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The best and worst Volvos of all time

Volvos have enjoyed a reputation for being well designed and reliable. Motoring journalist Rob Griffin looks at the best and worst.

Volvo's reputation is built around designing tanks-on-wheels that could be driven through a house and live to tell the tale.

Like Jaguar, there are very few poor Volvos as they all do their job pretty well.

However, the brand has manufactured a surprisingly wide variety of vehicles with everything from estates to sporty numbers - here are some of the best and worst examples.

The best Volvos ever made - P1800

Volvo P1800

If it’s good enough for The Saint it’s good enough for me.

It wasn’t without its faults but this car oozed enough class and charisma to be chosen for the hit TV series of the 1960s in which it was driven by the main character, Simon Templar, played by Roger Moore.

Production of this two-seater coupe was initially contracted to England, where final assembly took place at Jensen Motors, before being transferred to Gothenburg in 1963.

The best Volvos ever made - 245

Volvo 245

A total classic. When you think of Volvos you think of these big old machines that graced the roads in the 1970s and early 1980s.

They were pretty much indestructible and the fact they were developed with safety in mind made them an ideal choice for families.

However, they weren’t known solely for being sturdy.

When a turbo version of the 245 arrived in 1981 it was actually the world’s fastest estate car.

The best Volvos ever made - V40

Volvo V40

Volvo’s long-awaited entry into the competitive five-door hatchback world has been a success.

Stylish, well equipped and with a decent engine, the V40 has established itself as a legitimate rival to established names such as Volkswagen’s Golf.

Even Top Gear gave it a whopping nine out of 10, stating it was a car "with few apparent flaws and strong appeal". Praise indeed.

The worst Volvos ever made – 66

Volvo 66

If you lined up every Volvo produced there would be an obvious odd one out - the 66.

It didn’t look like a typical Volvo and for good reason: it was basically a rebadged DAF 66 model the manufacturer inherited after buying a third of DAF Car BV in the Netherlands.

Available in either a two-door saloon or three-door estate versions, this odd looking machine sported an automatic gearbox, recalls Giles Chapman, author of The Worst Cars Ever Sold.

"It really was a horrible little economy car," he says. "It wasn’t a proper Volvo and never received any credibility."

The worst Volvos ever made – 480

Volvo 480

A Volvo with pop-up headlights? Really?

This was quite a visually radical departure from the Volvos that had gone before but it was destined for failure because of some deep-rooted faults, according to Chapman.

"It had this central electronic brain to control everything but it wasn’t very reliable and the car also suffered quite a few water leaks," he explains.

"People didn’t expect Volvos to have those kinds of problems as they were meant to be bulletproof."

The worst Volvos ever made – 345

Volvo 345

They may be proving popular these days with the drifting fraternity thanks to their affordable price tags and rear wheel drive qualities.

But the 345 was criticised for being a heavy, laborious, and generally dull car to drive when it first appeared in 1979.

Jeremy Clarkson certainly made no effort to hide his hatred for the 300 series, crashing one into a tree and having another crushed by mechanical jaws in a scrap yard.

However, they were around a long time with production only finishing in the early 1990s.

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Rob Griffin

Rob Griffin

Rob Griffin is a freelance journalist who regularly appears in national publications, including The Independent and Daily Express. He covers motoring, business, and personal finance issues.

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