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Geneva show: Saab hatches bio-hybrid baby

Vivid vision: Saab says the 9-X is what an all-new small Saab could look like.

More than just a preview of bio-hybrid tech, the 9-X heralds a compact future Saab

7 Mar 2008

SAAB has revealed a concept car that points to a new premium compact vehicle from the Swedish brand.

Called the 9-X BioHybrid, the show car revealed at the Geneva motor show last week highlights the brand’s push for biofuel-powered vehicles and a new interest in hybrids.

But it is the size and shape of the car that reveals a vehicle Saab wants to produce, a car that would take on the Volvo C30 and BMW 1 Series.

While Saab would not confirm whether plans for a new compact premium car have been approved, the car-maker laid a heavy hint that the concept car pointed to a specific future product from Trollhattan.

A press release introducing the Saab read: “The Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept is a vivid vision of what a future compact car from Saab could look like.” The four-seater show car features some traditional Saab design themes, but they are packaged in a different way.

Firstly, the car is a three-door hatchback and is quite small. There is no B-pillar, which makes the roofline look longer than it is.

38 center imageDesigners have given the car a wide stance and there is minimal front and rear overhang. The wheel-arches have also been pumped out to give the car a muscular appearance.

Saab says the car brings a “dynamic new dimension to conventional compact hatchback looks.” The company says the tall cabin gives excellent headroom for the front and rear passengers.

The family grille looks familiar, but the edges actually extend in sleek, narrow headlights.

Inside, the cabin features a driver-focussed dashboard. The traditional centre console display (including controls for the heater, sound system etc) has been relocated to the driver’s door.

That allowed designers to give the dashboard a clean, uncluttered look.

GM Europe advanced design director Anthony Lo, who led the 9-X BioHybrid design team, hinted that some of the design themes and features could find their way onto a Saab model in future.

“It has a number of features which we will be developing further, such as the new driver-focused design theme, the importance of clean, uncluttered surfaces and the easy, seamless connectivity inside the car.” Saab also used the 9-X BioHybrid show car to point to its powertrain developments.

Already offering E85 ethanol vehicles, Saab has tapped into the General Motors hybrid development program for the BioHybrid concept.

It runs a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder ethanol powered engine hooked up to a GM electric motor. Saab didn’t go into details of the hybrid system, but it is expected to match the new hybrid system GM itself presented at Geneva. In short, the electric motor provides additional torque from take-off, but on the overrun will recharge the lithium-ion battery.

The small E85 ethanol-powered engine in the BioHybrid concept generates a healthy 147kW, but produces just 105 grams per km of CO2 emissions on the combined city and highway cycle. It returns a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 6.4L/100km on E85 and 4.9L/100km on straight petrol.

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