x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Jonathan Hugo's Saab: a quirky but reliable companion

This Saab has followed its Abu Dhabi-based owner through three countries - and counting.

The Saab has not only proved to be economical for Jonathan Hugo, but it is a reliable car that has stuck around with him for the past seven years.
The Saab has not only proved to be economical for Jonathan Hugo, but it is a reliable car that has stuck around with him for the past seven years.

Driving down towards Abu Dhabi's Corniche on a Friday morning with the roof down, Jonathan Hugo has a calm, cool air about him. The soft top option is one of the things he enjoys most about his Saab. "It makes it a pleasure to enjoy the fresh air this time of the year." Hugo, who hails from London, bought the car in Saudi Arabia in 2003, where he was living in Al Khobar, Dammam.

"My wife chose the car," he says. "Although it is more of a ladies' car, it's speedy." Hugo likes speed. "When I put it in sport mode and give it some gas, it swings its tail at me, quite exciting." Initially, it took Hugo a full week to think over the purchase. "I don't change my cars often," he says. He remembers picking up the car in the middle of the night from Jubail, an industrial area near Dammam. His wife, however, was less than happy as she couldn't drive the car - women are not allowed to drive in Saudi - but enjoyed it thoroughly when they moved to Bahrain in 2004 where there is no such restriction.

Moving the car there proved to be a challenge as it still had Saudi licence plates. The transfer of the plates involved a great deal of bureaucracy and he ended up having to send it back to Saudi to settle the paperwork before he could register it in Bahrain. Working as a finance manager for Shell oil company, Hugo's next move was to Dubai, and he drove there from Bahrain in 2005. Again, the licence plate issue came into play. Now settled in Abu Dhabi for the past three years, the licence plates on the car were changed for the fourth time. There's no doubt this Saab is a keeper.

"I think about taking it back home with me, back to England," he says. After a pause, he starts to think which countries his road trip would take him through. When asked about driving on the left side as opposed to the right, Hugo says he actually prefers driving on the left. If he takes the car back to the UK, however, he will encounter some bureaucracy to register it -but he probably won't mind because the Saab is so trustworthy.

"The Saab is a reliable car, it has always been," he says. Hugo has never had an issue with his car except on one occasion: one weekend while out kite surfing in Dubai, Hugo slashed a toe. The cut was so deep that he required stitches. While returning home to Abu Dhabi, one of the car's tyres burst. "Changing a tyre was the last thing I wanted to do that day," he says. Apart from that, the car has been solid and definitely more economical than another car that he owns - a Range Rover.

"I keep my Range Rover parked comfortably in the garage. It drinks up gas like crazy every time I take it out. My Saab, however, has proved to be very economical," Hugo says. "Servicing can be a pain. Spare parts are not readily available in Abu Dhabi and those that do carry these parts are far away and expensive." "I use Abdullah," he says of the Moroccan mechanical genius whom he found in Khalidiya. "He's worth a plug, that guy. He's been taking care of my car for three years now and he treats it very well."

A trip to Abdullah is sure to solve his problems and it's always service with a smile and strong Moroccan mint tea as he waits. The recent misfortunes of Saab genuinely saddened Hugo. "Surely not," was his reaction to the closure of Saab. But he was relived to hear about the deal with Spyker that has saved Saab, and he won't have to worry about spare parts for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Hugo is confident Abdullah will keep the car healthy.

"My Saab has 65,0000km on it, it'll keep going forever," he says. The Saab brand may have had its ups and downs in recent times, but owners like Hugo love their machines. Saab owners all around the world are happy to keep their quirky and reliable vehicles out and about for all to see. motoring@thenational.ae