Playing devils advocate for Ny Teknik’s Saab concept

It’s fair to say that comments about Ny Teknik’s Saab concept, shown here at Saabs United earlier today, were less than complimentary.
Saab concept from Ny Teknik
The vast majority of people here thought it to be rather unattractive, to say the least. Some thought the move towards a ‘retro’ Saab was unwise whilst others wanted a re-modelling of the classic Saab 900.
When I saw the sketches prior to posting them here, I felt pretty sure this would be the reaction. It certainly is a polarising design and if I had my way, there’d be some changes to it.
But before I get down to justifying it and before you get to pulling my justification to pieces, let’s all remember that this is a sketch from a designer hired by a magazine to provide a visual based on a number of comments. It’s not an official Saab proposal, so let’s not get too hung up on it.
Whilst I would change a bit about the front of this car if I were King, I’m not against the idea it presents. Not at all.
I agree with many of you that retro simply for the sake of retro is not a good idea. On the other hand, something that works that just happens to by stylistically similar to an older design language is a good idea. The Mini is a classic case in point. It isn’t considered to be great by those who own it just because it looks kinda like a Mini from the 60s. It’s considered great because it’s great to drive and it calls to the original Mini design. That’s using retro wisely.
The Mazda MX-5 is exactly the same. Take a loved formula like a RWD, lightweight convertible and make it basic and reliable – voila!
So if good retro is OK, why go for a design like this one, based on an older Saab, rather than a more familiar design like a 900?

I haven’t seen the feedback in full. I’ve only seen what we provided here at Saabs United. The rest of the feedback was directly at Ny Teknik and so it was primarily Swedish. I could well imagine there being some calls for a smaller city car in there, as well as some more appreciation for Saab’s older models than what we’d get here. I don’t know this, but I’m guessing.
Either of those scenarios, however, and most of the dot points provided by people, actually lend themselves to a design like this. Many of them called for aerodynamics, efficiency, a smaller car. A 9-1 or 9-2 with useable storage (a-la a combi-coupe).
Given those desired attributes, I can well see why a teardrop design has been used rather than a more wedge design like a 900. That shape as a design direction lends itself to aerodynamic design and a smaller car much more than a 900 does. The 900 is lauded for it’s turbo rush and it’s load capacity and comfort and whilst it’s not a huge land yacht, the 900 is actually a pretty big vehicle.
If you’re looking for an ‘A’ or ‘B’ segment vehicle, which is what a lot of the desired dot points call for, then a 900 isn’t going to scale down too well. I’d definitely see a proper 900 sized hatch as an option for a mid-size vehicle – a Saab 9-3 – but a smaller entry level car? I’m not sure it’d work.
Allow me to share another sketch of the car. Just slightly different.
saab v4 vector.jpg
You’re going to have to do some visualisation here, but imagine that with a fuller front and some larger headlamps and other adjustments that might make it more pleasing to your eye. Now imagine it as an actual real-life car going down a street in central Stockholm.
Wouldn’t you stop and stare?
Before you say “yeah, and I’d laugh my ass off” you might want to think back to how awkward some of the first 99s and even Saab 900s looked. Designs like these take some time to adjust to because they’re not the same as everything else you see on the road.
‘Different’ design isn’t always right, as anyone who’s seen a Pontiac Aztek will tell you, but this is nothing like that at all. There’s ‘Ugh!’ different and then there’s ‘Ah!’ different and the line between the two can be a fine one. I definitely believe there’s scope for a classical teardrop design in the appropriate segment of the market.
Custom cars like this certainly show that there’s some appeal in a classical older Saab shape, even for modern eyes.
Would I have done it like the Ny Teknik sketch? Possibly not.
Do I object to it? Absolutely not.
Would I like to see a re-designed 900? Absolutely, but it’s not the be-all and end-all for me. In truth, I’d love to see a production version of the original Saab 9-X as a smaller Saab.
But that doesn’t mean that this style, in broad terms, couldn’t work.
From my own reading of Saab’s history books, it seems as if having an open mind was a virtue that was held in high regard. Good design proves itself over time and it’s not just based on looks, but on function and driveability as well.

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