What does Volvo mean? ‘I roll’ in Latin and that was originally a reference to ball bearings. One of the founders Assar Gabrielssom was sales manager for SKF a Swedish bearings company and the idea was to build a Swedish car specifically to cope with the tough Scandinavian climate rather than relying of American built imports. In more recent years though Volvo gained a reputation for building hugely popular rectangular estate beloved of the British middle classes. Oddly enough we don’t mention the 345..
Reliable, practical but not very exciting until we discovered that there was more to Volvos than Labradors and green wellies when the 850 T5 was launched. It offered sports car 150mph performance and estate versions even competed in the British Touring Car Championship in 1994. The more compact S40 went on to win the title in 1998. So Volvos could be sexy, exciting and also great value used buys.
Volvo 120 Series Amazon Seemingly created from a solid block of Scandinavian granite, here is the car that built the company’s reputation for reliability. Utterly unburstable, the engine will start in all weathers and take a 1960s family around the world without missing a beat. Cool two door, practical estate. 123GT is the ‘hot’ one, with twin carbs and an overdrive gearbox. Later 122 versions with B18 engines and 12 volt electrics easier to live with. Rust is now the biggest issue and some body and trim parts getting hard to source. Engines with care will last forever.
Volvo C30 Returning to the small car market they left behind with the old 400 Series, this was a much more stylish proposition which has style aplenty both inside and out. Maybe though it is a teeny bit too small with a less than adequate boot and not nearly enough legroom for the two rear seat passengers. It may not be a Golf or Focus, but that should not matter as this is now a great value hatch and makes a change from an A3. Large number of recalls means a full service history is essential to check that everything has been ‘done’.
Volvo S60 This is the Volvo that broke the old dull, brick shaped mould and it is a fine executive saloon especially with diesel power. Quick, frugal and refined the engines allow the S60 to soak up long journeys without any fuss. In particular the suspension deals easily with uneven road surfaces. Driver’s sit in an almost perfect environment in very comfy and supportive seats and faced by a clearly laid out dashboard. Niggly faults can spoil the enjoyment as the elctrics including the central locking and cruise control can go on the blink.
Volvo S80 Size matters and they don’t come much bigger than the S80. For those who want lots of equipment and a comfortable way to cover long distances this is the perfect vehicle. The diesel and petrol engines have plenty of power whilst the suspension is soft enough to soak up all the imperfections when travelling at speed on the motorway and A roads. The S80 is very well put together with excellent fit and finish, plus a generally good reliability record. Volvo badge does not help values and depreciation is massive. Needs looking after otherwise steering and electrical issues become serious.
Volvo V70 Estate cars have always been Volvo’s specialist subject and the V70 is a state of the art load carrier with plenty of clever details. As you would expect there is masses of room in the load area and it also has lots of nets and hooks and straps to keep everything in place. A waste bin and an umbrella holder are neat and useful touches whilst at the back the centre of the seat has a useful pop-up worktop. In service owners will mostly complain about electrical niggles but there are sometimes engine issues concerning rough running.
Volvo C70 Stylish whether the hood is up or down. For the money buyers get a respected badge and a very attractive body that will look good for years to come. Standard equipment levels are good, but probably the best thing about the C70 is that it will genuinely take four adults without them feeling the pinch too much, although the folding roof takes up boot space. If that’s an issue get the coupe version. Electric hoods can fail very expensively and at the very least leak. Suspension, driveshafts and tyres are the high wear items.
Volvo XC90 All the style of an off roader combined with the practicality of an estate, a respectable badge and high build quality. Essentially a civilised 4 x 4. Certainly engine and road noise is kept to a minimum. Seven seats as standard is a good thing, not least because the rearmost seats fold flat to the floor, which creates a massive boot. Best of all the rear seats can be adjusted individually for maximum comfort. On the whole a very reliable vehicle but the Geartronic automatic needs watching. Diesel injectors will be the biggest expensive if blocked.
Volvo T5 R It is truly evil, a very, very naughty Volvo indeed. Imagewise the T5 took the marque from green wellie to loads of wellie in about the same time as a T5 gets to 60mph (around 7.0 seconds). Step on the accelerator pedal and the 2.3 litre five cylinder engine barely hesitates. There is a distinctive and pleasing burble as the five pot brings itself to the boil, then the turbo joins in, tugging the big car along with deceptive ease. Leaky rear main oil seal costs 50p but costs £1000 to sort out. Air con can go expensively on the blink.
Volvo S40/V40 This was Volvo’s first attempt to build a compact executive and it wasn’t half-bad either. What Volvo brought to this sector of the market was it’s traditional virtues of solidity and safety. There is an absolutely massive choice out here with at least 10 engines not including upgrades and a positively bewildering combination of trim packages. The styling is neat enough, but as with most Volvos it still looks better as an estate Compared with other so-called lifestyle estates it is genuinely versatile. On the whole reliable, but suspension ball joints take a pounding and electrics can play up
Volvo 480 Remember the 480? Here was a wedge shaped coupe’ with groovy pop up headlamps. This was the best looking Volvo since the Saint’s P1800. It wasn’t that quick with its Renault engine until a Turbo was installed and suddenly it did over 120mph. Not really a sports car, much more of a cruiser, but a very safe one. From late 1993 ABS brakes were standard, along with side impact beams and a drivers airbag. Rust eats into the wings, sills and doors. The engines can blow head gaskets and sprout oil leaks.