Volvo Vs Saab: Which is the better Swede?

So here we have it, now we are both Volvo & Saab owners now, it is time for the obligitary Head to Head Discussion – Which Swede is Best Swede?


Now on the surface of things, Volvo & Saab may seem very similar to each other, their cars were both rivals to one another and their Trucks are also very much rivals to each other, also their headquarters are based about 50 miles away from each other – Volvo in Gothenburg, Saab in Trollhattan and essentially they both had their similar ways of building cars but as a matter of fact, they couldn’t be that different to each other. 

 We’ll start off with Saab first, The company started off as Aeroplane manufacturers in 1937 before eventually in 1947 they started moving onto making cars and commercial vehicles, Saab Automobiles ran from 1947 to 1995 and in that time, just like Volvo they made some truly good cars which were dependable, reliable and very well built as well as being sporty, Unlike Volvo however they were known in there early days for using small two & three cylinder engines which were 2 cycle engines – essentially meant you had to add oil to the fuel tank like you would with a two stroke lawnmower.

 In the 70’s & especially the 80’s they were known for going absolutely crazy with their cars and made a very good reputation for themselves by making turbocharged cars affordable with both the 99 Turbo and the 900 Turbo, now Saab were not the pioneers of turbocharging but they were the first to add it to one of their ordinary models and made it affordable to regular customers, this meant that their cars sold like hotcakes and everyone wanted one, they were safer than their competition, more reliable, better built and now in many ways quicker with the Turbocharger added.


By the early to Mid-Nineties, GM took over and bought Saab more upmarket, just before GM took over, Saab released the 9000, this was an executive saloon which was based on the Lancia Thema, the Fiat Croma and the Alfa 164, again, compared to both it’s rivals and even it’s sister cars it was better built and tons safer as well as bringing in a certain touch of Swedish class.

In GM Ownership however things took a bit of a downward turn, while there cars were as daft as ever, they were more subdued in terms of styling, The Turbo models weren’t as brash and worst of all, most of the parts were from GM’s parts bin which essentially meant that the UK Cars were based on Vauxhalls, now while some people may like Vauxhalls, they were not as well built as old Saabs which meant that the dependability and overall reliability of them weren’t as good as Saabs of old. The only exception to this were the Aero models which were truly a cut above the rest! 

However, Saab weren’t that stupid however, If they didn’t like what GM were giving to them, they’d simply either upgrade it or even make their own better version, while this worked out in terms of build quality, Saab were spending money which they could unfortunately never make back, and eventually in 2011, Saab Automobiles filed for bankruptcy and were filed to the history books.


Now in that time Saabs were very quirky cars, for instance, the keys were slotted into the centre console instead of the steering column – Why? Because Saab!, also in the 99 Turbo and the 900 Turbo, the engines were laid Longitudinally instead of transversely which made for an interesting driving experience, Also we can’t forget Saabs infamous Night Panel feature which essentially dimmed all the lights apart from the speedometer, These features made Saabs some of the quirkiest cars on the market.

Now Finally onto Volvo! – Volvo essentially started off as a ball bearing company before eventually just like Saab started to move into vehicle manufacturing, Volvo started in 1927 which meant that right off the bat, Volvo were already 20 years ahead in terms of car building, during their ninety year run, they have been renown for their outstanding safety ratings and have been a real pioneer in safety.

Just like Saab, Volvo have also made some quick models too which have included 242 Turbo’s, numerous T5’s, their R cars and now their Polestar lineup, now unlike Saab, Volvo are well known to use their 5 Cylinder engines to power their fast models which have made them some brilliant little sleepers as Volvo’s are normally festooned with Leather seats and all the comfort anyone would ever need.

Nowadays, Volvo are owned by the Geely Group and these days Volvo’s make some of the best premium cars out there, they have been able to bring in some really stylish cars into their line up which can now bring in some potential BMW owners & Mercedes owners into a Volvo Dealership instead.

The reason why Volvo have been able to stay afloat throughout these years is because they have been able to hide most of their shared parts very well indeed when owned by Ford, for instance, If you just so happen to own an mid noughts Aston Martin, you’ll find that the both the Key Fob & the Sat Nav system is actually a Volvo Unit, this means that on first glance, they didn’t share a lot in common with the other manufacturers Ford owned in that time. Volvo’s were still on the whole Volvo’s and Aston Martins still felt like Aston Martins. If Ford done the same with Volvo as what GM did with Saab, it’s highly likely that Volvo would end up the same as Saab.


So, where does this wind up for us petrolhead who can’t work out which Swedish car to go for? Well simply put, if you want a sporty Swedish car with crazy looks and added quirkiness, definitely go for a Saab, If you want to get there Quickly but in acres of comfort, go & buy a Volvo. Just remember, you’ll pay double for a decent 9-5 Manual compared to a decent V70 T5 Manual for instance!


Hope You Enjoy!

By Alex Jebson



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