So what does Volvo mean? ‘I roll’ in Latin, and that was originally a reference to ball bearings. One of the founders of Volvo, 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 on American-built imports. In more recent years, though, Volvo has gained a reputation for building hugely popular rectangular estates beloved of the British middle classes.
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. The engine is utterly unburstable and will start in all weathers, and this cool, practical two-door estate will take a 1960s family around the world without missing a beat. The 123GT is the ‘hot’ one, with twin carbs and an overdrive gearbox. Later 122 versions with B18 engines and 12-volt electrics are easier to live with.
Returning to the small car market it left behind with the old 400 Series, this was a much more agreeable proposition with 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 passengers. It may not be a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus, but that shouldn't matter as this is now a great value hatch which makes a change from all the regular offerings.
This is the Volvo that broke the old, dull, brick-shaped mould. It's also a fine executive saloon, especially with diesel power. Quick, frugal and refined engines allow the S60 to soak up long journeys without any fuss, while the suspension deals easily with uneven road surfaces. Drivers sit in an almost perfect environment in comfy and supportive seats and faced by a clearly laid out dashboard.
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 while the suspension is soft enough to soak up all the imperfections when travelling at speed on motorways and A-roads.
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 boot, and it has all sorts of nets and hooks and straps to keep everything in place. A waste bin and an umbrella holder are neat and useful touches, while at the back the centre of the seat has a useful pop-up worktop.
Stylish whether the hood is up or down. For the money, buyers get a respected badge and an 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.
All the style of an off-roader combined with the practicality of an estate, a respectable badge and high build quality. Essentially a civilised 4x4. 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.
Volvo T5 R
It is truly evil and a very, very naughty Volvo indeed. Imagewise the T5 took the marque from green wellies to loads of wellie in about the same time as a it gets to 60mph (around seven seconds). Step on the accelerator and the 2.3-litre five-cylinder engine barely hesitates. There's 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.
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 were its traditional virtues of solidity and safety. There is an absolutely massive choice out here with at least 10 engines to choose from, 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, and compared with other so-called lifestyle wagons it is genuinely versatile.
Remember the 480? Here was a wedge shaped coupe’ with groovy pop-up headlights. This was the best looking Volvo since the Saint’s P1800, but it wasn’t that quick until a turbo was fitted to its Renuault engine - 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 driver's airbag.
So what Volvos do you like?