pictures.


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