Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Volvo”

Volvo S60 Driven and Reviewed

Volvo S60 nose has been altered for 2014 - particularly the location of the indicators

Volvo S60 nose has been altered for 2014 – particularly the location of the indicators

Once the staple diet of any self-respecting middle-management type, family-man or rep, the image of the four door saloon has taken something of a battering in recent times. Fulfilling many requirements, our roads were awash with these ‘three-box’ cars, stuffed to the rafters with either kids, samples or ambitions to scale the company ladder, it was simply a matter of choosing which flavour you desired, be it Ford, Vauxhall or something a little more exotic if you were lucky.

These days though, we’re seemingly petrified of being pigeon-holed as one of Mr Blair’s ‘Mondeo-men’ and even the bod in charge of the rep-mobile menu would prefer to see the company cast in a more favourable light by dispatching their employees around the country in a quasi-rugged SUV-alike.

So exactly where does that leave models such as the Volvo S60 we have on review here? Are cars like this still worthy of consideration or should the whole genre be cast aside as relics of a time gone by?

The only fair way of answering that question is to look at it objectively; what does this car do well, and what not-so-well?

Easy to forget that this is a four-door saloon

Easy to forget that this is a four-door saloon

Lets start with how it looks. At first glance, it’s very easy to mistake the S60 for a hatchback, with its shallow sloping c-pillars and rear windscreen – I’m assuming this is no accident. The hatchback lines are far easier on the eye than the somewhat staid and boxy silhouette traditionally associated with a four-door Volvo saloon, projecting a far sleeker image and allowing more natural light to enter the cabin thanks to a larger expanse of glass.

Volvo’s image has transformed in recent years with exciting design cues being adopted and the S60 is no different. It’s most definitely a Volvo, but put it next to a similar model from as little as ten years ago and the dramatic way the brand has evolved is startling. The S60’s grille is the focal point of its nose, with a myriad of lines, angles and creases emanating sideways and rearwards in all manner of dramatic fashions. during my time with the S60, I discovered a new design feature every time I looked at it – could we honestly have said that about Volvos of the past – could we honestly say that about many new cars on the road today?

Quality materials and some pleasing features abound

Quality materials and some pleasing features abound

Sit inside the S60 and it’s the usual blend of quality and features we’ve come to expect from Volvo recently. There’s the floating centre console which is hard to dislike, and an all-electric display which can be altered between three modes depending on your mood. Both of these are unquestionably more for form than function and possibly a little showy, but they’re a breath of fresh air in a brand not renowned for its acts of frivolity.

It may be something of a sweeping statement but having given it some consideration, if I were giving out an award for best overall car interiors – I’d present it to Volvo. I’m aware of the works of  the likes of Audi and Jaguar, neither of which could realistically be described as shabby, but there’s something about the freshness and quality of Volvo at the moment that edge it for me over the opposition.

That said, they’re not perfect.

In a previous review of Volvo’s V40, I bemoaned the auto ‘box the car had been supplied with and recommended that any potential buyers should do themselves a favour and go manual. You can imagine my delight, then, when this S60 model arrived with three pedals  – a huge relief I thought. And it was – there’s nothing wrong with the manual ‘box at all – it feels tight and satisfying as its operator moves up or down ratios as they see fit, with some natty yet simple ‘change up/down’ lights on the dash. The problem lies with the fact that the cabin seems to have been designed around its purchaser opting for the auto; I consider my driving position to be fairly average, as are the size of my arms and elbows, and yet, changing into 2nd, 4th or 6th gear was an uncomfortable experience as my shoulder was contorted into some slightly unnatural positions due to the gearstick being situated marginally too far rearwards.

Another aspect of the S60 which baffled me somewhat was the rear bench seat. Both of my daughters still require booster seats in the car and the ones they have are a standard, run of the mill shape and size. For some reason though, the S60’s rear seats were just slightly too narrow for the booster seats to fit properly. They went in after a bit of persuasion but the inner edge of the booster would invariably be placed on top of the seat-belt buckle and therefore result in an amount of shifting about, with a whining child following close behind. It’s obviously not a safety issue as such, more of an annoyance but I did find it strange for a company such as Volvo to have made an error like this; they may have actively discarded their boxy image over recent years but safety is still the modus operandi they aspire to.

2014 Volvo S60 Front and Side

Very, very clever headlights!

On the road, the S60 pleases and surprises in equal measure. Our D3 test car came complete with what will probably prove to be the most popular power plant in the range – the 2.0l Diesel. It’s quiet and refined enough, even from cold, and offers a decent chunk of torque (350NM) which goes someway to alleviating the gearstick positioning problem as gear changes are less frequent than they could be.

Once the reserve of marques such as Ferrari, our S60 featured speed sensitive steering – a £225 option and worth every penny in my opinion. These systems were clumsy and unrefined when they were first introduced but Volvo seem to have honed it to perfection now. It really makes driving a doddle around town and yet barely interferes at higher speeds when an over-sensitive steering wheel can make a car feel jittery.

Another option that’s definitely worth a tick is the £375 ‘Winter and active bending headlights’. Everything seems to be described as ‘adaptive’ or ‘intelligent’ these days but I can’t stress enough just how clever these headlights are – they seem to have aspirations of not only joining Mensa, but setting the test to get in. Put them into auto mode and when full-beam’s required, the various light sources are constantly scanning the environment,  looking not only for oncoming cars but the tail lights of cars up ahead. It then reacts instantly, focussing its attention to achieve maximum illumination without blinding anyone else on the road. The way it creates a ‘box of darkness’ which a leading car fits exactly into is absolutely mesmerising, especially as it adjusts instantly when the direction and elevation of the road changes.

2014 Volvo S60 RearOne aspect of the S60 that will be appeal to many, especially anyone who spends a substantial  amount of time cruising the motorway network is how planted it feels at speed. This is where the quality of the Volvo will stand out over some possibly inferior opposition. I drove in what can only be described as a tropical storm on the M60, with standing water, side-winds and other unwelcome elements that makes any driver long for the comfort of their beds and the Volvo handled it with aplomb. It felt reassured and unshakeable when the going got rough, with none of the unnerving reactions to large gusts that are so unwelcome in higher-sided vehicles such as, say, SUV’s?

Whether the four-door saloon remains relevant going forward, only time will tell. One thing’s for sure though, the price of fuel and tyres isn’t going to halve in the near future which is when a relatively sensible car like the S60 looks far more appealing than a 4×4. Volvo have gone to great lengths to make the S60 as appealing as possible, be it from the outside, the inside or on the move. Yes, it’s a little more costly than the opposition and the gearbox situation is less than perfect but one can ultimately see where the money goes. And at the end of the day, what price comfort, and more importantly – safety?

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Volvo S60 D3 SE Nav, Engine – 2.0l Diesel, Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 136BHP, Torque – 350Nm, Emissions – 114g/km CO2, Economy – 65.7 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 127mph, Acceleration – 9.6s 0-60mph, Price – £28,145 OTR, £33,170 as tested.

For full details, go to http://www.volvocars.com/uk/S60


Volvo V40 D2 Powershift SE LUX – Driven and Reviewed

Volvo's V40

Volvo’s V40

Volvo built their envied reputation on two things; safety and boxy, set-square inspired design features. Today, only one of these aspects remains true and a solitary glance at this V40 model will expose just which one it is.

With this mid-sized, 5 door hatch, Volvo are making a play for a highly sought after segment and are going for the jugular of some pretty stiff competition – including the Golf and 1 Series at one end of the spectrum and the Astra and the Focus, to name but a few, at the other.

Volvo V40 SidePriced at £23,870 (£28,095 as tested), this D2 Powershift SE LUX model is undoubtedly aiming its sights at the higher end of the market. The 1 Series BMW and Audi‘s A3 are already major players at this level and Mercedes’ complete rethink of where it’s A Class should sit has brought that into the fray too. Tough crowd.

Light clusters and piano- black panel add an individuality

Light clusters and piano- black panel add an individuality

Styling wise, it’s classy and understated, after-all, shouty just wouldn’t do on a Volvo. There are some natty features such as the rear light clusters and piano black boot panel which attempt to set it out from the crowd but the rest of the car shares many lines with Vauxhall’s Astra. I’m not saying that this is a particularly bad thing, I just like my Volvos to be unmistakably Volvos.

Floating console and squircles (it is a word) are all very pleasing on the eye

Floating console and squircles (it is a word) are all very pleasing on the eye

Get inside the V40 though, and the sheer emphasis on creating a class-leading cabin is blindingly obvious. There’s a recurring theme in here, stemming from Volvo’s characteristically rounded font and then translated into a smattering of squircles around the cabin. Themes have a habit of becoming tacky and irritating but the way Volvo have gone about utilising this most pleasing of shapes allows the V40’s living space to be both quirky and elegant, all in the same breath.

The quality of materials inside the V40 is also second to none. From the soft, faultless leather to the grade of plastics used, even the famously commendable Audi could learn a thing or two about automotive interiors. The story’s the same at way-below eye level – usually where attention to detail is found lacking. Not so in the V40 – even one’s knees are lucky enough to be treated to a pleasing view.

Volvo V40 noseThat’s not to say there’s no room for improvement inside the V40 – no-one’s perfect. The hand brake, for one, appears to have been designed for left hand drive cars, with the budget for right-hand-drive translation being unfortunately lost down the back of the sofa. It is seriously so close to the left hand seat that a few odd looks can ensue from any unsuspecting passenger as they could easily assume that their leg has become the object of your affections and that you’re brazenly going for a feel.

Safety is still a by-word for Volvos and the levels of standard equipment on the V40 are impressive. Euro 5 NCAP ratings are obviously a prerequisite for any of the brand’s models but Volvo are understandably keen to push the boundaries and leave potential customers in no doubt as to their continuing priorities.

Some safety features work on cars, and some just don’t. I admit that when cornering headlights were resurrected from Citroen’s original DS, I was initially cynical. I was wrong to be. The SE Lux package comes complete with these clever lights and if you take the V40 down a poorly lit B-road, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them as they intuitively illuminate your way. Couple this with the car’s optional active high beam system, which are so superior to previous models I’ve tried due to their ability to alternate between main beam and high beam at appropriate moments, and where once was dark, is light.

One safety element which is worthy of special mention is the collision avoidance system. These units are in their relative infancy and it’s no surprise that Volvo have grabbed the bull by the horns and started to utilise this potentially life-saving technology. It isn’t infallible though. Head into certain bends, in certain conditions and the system triggers, assuming that you’re continuing straight on into a car or tree. The result is all manner of warning lights – some fine tuning required here I feel.

Due to the inherent shape of the V40 and it’s oversized D pillars which are presumably packed full of safety, rearward visibility isn’t great. This is kind-of strange for a company such as Volvo who’s mantra is safety but, either way, it makes the V40’s blind spot sensors invaluable and also makes a good case for the £850 Park Assist Pilot option.

Volvo V40 frontOn the move, the V40 feels extremely planted and solid, more similar to a large saloon car than a mid-size hatch. This particular model was obviously made more for long-distance cruising than country-road attacks as this relatively small 1.6 Diesel tackles high-speed motorways with aplomb, yet can come unstuck when pushed around bends. The steering is highly assisted and, although it WILL find grip at the limits, there is a slight vagueness and lack of feedback through the wheel. That said, it is absolutely effortless when cruising at 60mph + and has an air of sophistication that you’d not really expect in this segment.

Possibly the best £100 option ever - Volvo's flexible load floor. It allows bags to be hung up safely - no more nasty takeaway stains

Possibly the best £100 option ever – Volvo’s flexible load floor. It allows bags to be hung up safely – no more nasty takeaway stains

One aspect of the V40 which must be specced properly is the gearbox. Our test car came complete with Volvo’s auto ‘box (Powershift) and it’s highly disappointing to say the least. Gear changes are sluggish and often occur at the most inopportune moments, with ‘Sport’ mode doing precisely nothing to alleviate the problem. Thankfully, there’s an easy solution and that’s to opt for changing gear oneself. Not only will it be a more satisfying drive, but the manual is quicker to 62mph, gains 11mpg over the auto and saves you a full £20 per annum due to it pulling the V40 below the magical 100g/km CO2 barrier (88g compared to 102g).

Volvo’s V40 is a highly competent hatch and if it’s safety and interior luxury that float your boat, it’s hard to beat. Just be careful when speccing your V40 though and tick the right boxes, as there’s a whole world of difference between making some wise choices and making some not-so-wise.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Volvo V40 D2 SE Lux Powershift, Transmission – 6 spd automatic, LayoutFront engine, FWD, Power – 115bhp, Torque – 270Nm, Emissions – 102g/km CO2, Economy – 72.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 12.1s 0-62mph, Price – £23,870 OTR, £28,095 as tested.

Volvo C30 T5 R-Design Polestar – Driven and Reviewed

1990s volvo 850 t5 touring car on two wheels

Volvo 850 T5

Every now and then, Volvo decide to comprehensively ditch their safe, utilitarian image in favour of an approach which is a whole lot spicier. The resulting car is generally a huge hit, combining safety and reliability with performance to set your pants on fire. Favourite of traffic police and family men alike, the turbo-charged set-square, T-5R of the ’90s achieved 60mph in 6.5 seconds whilst ferrying a double divan home in the boot.

Things seemed to have reverted to type in recent years at Volvo, that is until a new kid on the block emerged – the C30 Polestar Concept. With 400bhp and all wheel drive, it was unseasonably hot with performance figures to worry even the mighty Evo X. But, will Volvo again discard their somewhat dowdy shroud and put it into production? Well, there’s time yet I suppose but for now we’ll have to appease ourselves with this C30 R-Design, sporting an enticing Polestar upgrade.

Volvo C30 with Polestar upgrade in blue

Volvo C30 Polestar

Our test car came in the same Polestar blue that’s graced both the C30 Concept and, more recently the S60 Concept so beautifully, but unfortunately, this is where the similarities ended. Utilising Volvo’s popular T5 engine, the C30 attempts to harness a whopping 250bhp through the front wheels, unfortunately without much success. The chassis just doesn’t seem to have been sufficiently fettled to cope with such power and the engine feels disconnected from the rest of the car, as if it’d prefer to break free from its shackles and carry on alone.

From launch, pedal feel is vague and uninspiring in the Polestar and, whereas other manufacturers such as Ford have adopted clever torque-steer compensation systems like the RevoKnuckle to rid themselves of the inevitable wandering found in high-powered, front-drive cars, Volvo seem to have forgotten. The result is involuntary changes of direction into either a hedge or oncoming traffic, dependant on which gear’s selected at the time.

Once on the move and heading in a straight line, finding a corner or bend is an unavoidable occurrence. The car’s front wheels do an admirable job of multi-tasking propulsion and direction, resulting in levels of grip that inspire confidence all the way to the limit. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link however and in this case, the Volvo’s seats let the whole ride down. Offering the same support, lumbar or otherwise as your average park bench, I found myself attempting to pilot the vehicle from the passenger seat whilst negotiating a tricky right-hander.

Build quality and safety features are usual Volvo fare which is where the C30 shines over the competition. It’s always hugely reassuring to know that if exuberance overcomes talent, the car is designed and built in such a way that it’ll do it’s best to protect our fragile bodies, especially with 250bhp on tap.

Volvo c30 Polestar floating console

Still a work of art

The interior is looking a little dated in the C30 generally, although its floating centre console was always a pretty, if not unusual dalliance with the world of form over function and it still impresses now.

One of the main competitors of the c30 is the impressive Focus ST. One interesting point to note here is that whereas the Volvo has only ever been available in 3 door guise, Ford have decided to only offer the ST with 5 doors. Which approach will prove more popular is anyone’s guess but traditionally, hot-hatches must be a jack-of-all-trades, ferrying the children to school one minute and winning red-light races the next. This task is generally a whole lot more enjoyable when aforementioned children aren’t forced to clamber over the front seats.

Volvo C30 Polestar badge blueThe C30 Polestar is certainly an exciting insight into where Volvo could be heading in the future. For now though, the competition is simply poles-apart.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Volvo C30 T5 R-Design with Polestar upgrade, Price £22,920,  Engine2.5l 5-cyl petrol, LayoutFront engine, front wheel drive,  Power250 bhp,  Acceleration 0-60 5.9s, Maximum Speed –  152mph, Economy32.5 mpg combined, Emissions –  203g/km CO2 

History of Volvo

Volvo was originally founded as a subsidiary of Swedish engineering component manufacturers, SKF, its original purpose being to expand the parent company’s market into the US. Founders Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larsson also included the production of automobiles into Volvo’s original manifest although this was certainly never meant to be the sole aim of the company and it wasn’t until ten years after Volvo’s launch that a car bearing this moniker would seethe light of day.

Close up of Volvo grill badge

Volvo – Latin for ‘I roll’

The name Volvo comes from the Latin for ‘I roll’. It’s absolutely no coincidence that one of parent company SKF’s main products was ball bearings. The Volvo badge which is still familiar today is from the Swedish symbol for iron and has always been placed on a diagonal bar across the car’s radiator grille.

Volvo Jakob

Volvo Jakob

You could say that Volvo’s birthday was April 14th 1927 when their first car, the ŐV4 – nicknamed Jakob rolled off the production line in Gothenburg. The four cylinder ŐV4 and PV4 models were available in hard top and cabriolet guise and proved an instant success in Scandinavian countries as they were designed to be better equipped than competition from the US to withstand the harsh conditions of their winters.

Quality was a word that became rapidly synonymous with Volvo and this soon evolved into an association with making extremely safe cars. The following statement was made by the company’s founders:-

‘Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is and must remain, safety’, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustav Larsson, 1927.

1929 saw the introduction of Volvo’s first six cylinder model, the PV651. The success of this larger car financed the construction of Volvo’s first purpose built factory and the purchase of their engine supplier.

As was the case with many automotive manufacturers, World War Two saw the production of Volvo cars decimated as the factories were modified to produce military machinery. In stark contrast, 1944 saw the release of the PV444 model which combined American flair with European elegance. This model, along with the PV544 helped Volvo gain a foothold in the lucrative American market during the ‘50s and ‘60s.

The launch of the hugely popular Volvo Amazon (or 120 as it was known in the US) in 1959 again highlighted Volvo’s dedication to automotive safety as it was the first car to be sold with seatbelts as standard. This would later progress to being the first car with three point seatbelts.

Roger Moore as the Saint with his Volvo

The Saint

Moving into the 1960s, Volvo launched their first sports car, the P1800. This was later to become famous across the world as the car Roger Moore drove in ‘The Saint’. The ‘60s also saw Volvo’s new factory opening at Torslanda in 1964. This allowed annual car production to expand to 200,000 as Volvo’s worldwide appeal continued to grow, especially with their own niche market, the family car.  This demand for a safe, well made car was satisfied further in 1966 with the release of the 140 model, initially in saloon guise and latterly as an estate.

Volvo’s reputation for being market leaders in automotive safety was upheld further during the 1960s and ‘70s as they introduced the world to such safety features as crumple zones, collapsible steering columns and side impact protection systems. This list of innovations is by no means exhaustive.

The 1970’s saw Volvo successfully purchase the car manufacturing arm of Dutch company DAF. DAF’s existing models were simply rebadged as Volvos, a move that resulted in Volvo expanding their range yet further into the smaller car market.

Following the collapse in 1993 of a proposed merger with Renault during its latter stages, Volvo remained the world’s largest independent automotive manufacturers. This would remain the case until 1999 when Ford purchased the company for US $6.45 billion.

Ford placed their new acquisition in their Premier Automotive Group (PAG) along with Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover. Despite announcing losses year after year, Ford insisted on keeping Volvo when the rest of the PAG had been disbanded.

Today, Volvo are owned by Chinese automotive giant Geely following a successful buyout in 2010. Geely acquired the firm for US $1.8 billion following extremely complex negotiations. This is someway off the value Ford initially placed on the company of US $6 billion.

By Ben Harrington

Ben’s Cars



Austin Metro

Austin Metro

1. 1983 Mk1 Austin Metro 1.0L, Owned May1996 – Jan 1997

Colour – Stratos Blue

Purchase Price – ?- Sold For – ?

Although technically my first car, I tend to disregard my Metro as I never actually drove it on a public highway, legally. Bought for me by my dad, it was an MOT failure which needed plenty of bodywork and dad naively thought I would jump at the chance of learning to weld. Observations on handling and performance are obviously limited in spite of the hundreds of journeys made travelling up and down Mum’s 30ft driveway.

2. 1967 Volkswagen Beetle 1200, MNG 781E, Owned Feb 1997 – Jan 1998

Colour – Peppermint Green

1967 Volkswagen Beetle Lowered

1967 Volkswagen Beetle

Purchase Price – £1500 – Sold For £1000

The car I prefer to refer to as my first. In lurid green and slammed to the floor, subtle this car was not. Despite pedestrian performance, wayward handling and woeful unreliability, this little bug was my introduction to air-cooled VWs, a breed I’m still passionate about today.

3.  1990 Peugeot 205 1.9 Gti, H936 CPO, Owned Jan 1998 – Dec 1998

Colour – Cherry Red

86-peugeot-205-gti in red

Peugeot 205 Gti

Purchase Price – £3995 – Sold For – £3000

A combination of receiving my first regular income and still living at home meant I could afford the Pug, arguably the greatest hot hatch ever. Seemingly supercar performance and renowned go-kart like handling easily justified the insurance which was equal to over a third of the value of the car!

BMW 320i

BMW 320i

4. 1987 BMW 320i, Owned Dec 1998 – June 1999

Colour – Cirrus Blue

Purchase Price – £4200 – Sold For – £3900

From the days when the Germans were hell bent on over-engineering, this Beemer was heavy, and I mean heavy! So much so that despite the more desirable six pot engine nestling under the bonnet, it struggled to propel its own weight and the result was mpg to rival a Hummer. I admired this car but never truly grew to love it.

Volkswagen Golf Mk2

Volkswagen Golf Mk2

5. 1986 Volkswagen Golf 1.6L, Owned June 1999 – Jan 2000

Colour – Mars Red

Purchase Price – £1700 – Sold For – £1500

University meant my days of desirable motors were forced to go on hold and thriftiness was the order of the day. This Gti look-alike however, proved that little budget doesn’t have to mean little quality. The lack of outright power was overshadowed by the magnificent chassis, cocking the inner rear wheel when pushed. If nothing else, this car knew how to have fun.

Ford Sierra Sapphire

Ford Sierra Sapphire

6. 1988 Ford Sierra Sapphire 1.8L, Owned Jan 2000 – March 2000

Colour – Rosewood Red

Purchase Price – £500 – Sold For – £400

Some of the most honest, satisfying  cars I’ve owned have cost less than one thousand pounds, so have some of the worst. The Sapphire fell into the latter category. Built when quality control was becoming a foreign concept at Ford, its bodywork was unseasonably rusty although I’m fairly sure a bodged accident repair didn’t help matters. The previous owner had had a decent stab at replicating a Cosworth by pilfering a set of wheels from a Mk2 Escort RS2000 and they were definitely the highlight. I would say the worst aspect overall was the engine though. The car ran on petrol, the engine looked like a petrol engine, the logbook even stated petrol fuel was required and yet the rattling engine note wasn’t dissimilar to a tired London Taxi.

Mini Mayfair

Mini Mayfair

7. 1984 Austin Mini Mayfair (Auto) Owned March 2000 – May 2000

Colour – Ermine White

Purchase Price – £400 – Sold For – £200

As a rule, automatic ‘boxes aren’t really my thing, I prefer the pure driving experience of a manual. The lack of a clutch pedal in this Mini however only added to the joy it brought. The handling was so precise and accurate that being an auto enhanced the feeling of driving a go-kart on the road. There was no fluidity or smoothness to the box, rather a violent jolt with every change which, to me was pure rally car. Unfortunately, one two many jolts resulted in broken engine mounts and that was the end of my Mini adventure.

8.  1988 Renault 5 Campus, Owned May 2000 – January 2001

Colour – Avis Red

renault 5 campus in red

Renault 5 Campus

Purchase Price – £250 – Sold For – £250

I have very fond memories of my Five, for the simple reason that it did everything asked of it and it did it well. It suited my needs perfectly – it was cheap, reliable, did about a million mpg and, joy of joys was an absolute hoot to drive. The suspension was too comfortable to ever make handling precise but somehow you always knew where the limits were with no nasty, hedge bound surprises. Hailing from when French autos still had a sense of humour, even the dash was a design masterpiece with random levers sprouting from bizarre locations like a Dalek.s helmet.

9. 1987 Volvo 340 GL, E596 GOO, Owned January 2001 – November 2001

Colour –  Smoke Silver Metallic

Volvo 340

Volvo 340

Purchase Price – £400 – Sold For – £300

It may be purely psychological but I always find a Volvo a warm, cosseting environment to be in, like a great big steel hug. My Volvo really was a warm place to be in due to the fully functioning heated seats, a pleasure until the many occasions when I forgot they were on in mid summer resulting in a Swedish sauna effect. My friend and I were once waiting in traffic, heard a screech of tyres and felt a slight shunt from behind. We went to survey the damage and found an apologetic Punto driver clearly upset about his mangled front end. Damage to Volvo wasn’t even a scratch. Crumple zones – who needs them anyway?

10.  1985 Volkswagen Golf  1.3L, Owned November 2001 – November 2001

Colour – Mars Red

1985 vw golf mark 2 in red

Mark 2 Volkswagen Golf No.2

Purchase Price – £100 – Sold For – £100

Whilst possibly trying to rekindle my emotions for my first Golf, I stumbled upon this example, similar in many ways except for the smaller capacity engine. Like going back to a favourite holiday destination, I was destined for disappointment. This Golf was to put it mildly, knackered. A nightmare to start, when it did start it stopped again at every opportunity and when it didn’t stop it still felt as though it had due to the measly amount of power on tap. Thankfully my torture lasted but a week when a workmate needed extremely cheap transport and I saw my opportunity to end my misery.

From November 2001 to June 2002 I reverted back to car number 4, the BMW as I had sold it to my dad and he wasn’t using it anyway.

Volkswagen Golf GTi MK3

Volkswagen Golf GTi MK3

11. 1996 Volkswagen Golf Gti 8v, P383 KND, Owned June 2002 – September 2004

Colour – Dusty Mauve

Purchase Price – £4995 – Sold For – £3500

2002 was a big year for me. I met my future wife and started earning proper money again, life was good. Of course, more money meant a new car and I’d always wanted a Golf Gti so that was what I got. The Mk3 8v always gets bad reviews as being overweight and underpowered but after years of snail pace driving, it initially felt pretty spritely to me. Admittedly though, it wasn’t long before 115bhp started feeling a tad pedestrian but as is usual with VW, the car was greater than the sum of it’s parts and the Gti’s character and build quality shone through.

12. 1996 Ford Escort Si, P96 WBV, Owned May 2003 – February 2007

Colour – Metallic Panther Black

1996 Ford escort SI 16v panther black

Ford Escort Si 16V

Purchase Price – £2995 – Sold For – £ 750

In truth, my wife’s car but I ended up doing a lot of driving in it so it’s on the list. The Mk6 was doomed to fail from the start as its technology was outdated before production even began, poor safety levels and even poorer build quality didn’t help either. I always found this ‘warm hatch’ quite endearing though, the Zetec engine moved it along nicely and I don’t remember it breaking down. The interior was quite a pleasant place to be, that is until a cucumber was lost under the back seat for a month, resulting in an ungodly smell that never really seemed to dissipate.

Audi 90 Quattro

Audi 90 Quattro

13. 1988 Audi 90 Quattro 2.2, Owned April 2004 – May 2004

Colour – Lagos Metallic Blue

Purchase Price – £800 – Sold For – £300

I’d always fancied an Audi Quattro so when two of my friends bought Audi 90s, I decided to take the plunge. The theory was to sell the Golf and save some money by running a decidedly cheaper Audi. The engine had plenty of life left in it and the handling was excellent due to the 4wd system. Its first long run to the Lakes resulted in a strange knocking noise developing on the motorway. You can imagine my joviality when I discovered the wheel nuts had worked their way loose, a trick they continuously repeated. A disastrous MOT led to the car going, albeit at a huge loss. Thankfully, I’d never got round to selling the Golf so I jumped back in that and forgot the Audi ever happened.

14. 1974 Volkswagen Kombi, ANW 610M, Owned September 2004 – Present

Colour – Originally Alpine White, now BMW Jet Black & Antique white

1974 Volkswagen Camper


Purchase Price – £4750

Where to begin?! We originally went to a VW show to find a Karmann Ghia and came away with our hearts set on a camper. After viewing several rust buckets, we found a company who imported VW’s from Australia and went to have a look. We were shown a weather beaten, plain white van with no interior but more importantly with no rust or bodged repairs either; we fell in love and agreed on a price. Matilda, as we christened her was my daily drive for over a year – not much fun in winter with no heater! Having spent thousands on her, she sadly spends most of her time in my garage now but that’ll change once the kids are a bit older. My eldest loves her already – she should do really, she was conceived in her after all!

15. 1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6, L479 VLA, Owned January 2006 – Sept 2007

Colour – Midnight Blue Pearl Effect

1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6 in blue

Volkswagen Corrado VR6

Purchase Price – £3500 – Sold For – £6360

The only car I’ve ever bought by accident. I traipsed down to Brighton with a bag of cash to see this car but it was far from as advertised. It was low mileage and had potential but the owner wanted top money for it so I made my excuses and motioned to leave. After relentless pressure to make any offer, I came up with a meagre figure- less than half the asking price just to allow me to leave. Next thing I knew I was circling the M25 in a car I didn’t really intend to buy, luckily my gamble paid off though. Torque steer aside, it drove magnificently with an addictive soundtrack and after some more money and time were invested, yielded a healthy profit. I’d still have it today if it wasn’t for those pesky kids! (Sold following news of wife’s pregnancy – baby seats don’t fit in Corrados)

Fiat Punto

Fiat Punto

16.  2001 Fiat Punto ELX 16V, AP51 HMC, Owned January 2007 – January 2008

Colour – Metallic Gun Metal Grey

Purchase Price – £2995 – Sold for – £1400

Another of the wife’s cars technically, recommended by me after I walked away unscathed from a Punto that was involved in quite a serious accident. Sadly, a truly dreadful car however. Over lightened steering meant the driver could only marginally affect the direction of travel via the traditional steering wheel method and an iron maiden would embarrass the interior when comparing comfort levels. By far the worst aspect though was the build quality which sported rust levels previously unseen on a non seafaring vessel.

Volvo 460 GL

Volvo 460 GL

17. 1993 Volvo 460GL, Owned September 2007 – June 2008

Colour – White

Purchase Price – £200 – Sold for £100 (Scrap)

Finding myself in-between cars again meant a cheap solution be found quickly, resulting in a return to Sweden’s finest. Joy of joys, this one had heated seats too which more than made up for the rotten bodywork and various dents. Testament to the brand, this unloved shed got through a freezing winter without a hiccup. I almost felt guilty when the MOT ran out and I summoned the scrapper without even granting the opportunity to attempt a further twelve month stay of execution.

Citroen Xsara Picasso blue

Citroen Xsara Picasso

18. 2002 Citroen Xsara Picasso Sx, PE52 DFO, Owned January 2008 – Present

Colour – Mediterranean Blue

Purchase Price – £2995

Getting closer to two becoming three meant that the hateful Punto had to go in place of a larger, five door model. The price and family friendliness of these ubiquitous Gallic oddities does a good job of excusing their faults, i.e. build quality and driver satisfaction. Some nice little features inside that really feel like a helping hand after a long night with a screaming baby!

Subaru Impreza WRX

Subaru Impreza WRX

19. 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX SE PPP, AY05 MLO, Owned June 2008 – Dec 2008

Colour – Crystal Grey Metallic

Purchase Price – £9600 – Sold For £9000

I needed a family car by now and to me, having four doors meant the Scooby qualified perfectly, fulfilling a long term desire to own this road going rally car was merely a bonus! I didn’t want the attention the Sti brought with its pink badges and spoilers so I opted for the relatively subtle WRX SE with the Prodrive Performance Pack. This meant I got luxuries like leather interior combined with a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds – supercar territory. By far the fastest car I’ve ever bought and also the most painful on the wallet with mpg averaging around 20 and already high insurance premiums reliant on a tracker. The expense combined with being surprisingly small inside meant after six months I wanted out and on Christmas eve my wish was granted with little depreciation. Time for a proper family car.

Audi A6 Avant

Audi A6 Avant

20. 2003 Audi A6 1.9Tdi SE Avant, KC03 HLG, owned Jan 2009 – August 2011

Colour – Crystal Blue Metallic

Purchase Price – £6000 – Sold For £5000

Without doubt the most complete car I have ever owned. Torquey, economical, beautifully built, absolutely reliable, cavernous inside, handsome and even cheap to tax. I really cannot fault this car for anyone with a young family. High mpg is appreciated whilst outgoings rise and incomes drop, the boot easily swallows buggies etc and if you go for the multitronic or auto, it’ll even change gear for you, leaving you free to consume precious coffee on the way to work. I’m even lucky enough to have an incredible stereo for when the kids aren’t in the car.

Piaggio Vespa PX125

Piaggio Vespa PX125

21. 2006 Piaggio Vespa PX125, YX06 LTZ, owned July 2011 – Present

Colour – Black with tan seat

Purchase Price – £1250

Fair enough – it’s not exactly a car. My first venture into motorbike ownership is represented by my beautiful black Vespa. I’ve desperately wanted a Vespa since I was 16, so this is really an ambition fulfilled, as well as a very cool, ultra economical piece of transportation. The fact that it’s iconic, black and air-cooled means that it fits in perfectly next to Matilda the VW and I’ve used my Italian scooter in all weathers without her missing a beat.

2003 Mini JCW Cooper S

JCW Cooper S

22. BMW MINI Cooper S JCW, CU53 UNB, owned October 2012 – August 2013 

Colour – Royal Grey

Purchase Price – £5650

Sold For – £5000

‘Buy a Cooper’, I said to myself. ‘You’ve driven the Cooper S and it’s too powerful, the Cooper is more fun’. I’ve got a track record of not listening to my own advice though, so, although I didn’t buy a Cooper S, I went the other way and bought the 210bhp John Cooper Works. Great fun over a perfectly flat road, not so much on the tarmac disgraces we call roads in Britain. Jarring ride aside, the performance was fabulous, especially with that supercharger constantly whirring away.

0534525-Saab-900-Cabriolet-900-SE-2.0i-Turbo-Cabriolet-199523. Saab 900 SE Turbo Convertible, R978 XON, owned August 2013 – November 2014

Colour – Midnight Blue

Purchase Price – £1060

Sold For – £995

I’d always admired Saab’s quirky nature and the 900 Turbo is an absolute icon. Having seen the upwards spiral that the early models’ prices had taken, I couldn’t resist this immaculate, low mileage ‘New Generation’ car. The body was about as rigid as cooked spaghetti, but that 2.0l Turbo Saab engine was a dream. Registered at the end of February 1998, I believe that my car was one of the last ever made before the arrival of the GM sourced 9-3, and I saw it as something of an investment. Unfortunately, it was getting enough use and when I was made the right offer, it had to go.



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