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.