By on August 24, 2020

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDuring my years of documenting discarded Saabs in junkyards around the country (and in Saab’s homeland), I’ve managed to cover the pre-GM American-market models well enough, with a special focus on the 900. In recent years, I’ve been working to cover some of the Saabs from the period of General Motors influence (1989-2000) and control (2000-2010).

I may never find an example of the ultra-rare 9-4x, but it’s easy to find used-up Opel Vectra-based 9-3 these days — and I vowed to photograph the first one I saw on a recent Denver junkyard expedition. That car turned out to be this Silver Metallic 2002 9-3 SE hatchback.

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, hatch emblem - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe first-generation 9-3 was a renaming of the second-generation 900, and platform cousin to the Saturn L-Series cars sold here (and many Opels, Holdens, and Vauxhalls as well). I still see those GM-based 900s in my local car graveyards, so I’ll shoot one of those for a future Junkyard Find.

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, fender emblem - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars2002 was the last model year for the GM2900-based 9-3 (production of the Epsilon-based second-gen 9-3s continued until just before the demise of Saab). You could get the ’02 9-3 in two trim levels: SE ($27,995, which comes to about $41,000 in 2020 dollars) or the factory hot-rod Viggen ($38,095 for the five-door hatch). I don’t expect to find a Viggen in a U-Wrench yard any time soon, but I’ll keep my eyes open.

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, radio - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car appears to have the $1,995 ($2,900 today) Premium package, with power seats, automatic HVAC controls, and an upgraded audio system. 2002 was part of that awkward period between the demise of cassette decks in (most) cars and the appearance of AUX jacks, so there was no easy way to connect a digital audio player into this radio. At least it has weather band, which often proves very useful here in Colorado.

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in this car made 205 horsepower, and its ancestry stretches all the way back to the Triumph Slant-4 engine of the late 1960s. The Viggen’s 2.3 made 230 horses, and we hope someone swaps a Viggen powertrain into a Saturn L200.

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, automatic gearshift - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsViggen buyers had to get the 5-speed manual transmission, but those who bought the SE could choose between the five-on-the-floor and a four-speed automatic. American Saab buyers, like their Audi counterparts, were more likely to get three-pedal cars than those who bought Aleros or Maximas, but the slushbox still ruled the 9-3 world in 2002.


Exhilarating handling and gripping traction control, not to mention the addictive 205-horsepower turbo engine.


Just 234,000 kroner in 2000.

You’ll find links to 2,000 more Junkyard Finds at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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12 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2002 Saab 9-3 SE...”


  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I always had a small affection for Saab. I did think they were ugly for most of the 90s, but they started growing on me. I came close to buying a ’08 9/3 Aero Sportcombi in 2012 or so. I would have owned 2 oddball silver AWD turbo station wagons if I had. I’d have needed to pick up a Volvo V60R to complete the triumvirate.

    Anyway, the closest I could get to a Motorweek review of this was a ’98 Vigen 2-door.
    https://youtu.be/Da6SX0iR35k

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    This waa the precursor to the best sales years for Saab in full GM control in 2003 or 2004. I had a couple of 9-5 Aero’s and currently still have a 2004 9-5 Arc SportCombi I picked up out of Georgia in 2012.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Dang…if Crabspirits was still around, this Saab might be a suitable one for a “last rides” story…full of dust and rocks (why?) and that “I will back. Pablo” scratching on the paint, I’d bet Crabspirits would get inspired to write some awesome tale. Miss those stories…

  • avatar
    BC

    I have owned two of these. First was a 2000 automatic in the low output turbo mode. It was a great car but not especially reliable. After it needed some non-minor body work and deferred maintenance, I swapped it out for a 2002 with 55k miles. I think I paid like $4,500 for it in 2011 and it was mint. It was a great car with all options and and the 5 speed manual. Those things could tear through snow like no other car I’ve owned. Almost all maintenance and repairs could be done on your own. You could also hotwire an auxiliary input into the onstar. But despite saab’s best efforts these cars weren’t especially safe – part of the reason I finally ditched mine. Look up crash tests and see for yourself. GM engineers clearly confused the interior cabin for the crumple zone.

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      Was this when GM insist that the newly-purchased SAAB base its next 900/9-3 on a then current Vauxhall or Opel platform?

      • 0 avatar
        BC

        Interesting because Saab’s other car at the time, the 9-5 was plenty safe. Also, the replacement 2003 9-3 (which was a GM epsilon global platform car) was probably the safest car saab ever made.

        1997 Saab 900 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X39irHLwFnw
        2000 Saab 9-3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDk7UfcY9-0

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I bought my 2004 Aero convertible in 2007; I had to go to a Saab dealer to get an AUX jack installed in the console. OnStar and phone ability were lost in 2009 due to a massive software upgrade not available to Saabs; I just replaced my well-worn sharkfin with a new one but it’s just a placebo since those functions are no longer available. I’m able to play music from the radio, the cd player, or bluetoothing through the radio.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I remember the SAAB’s from the 1960’s…

    -Nate

  • avatar
    B234R

    The first gen 9-3 did have a MY03 as well, I think they were all made in Finland and there were both convertibles and the poverty-spec without a working roof

  • avatar
    carlos g

    Very interesting article about the 93 almost a nostalgic view. I am happy to say that I currently own a 2002 93 SE convertible top with turbo and a manual transmission. Mine also has the top trim package (Digital climate control, Seat embossed with the “turbo” lettering. How about the 85k miles on the clock for a used car 18 years old? This was the one production vehicle celebrating the 25 years of Saab turbos lineage. Even after all those years, the car rides great (I have taken it to every twist and turn mountain I could find in CA leaving newer BMW, Lexus And the like far behind in those mountain curves. Yes in retrospect, the 93 SE is a time machine transporting you back to a time when cars were made for drivers and not for picking up groceries!

  • avatar
    bill h.

    That looks to be a Steel Gray color rather than silver, identical to mine, which is still running well at 223k miles–on the original turbo too, but with the 5 speed. Mine is also Finnish production, my guess being that by late in the 2002 model year production of the last of these hatches and convertibles had been shifted there while the Swedish plants were being retooled for the kickoff of the 2nd gen 9-3 Sports Sedan. So I consider my 5-door one of the last of the old “liftback” style Saab cars that goes back beginning with the 70s Saab 99s.

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