When discussing practical cars, none are more practical than the Volvo estate. People may have a downer on Volvo’s for being somewhat bland and not very exciting, but the truth is these machines are endlessly reliable and are the perfect choice for anyone who wishes they could hear the pitter patter of little feet. Volvo’s were built to take on the harshest Scandinavian winters and survive falling down a cliff; so the quiet streets of suburbia and the drive to work are barely even a challenge to these sensible machines.
It goes without saying that Volvo are the makers of some of the most capable cars ever built. Since the 1970’s, the company has forgone the idea of building swish sports motors and limited production high speed machines like Ford, Mercedes and BMW, instead opting to keep their smart hat perched firmly atop their head. What’s resulted are a selection of cars that are not only incredibly reliable and generally loaded with all the goodies you’d come to expect from cars their size, but are also renowned the world over for their safety.
Volvo have built a reputation for themselves as putting the safety of the passengers at the top of their priority chain. This is of vital importance when driving in their native country of Sweden which is prone to some of the harshest winters ever known. With these horrid weather conditions in mind, Volvo take every precaution to make sure you make it to your destination alive and in one piece, regardless of what nightmarish experiences you have to go through. These machines are tanks, and can easily survive sliding off the edge of a high slope into a ravine, being smashed by an out of control lorry, crushed by a rockslide or a falling tree, flipping over on the motorway, or smashing headlong into a brick wall.
With these factors considered, the Volvo has more than enough credentials to be the perfect urban car; even if you live in a place that’s never seen a single flake of snow throughout the whole of history. While such stringent safety features may seem a touch superfluous away from the arctic conditions of Swedish wintertime, accidents can happen anywhere and everywhere, with the general rule of thumb for Volvo drivers being, in the immortal words of Burt Gummer from Tremors, “When you need it, and don’t have it, you sing a different tune.”
However, though crammed full of more steel than the HMS Ark Royal, Volvo’s don’t skimp on internal goodies or space. These cars are truly comparable to any other when it comes to their features, the 240 being no exception. It has oodles of cabin space making it perfect for mummy, daddy, the kids, their friends, and the family pets. The estate version is by far the best though, with that useful rear hatch and an extra three to four feet of space behind the back seats making it perfect for a long weekend.
The best thing about the Volvo 240, however, aside from the incredible safety and endless amounts of space, is its reliability. This car was once again designed to take on the Swedish winter elements, and the last thing any intrepid explorer wandering the remote Scandinavian mountains needs is for their car to break down on them. Engines range from the base 2.1L Inline-6 derived from the renowned Volkswagen LT van to the high-end 2.8L V6 PRV developed jointly by Peugeot and Renault. Of the two, while the 2.8L will give you more power, especially given the amount of weight you’ll likely be carrying, we cannot forget that this was the same clapped out, unreliable powerplant found in the Renault 30, the Eagle Premier and the DeLorean DMC-12. The 2.1L is perfectly capable of being used on the highways and byways of suburban Europe and America.
However, there are a few bugbears with the Volvo 240 which are a touch more obscure than you might think.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the 240 is the car’s weight, which makes it sluggish on acceleration and wallow like an old drunk on the corners. Turning the car is very heavy, even with Power-Assisted Steering, and while braking is comparatively good for a car of its size, it’s not exactly its best. The estate version of the 240, while the most practical, also has the most problems, largely due to so much of the car overhanging the axles; especially at the rear. With a good three feet of car behind the rear wheels, this, combined with a heavy payload, makes it very ‘tail-happy’; meaning if you take a corner too sharply you’re very likely to send the rear wheels skidding sideways, and the back of the car will begin to dictate the direction of travel.
However, if you’re some who’s always wanted to replicate scenes from Fast and the Furious by drifting around corners like Vin Diesel, then this is the car for you (though I doubt Vin Diesel imagined an old Volvo estate as his car of choice!).
Actually, that brings us onto another much more opinion based issue; the car’s style and image.
Volvo’s have never appealed to the youth in any way shape or form. These cars are built to be sensible machines for the sensible human being, and Volvo have no shame in expressing this mindset. The car’s design, even by the mid-1980’s, was incredibly dated, looking like something you’d find roaming the streets of communist East Germany in the 1960’s rather than a brand new Western family car. Earlier models were particularly reviled for their looks, with big circular headlamps making it look gawking and confused; though later models amended this with solid block light clusters.
Regardless, this car has absolutely no sex appeal, the general consensus being that anyone who buys a Volvo is the sort of person who spends their evenings at home reading the works of Oscar Wilde rather than out night-after-night at the pub. It appeals to only two kinds of people; the professional businessperson who simply just wants four-wheels, a seat, and impeccable reliability, or a budding family who needs all the space they can get for those holidays with the kids while ensuring that in the event of an accident they’ll all make it out alive.
The final point of contention with the Volvo 240, I’d say, is the fuel consumption, which is quite heavy. For a car of this size and weight, it’s no surprise it takes a lot of petrol to get such a behemoth moving; so prepare to find yourself saving some cash on the side for the school-run fund!
Other than that though, there is very little more I can say that doesn’t make the Volvo 240 a recommended buy for the classic car enthusiast. Simply put, it’s a car that was built to be used everyday from now until the end of time, plodding on for year after year while providing the safety and comfort you’d only expect from a Volvo. The longevity of the 240 is demonstrated in the sheer number of these cars still left on the road, and because it was built as a mass-production family car rather than a luxury sports coupe or some rare supercar, you can pick up a minter for as little as £2,000.
Of course, the usual pre-buy checks are required as many of these machines have been worked rigid by their owners, but that doesn’t hurt your chances of finding something that’ll truly be the perfect classic car for the whole family! 😀
- Comfort – 10/10 – Nothing short of the best for those rough Swedish roads
- Practicality – 10/10 – Built to accommodate as many roles as possible
- Reliability – 10/10 – It has to be, it was built to get the occupants home through the harshest of arctic conditions
- Speed – 7/10 – Not exactly the last word in speed
- Handling – 4/10 – The sheer weight of this thing means it will wallow at speed
- Looks – 8/10 – It’s not an ugly car, but the image attached to all Volvo’s is one of sheer boredom
- Equipment – 9/10 – While internal equipment is comparable to most models of its time, the absolute best feature this car has to offer is its unbeatable safety
- Price – 10/10 – Plenty of good examples on sale for low prices
- Value – 6/10 – No image-orientated person would want to buy it, and sadly most people are these days
- Total – 74/90 – A rolling block of Swedish lead that’ll get you and yours home safely.