The Saab 9-3 is in desperate need of a makeover, with the current model first coming onto the market in its earliest iteration back in 2002. Over the years there have been some minor updates to the car but while its competitors have all passed through their successive generations, the Saab 9-3 is really starting to show its age and this has been reflected in the sales charts.

In fairness, the company has endured one of the most tumultuous periods of any automaker in recent history, only gaining some solid footing when sold to Spyker last year.  With its past now behind it, Saab is currently working on a series of new model introductions starting with the 2012 Saab 9-5 SportCombi, revealed at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, the 9-4X crossover later this year and eventually a replacement to the aging 9-3.

We now have new spy shots of a very early test-mule for the next-generation Saab 9-3, caught testing in the colds of Northern Europe. Few details have been revealed but we can ascertain that the new model will have a slightly wider track than the current car, evidenced by the front wheel arch extensions on the test-mule.

Due late next year as a 2013 model, the new 9-3 is expected to ride on a heavily modified version of GM’s older Epsilon platform, not the newer Epsilon II (found in cars like the Opel Insignia and Buick LaCrosse) as previously thought.

The architecture will belong to Saab and has been codenamed Phoenix. Importantly, it will only be used by the Swedish automaker so there will be no restraints on its design. It will spawn the regular 9-3 Sedan, as well as a new Cabriolet and sporty three-door Hatchback. A long-wheelbase 9-3 Sport Wagon should also be offered.

Styling will be similar to the new 2010 Saab 9-5 but the automaker’s recent appointment of former Bertone designer Jason Castriota should see much needed excitement injected into the car’s design. At the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, Castriota unveiled the new PhoeniX concept car, which is believed to preview the design of the new Saab 9-3.

It’s still too early to determine what powertrains will feature in the 2013 Saab 9-3 but expect to see a series of turbocharged four-cylinder mills, both gasoline and turbodiesel, as well as a possible V-6 engine for a high-performance model. There’s even talk that Saab may borrow engines from BMW, namely its four-cylinder range currently used by MINI. Saab’s Haldex XWD all-wheel drive system should also be offered. An advanced hybrid system as previewed by the PhoeniX concept car is likely to be offered in the latest model years.

Another new feature will be Saab's next-generation IQon telematics system, which will essentially turn the new 2013 Saab 9-3 into one giant smartphone. For more details on IQon, head over to our sister site AllCarTech by clicking here.