Michael Mauer and his design team have been at it again. Saab's latest concept car, sure to please the faithful, is a glass-roofed five-door...um, uh ("Can't call it a hatch at this price point," said one anonymous corporate suit), as Mauer put it, "teaser for the [9-3] wagon."
"No, not 'wagon'; the 'whatever'-the more versatile version of the 9-3," he continued. "This car represents the crossover point between hatchback and wagon."
The well-loved Saab hatchback first made an appearance in 1974 with the introduction of the versatile but awkwardly named three-door 99 Combi Coupe, called the Wagonback in the U.S. So, let's take this opportunity to wish the marketing folks "good luck" as they try and sort out a name for this car. Unlike the iconic 9X and last year's 9-3X, which provided it so many design cues, the Sport-Hatch is nearly ready for production. So close, in fact, that Mauer admitted, "For the concept car, you make some changes that disguise, just a little bit, the production version."
"If you take today's 9-3 and the 9X concept car, you can see the steps in between we'd like to take," added Mauer. "I think we have nice, strong character in the [Sport-Hatch] grille and air intake. In comparison with the current 9-3, we have a little more shape, a little more 3-D feeling and character. What you see on the front of this car are some ideas that might make their way into a 9-3 facelift or model-year change. The tail end is pretty much what you will see in production." When asked about the car's stout look, Mauer replied, "One thing is very clear. A Saab should always look robust and solid."
The exterior of the 9-3 Sport-Hatch continues the now familiar Saab themes of a high, rising waistline and the stretched teardrop shape of the side windows. With the B- and C-pillars hidden under the dark green glazing, the monolithic, tapering shape of the windows and the "hockey-stick" line (across the bottom of the glazing and sharply up and forward at the D-pillar) help create a sense of forward movement while taking the eye away from the less tapered roofline. A lone sheetmetal feature line, starting at the headlight and ending at the top of the rear window, follows and reinforces the "hockey-stick" line, helping to keep a "sporty, dynamic look while maintaining useful volume."
Senior designer Taras Czornyj said, "We wanted the car to assume a very clean and muscular character. It was important to execute this sporty look free from any traditional wagon motifs. We have tried to move the center of gravity forward away from the rear area." A short rear overhang and taillights "bent to mimic the residual 'bustle' or 'notchback' line of a hatchback" also help blur conventional wagon lines. Five flush-mounted fixing points do away with a wagon's traditional fixed roof bars and allow a number of flexible roof-mounted storage solutions.