If the Volvo V70 from yesterday moved the company into a new performance level and group of buyers with a modern performance platform, this SAAB 900 represents the last throes of Swedish independence. The 900 was introduced in 1978 and production ran all the way until 1994 and it was replaced by the Vetra-based 900NG, but the reality is that it was a development of the earlier 99 that was introduced in 1968. Yet somehow the 900 still looked as futuristic and different in 1992 as it did in 1982, or even 1972 for that matter. And though the chassis was rather dated by the Grunge-era, you wouldn’t know it stepping into one. These were solidly-built, well-engineered cars that dared to think differently, yet worked well. SAAB did an excellent job incorporating (and going above and beyond) safety regulations of the day, and the 900s integrated these features arguably much better than most despite their rather small production numbers. And, they were steadily upgraded over their production to breathe new life into the aging DNA.
Such is the case here, with this later 900S Hatchback. The ‘S’ introduced the 16V head on the backwards-mounted B201 2.0-liter inline-four to create the B202. Power jumped from a modest 116 horsepower to a slightly-less modest 128 horsepower. But in 1991, SAAB upped the ante again with a new 2.1-liter version called the B212. With another 10 horsepower, performance was at least on par with most of its contemporaries, and the 900’s low center of gravity belied its looks; these were good handling cars and offered great all-weather performance despite their front-drive only platform.
Of course, it was inside where the 900 really shined, offering copious interior space with a massive amount of storage available in the rear. I had a friend with one of these at the same time that I owned a Mk.II Golf, and the fit, finish, ride quality, and cabin space was so far above that of the Volkswagen, it felt as though I was in a luxury car. Today, clean examples of the 900 are harder to find, but this one looks nice: