2012 Saab 9-3 hatchback confirmed - but is a sedan?

Saab PhoeniX Concept – Click above for high-res image gallery

We're in Washington D.C. this week attending the embargoed long-lead event for the 2011 Saab 9-4X, but that hasn't stopped us from inquiring about other key new products from the House of Griffin.

We've already seen mules of the next-generation 9-3 range undergoing testing, but thus far, we haven't seen any production bodywork or learned much in the way of specifics. A purist's return-to-form hatchback model has been rumored for some time now, and thanks to Magnus Hillerborn, Saab's Vehicle Validation Engineer, Autoblog can now confirm that a five-door is indeed headed into production along with the expected convertible variant. Interestingly enough, what isn't yet confirmed for the 2012 9-3 is a sedan bodystyle.

The next 9-3 was nearly finalized when Spyker purchased Saab last year from General Motors, but Victor Muller and Co. felt that there was so much work to be done that new chief designer Jason Castriota set immediately to work on making the new car more 'Saabish.' The changes are so significant that Hillerborn says he imagines GM executives will be "very surprised" when they see the production car, which is tipped to take design cues from the PhoeniX concept car that debuted earlier this month at the Geneva Motor Show. Hillerborn says that the hatchback will likely be five-door only (presumably a SportCombi wagon variant will follow), though we imagine there are some three-door renderings knocking about in Trollhattan. Hillerborn promises a very sleek and unique hatchback, one that should appeal to traditional sedan buyers as well (read: not bulbous and overtly hatch-like, but more streamlined).

A modestly retouched 2011 9-3 range debuted in Geneva alongside the PhoeniX showcar, but it will only have to hang on for about a year before the all-new generation appears. A traditional 9-3 sedan is under consideration and would likely help move some units in the U.S., but it apparently has not yet been signed off on, meaning that the five-door will form the heart of the range. With Saab's sales in a slump in nearly all of its world markets, one thing is for sure: the new 9-3 can't arrive soon enough.

Saab PhoeniX Concept
Saab PhoeniX Concept
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Live photos copyright ©2011 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

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