Archive for the ‘Volvo’ Category

Volvo V40 D2

In Volvo on July 23, 2015 at 8:22 pm

As a teenager I devoured motoring magazines, and picked up a hefty bias against safe boxy cars from Sweden.

Once I was in my mid-forties my preconceptions were challenged, as I kept hearing great things about the new “D5” 163 bhp 2.5 litre diesel engine.

Not much later I was happily behind the wheel of a 42 mpg Volvo V70 that had every conceivable extra, including an in built TV.

In the intervening years we’ve had two C30s, and a 240 estate. Last week I found myself behind the wheel of the sharply styled V40.

V40 9

Here’s my impressions of the Volvo’s answer to the VW Golf.  My impressions were formed during 2500 miles in the car, and once again proved you can believe everything the journalists say.V40 5

The truth is many motoring hacks have been pretty dismissive of the V40, which is designed to replace the old C30, and V50s which have now gone out of production.

V40 4

Back when this car was launched it was slated for a poor steering lock, and hard suspension.  There were even suggestions that it wasn’t all that reliable.V40 10

You take pot luck with hire cars, so I admit that I was a little disappointed my machine for the week was the least powerful (115 bhp) oil burner, and worst still it came with a manual gearbox.V40 4

In truth it didn’t take long for me to adjust.

Like most modern diesels this one seemed to be torquey, and flexible once above 20 mph.

My daily drive has about 50% more power, but I didn’t feel short changed even when looking to overtake on Scotland’s  wet A roads.

I can give you 40 reasons to buy a V40, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

1. Legendary Volvo Comfort.

2. High levels of adjustment afford a perfect driving position.

3. Heated Seats.

4. Leather.

5. Brilliant high tech instrument panel.

6. Better diversion options on the Sat Nav that my frequently inaccurate BMW system.

7. Good climate control.

8. Sculpted rear seats.

9. Room for one more passenger than the little C30.

10. 56.6 mpg whilst averaging over 40 mph.

11. Active Xenon Headlights.

12. Pretty triple “shark teeth” screen washer nozzles.

13. Folding front passenger seat to give a larger cargo area (or in my case more room to sleep).

14. Refreshingly different styling.

15. A surprisingly large boot.

16. Flat floor to the boot.

17. Cubby hole under the boot floor.

18. Great handling.

19. Zippy steering.

20. More engaging than a BMW 3 Series ED.

21. DAB radio works well.

22. A CD player for audio books.

23. Secure clips that hold the floor mats in place.

24. Sound Quality – out performs BMW.

24. Trendy rearview mirror.

25. Alloy wheels (even on the slowest version).

26. Unlike the C30 there’s a proper parcel shelf which can easily hide your luggage AND make way for luggage.

27. Two cup holders.

28. No rattles!

29. Overall Refinement.

30. Wonderfully un-German.

31. Plentiful engine options.  Even the least powerful has plenty of poke.

32. It offers the owner a sense of individuality, rather than lumping them in with the crowd.

33. Better than equivalent Merc A Class.

34. Prettier than a BMW 1 Series.

35. Safer than pretty much any other competitor.

36. It looks down the road, and will brake if you miss something!

37. Chunky steering wheel.

38. Gorgeous Head Restraints – beautifully styled, and (in the rear) easily folded for better visibility.

39. Cubby hole phone charger point.

40. Sliding centre armrest.


Hi-Tech Swede

In BMW, Volvo on September 3, 2013 at 11:10 pm

V60 D5 2013I’ve driven some incredible cars, but this one is probably the “cleverest” of the lot.

In all my years driving the best extra I’ve ever sampled was the BMW High Beam Assist on my 335.

The lamps made night like day, turned to match steering input but the cleverest touch was the auto dimming facility when the gadgetry detected a car ahead.

Unnecessary?  Possibly.

Worthy?  Absolutely.

Fast forward 5 years and I find myself considering a nearly new Volvo V60 as my daily steer.

At first glance it looks good.

But it does come in at £30,000, and it is only a Volvo.  So why did I come away impressed?

Firstly, it sounded wonderfully refined even with the 215 bhp oil burner installed, a world apart from the 2011 D5 unit in my Mum’s S60.

Squeezing the throttle the engine sounded exactly like the 2.5 litre petrol 5 pot in my C30.

The very through salesman then fiddled with the knobs on the steering wheel to demonstrate the radar controlled cruise control.  Wow, that’s one good option.

Then there’s driver alertness monitoring, which gave me 5 out of 5 for my positioning on the road, but can get quite rude if the driver starts to feel drowsy.

Then there was a 3 stage red light system buried low down on at the edge of the windscreen that warned me if I got too close to the car in front.

I didn’t need the Blind Spot red light’s as there weren’t many folk on the roads around Horsham.

Negative points? Not many.  Not much rear leg room, and this isn’t a load lugger in the classic Volvo sense.  Think of it as a sleek elongated hatchback, and you’ll be nearer the truth.

Will I buy it?

I’m not so sure if it’s lost £12,000 in 6 months and 108 miles what will it be worth in a further 6 months?

No I’ll soldier on with my T5 for a few more weeks.


In Renault, Volvo on July 9, 2013 at 8:58 pm

photoHere’s the car gaining the most column inches in the mags right now.

The NEW Ford Fiesta ST 2.

I thought it might make a nifty replacement for our BMW 320 (which I’d love to move on, but my wife wants to keep).

What’s to like?

Swanson Ford for starters. A small “family” garage, so unlike the big chains on Marsh Barton.

I spoke to three of their staff, and Kerry Graham was switched on and likeable, somebody deserving one’s hard earned cash.

The manager was young, helpful and knew his onions too.

Despite it being tucked at the back of the forecourt, and covered in “transporter buffers” and plastic they let me out for an accompanied test drive.

Right from the off it felt superb.

Lovely controls, slick gearbox, and well balanced pedals.

Unlike the Toyota GT86 I tried a few week back this was pleasantly vocal, but not in a tiring way.  It felt way quicker too, at about £7,000 less.  Mind you it shared the Jap cars supple, but sporty suspension.

How do they do that?

I’m impressed.

What could I mark it down on?

Not much, Ford still persist in naff folding rear seats which look cheap from inside the boot and refuse to fold level with the boot floor.

That wacky orange wasn’t to my tastes, and maybe I’d prefer a 5 door (not available yet).

The Sat Nav was a bit Mickey Mouse, but good enough and not an expensive option.

I don’t think you can get cruise control, and wheras the equivalent Renault Clio only comes as an Auto this only comes as a manual.

Would I have one?


But would the “Mrs” take my Volvo cast off if I chopped in the 320?


I’m pleased report Swanson’s are doing well.

Two days later their ST2 was sold.

That’s three gone in as many weeks.

Not bad for a family business.

Not bad at all.

Probably the Best Car in the World?

In BMW, Toyota, Volvo on June 26, 2013 at 5:29 pm

photo copy 3

Let’s get one thing straight.

No one really makes “The Best Car in the World” as every vehicle is a result of compromise.

In the ideal world I’d like a convertible estate, that looks like a coupe, returns over 50 mpg, rides like a Renault 16, and handles like a Toyota GT86.  Ideally it would cost about seven grand, and come with a 5 year warranty!

This, my friends is never going to happen.

Here’s the much lauded BMW 320 D M Sport auto. Top Gear’s resident “Hamster” thinks it deserves the accolade, so when Ocean Plymouth promised existing customers a “Secret Deal” I thought I’d run along and see what all the fuss is about.

I hopped out of our 3 year old previous generation 320 M Sport Business Edition, and made myself comfortable behind the wheel.

Very comfortable.  The new seats are more squishy, and almost Volvo like.  A good start.

The dashboard looks better too, although I’m not so enamoured with the electric automatic selector control. Couple that with a derv engine, I’d imagine this might be a disappointing ride.


Even on an auto the clattery diesel unit simply cuts out every time you stop, saving fuel and protecting your eyes at the same time.  weird things seemed to happen inside the gearbox as I slowed down in traffic.  Maybe that’s 4 cylinder lack of refinement, or just the machine shuffling through 7 speeds?

photo copy 2

I never did discover how many upshifts were on offer.

One thing which was immediately apparent though was the ride quality.  I bet this model had the upgraded suspension, it was nice an cosy, a revelation after our bang thump 320 that has been my wife’s daily steer.

In my short drive I also discovered the cost option reversing camera, really that’s just decadence!

Officially I could have been poodling around Plymouth for a couple of hours, but do you know what?  I took it back after twenty minutes.

photo copy

The whole car was “competent”. Handing back the keys was no hardship.  Quite the reverse, as my first run in our 320 revealed “The Mrs” had missed it’s cry for an oil top up.

Ocean obliged for £16.00, and I reckon this is one test drive that saved me about five grand.

Moral of the story, take the wife’s car out once in a while to avert disaster.

photoFunny how girls don’t spot warning symbols on the dash!




New i30

In Hyundai, Volvo on November 17, 2012 at 12:57 am

Earlier this week I had the chance to try out one of the most significant medium sized hatchbacks to be launched this year.

The new i30 is commendably different to the last model.  Rather like the Golf you can see traces of the previous generation model, but this one looks more cohesive.

I could have taken an Audi A3 from our local car rental centre, but I thought I’d give the Korean a try instead.

First impressions?  Perhaps the Kia version is prettier?

The lady showing me around the car introduced a number of special features.  Wow, it’s packed with goodies, even on basic diesel version.

The most interesting was the Stop/Start fuel saving  device, which reminded me of an old Golf Formel E I once drove.  Then there was the excellent bluetooth link for my phone.  It paired very quickly.

I’m not convinced by the cheap 70s Japanese stereo system like centre dash design, nor the blue dials come to that, but generally the interior was fine.  The stalks controlling wipers and indicators were ultra tactile, whilst the polished metal collar on the gear lever was positively sensual.

The seats were nearly as good as those in my Volvo, and certainly better than the Golf estate I had recently.  I suppose the Golf is the real rival here.  In key areas the i30 pips the Golf, kit, comfort, and acceleration. The 1.6 oil burner certainly wasn’t quick, but there was more torque than a base Golf, and more bhp too.

I did find the road noise surprisingly loud, and wasn’t too convinced by the three weighting options for the steering.  Most owners probably couldn’t tell the difference, or care less.

I guess the real crunch on a car like this is MPG.  Here the Golf does better.  I got 49.1 mpg on the read out, but doing the maths this was a true 47 over 248 miles.  The Golf I drove gave me 5 mpg more.

There were too many controls on the steering wheel, and I wasn’t impressed by the 6 buttons on the radio. Add 4 more and it could have become a Volvo like phone key pad.

Could I live with one every day?

Possibly, but whilst the engine sounded refined I just struggle with any car that isn’t quick off the mark.  Perhaps a 3.3 petrol version would be more fun?

Darn, they don’t make one.

Volvo C30 T5 R Design Geartronic

In Travel, Volvo on November 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm
Volvo C30 T5 R Design Geartronic at Westfield - Straford

Volvo C30 T5 R Design Geartronic at Westfield – Stratford

Perhaps the greatest car of all time is the Porsche 911.  What started out as reasonable efficient 2.0 litre sports car, with a lively rear end was gradually developed into an icon.

Ponder this though.  Ford replace the much loved Cortina with the revolutionary Sierra, and it was pretty dismal.  It looked wrong, it alienated die hard Ford fanatics, but did the Blue Oval give up?  Not at all they honed into one of their best ever sellers.

Which brings me to another less well documented “success story”.  The C30. I always liked the looks of the original, but despite it being the slowest depreciating car we ever owned I really never liked our 2007 C30 D5 Geartronic.  The ride was hard, the fuel consumption rather disappointing, and it didn’t communicate with the driver.

So two years after we “got rid of our D5 C30” we’ve now bought a T5 C30.  Why?

Firstly I wanted a comfortable car with an integrated SatNav, and proper Bluetooth phone set up. Secondly I didn’t want a boring diesel, and thirdly I wanted a 500 Abarth.  Darn, the latter despite being great value simply doesn’t come with a good sat nav.

So what’s small and quick and once got good reviews in Evo magazine?  Yup, the updated C30 T5.  It has a new chassis, quicker steering, active headlights and a warbly 230 bhp 5 cylinder soundtrack. It’s very undramatic when you are cruising, almost effortless in fact.

In a week I’ve done a thousand miles, and it’s way better than the early C30s.  The seats are even better than before, still the same shape but now in a lovely leather.  The lights are much better for quick thraps down country lanes, and fuel economy hovers around 27 mpg.  Not bad for a 4 seat hot hatch.

I’ll keep you posted on how we gel.

I’ve now done 2000 miles since buying the T5.  On the whole we’re getting on fine.  I’m sure there’s “stepping” on the tyres, which induces a whole lot of road noise (especially on smooth surfaces), but thankfully once we get over 50 mph you can’t notice it.

Yesterday the car had it’s first M.O.T., and it went through with no problem, which is a relief.

I’s hoped the bendy headlights would be as good as they were on my old 335i cabriolet.  They aren’t, but after driving a Hyundai i30 this week without bi-xenons I now realise they aren’ that bad at all.

nice bum!

The load cover for the boot is neat, but just as frustrating as the loose plastic item on our D5.  Yes it’s prettier and easier to use, but it allows very little access to the load area. I think I’ll just revert to no cover, and a travel rug instead.

One thing that really stands out is the terrific composure through bends, and absence of squat or dive under acceleration or braking.  It’s head and shoulders above our old Sonata in that department.

I’m slowly getting tuned in to the controls, and the phone is loud and clear when I use the bluetooth.

The sound system is good, but if I use the the iPlayer to listen to 6 Music a phone call knocks out the reception, and you can’t be fiddling with re-loading the page at 60mph on a motorway.

Small quibbles really. I’m getting around 27 mpg most of the time, which isn’t too bad.

I think I’ve made a good choice.

MARCH 2013

Now that I’ve had the T5 for a few months I thought I’d an update.

Something that’s really surprised me is just how much the car stand’s out in the crowd.

I’ve never believed a fast car is for plodding.

In fact I’m very happy to use the LOUD pedal, but despite having owned much faster cars this is the first one which has got me into repeated trouble with “The Old Bill”.

These occasions weren’t that bad, nobody threw their toys out the pram and I still possess “the right to roam”, but perhaps a bland silver wouldn’t stick out so much.

Then there’s the tyres.  They don’t seem to be wearing out very quickly even after I’ve done 10,000 pretty hard miles, but the road noise is such that I’m on the verge of replacing all four so that I don’t have to drown out the din with the radio.

Lastly there’s the ride.

Having driven 190 miles in our 2010 BMW 320 today I’m now beginning to appreciate just what a great job Volvo have done with the chassis. Where the BMW crashes and bangs the C30 just absorbs and glides.

Who’d have thought a Volvo would out perform a BMW on the twists and turns of British asphalt?

Not me.

October 2013 – I said goodbye to my Passion Red C30. Having just landed my first “job” in 13 years I couldn’t justify opting out of the company car scheme.

One day the taxman will catch up with me and clobber me for £4000 a year, but this lovely machine cost me over £5000 in depreciation over the same term.

In 5000 miles I haven’t really “enjoyed” my BMW, and this little rocket is sorely missed.

Return of an old friend

In Volvo on July 16, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Six years ago I was forced to say goodbye to an old friend.  A french friend.  My wife said I had to lose my old Renault 10 if I was going to buy a big Volvo V70.  I’d lusted after a D5 V70 for a little while and heard fantastic stories about the powerful engine.

Yes it might have only 163 bhp, but at any one time and in any gear there always seemed to be ample power.

Mine was bought at Tollbar Volvo in Coventry (I think they’re trading under a different name now.  I used the internet to source this car, as Kastners never seem to get well specified used vehicles into stock.

I really wanted a light ant interior, the fancy alloys, Geartronic (auto) and a proper Sat Nav.  A week after signing the paperwork I was back.  Not only had my Volvo got SatNav, but it also had a TV built in as well.

Back in 2005 our terrestrial TV struggled to get 4 stations, and reception on BBC2 was woeful.  The Volvo would tune into all 5 channels, and I remember watching the Simpsons on one sunny day whilst stuck in traffic on the Dartford Crossing.  It was uncanny.

Another time I watched 5th Gear, a channel I couldn’t get at home, and at Budleigh we regularly tuned in to the Channel Islands TV broadcasts.  In Wales I listened and watched The ashes whilst Roz sunbathed  few yards away on the beach.

When Charles married Camilla we were on Dartmoor.  You guessed it, we watched it live.

Charles Kennedy then Lib Dem leader at wedding

The biggest feature though wasn’t the TV, it was the sheer comfort.  The car was so cosy it used to virtually send me to sleep.  On long journeys I took to whirring the seat up sand down, and backwards and forwards using the buttons on the side.  Then their was the numb steering, it partially communicated what was happening at the front end.

On the economy front I used to get up to 42 mpg, whilst my friend who bought it off me in 2006 now gets up to 50 on the felt roads in Sweden.  The big boot was splendid, and the rear pillar vents great for passengers on a long run.  The car proved so comfortable that a friend in Belgium badgered his employer again and again until he was allowed to buy the uglier current shape version.

Personally my favourite V70 was the 2005 model year with silver inserts on the bumpers, but this machine was way better than the 180 bhp C30 we bought in 2007.  Incredibly the slower, heavier v70 was way more economical.

Nothing went wrong in the time I had it, but I remember getting a service and a few updates in Hull.  The cost £970, in 2006.  It’s  a good job we used to enjoy deep pockets.

Oh, before I forget, I must mention the worst feature.  The turning circle was atrocious.  But like I said it has turned around after being overseas for a year, and now sits on our drive whilst our friends watch the rain pour down in St.Ives.

Here’s the V70 on the day I stumped up £24000 to drive it away.


Four hundred quid, four months and forlorn.

In Volvo on June 7, 2011 at 6:40 am

The guy on reception joked, “You should buy my Volvo”.

“Do me a favour!, why would I want to buy your Volvo?”

A short time later I was persuaded to take the wheel of car I had utterly despised whilst it was in production, and guess what?  I found it absolutely wonderful.

A few days later I bought what was an almost showroom condition 240 GL auto to act our company delivery wagon.  It came complete with a tow bar, and best of all a full length HUMUNGOUS Webasto cloth roof.

Inside there were legendary Volvo seats, all covered in a sumptuous blue velour. How I wish that was still an option on modern cars, it’s far better than leather.

The only thing which didn’t appear to work was the heating on the seats, but other than this 3 speed auto was “a good ‘un”.

I never once got an mpg figure in 20s, and neither could I get anywhere near the magic “ton”.  However it was a fantastic antidote to modern potholed roads.  There were no low profile tyres, no silly bling wheels and bumps were absorbed without a hint of disturbance inside the cabin.

Performance was quite simply the worst of any car I’ve owned, but somehow the supreme comfort and sense of well being made this a mere trifle.

The back seats folded flat, the roof rails accepted a £25 set of roof bars from Trago and I found I could deliver fake chimneys, tow huge Grp lift pit liners and save on van hire brilliant.

It sounds so good, but why did I get rid of it?

Until one day going down Haldon Hill towards Exeter I appeared to lose all drive.  A quick call to an independent Volvo specialist in Bovey confirmed my worst fears. The auto box was beyond repair.

I could either scrap the car, or buy a new unit for £1500.  Gradually I coaxed my lovely Volvo into the knackers yard on Marsh Barton.  I was given £50 for my trouble, and as I walked away a fork scooped it up into the air ready for crushing!

Four hundred pounds, four months and four thousand miles. Forlorn.

What a shame it all had to end.

Saving Grace

In Cadillac, Volvo on May 26, 2011 at 7:51 am

Meet the remarkable Volvo C30. Of all the cars we’ve owned in recent

years this has been the most disappointing.

The high output diesel engine 180 bhp, and a bucket load of torque

looked good on paper, but hid something a test drive couldn’t uncover.

Ridiculously poor fuel economy.

We had our beautiful C30 for two years and just over 20,000 miles.

It came from a Stratstone dealership in Plymouth, and was bought at a

snip.  £15,000 with 50 miles on the clock, which surprised us as we were only really in Plymouth to go to the theatre.  The reason for the incredible “offer” became apparent just 2 weeks later when the place shut down.

The SAVING GRACE?  Well firstly there was that incredibly good deal when we bought it, and secondly when we traded it in against the Cadillac it hardly lost any money.  We got £13250, having lost just £1,750 over 2 years, that’s good, very good.

The other down sides were, the growly engine, hard ride, cheap interior plastics, all those addenda made it difficult to wash.  The rear boot cover was a horrid piece of plastic and useless unless you had two free hands.  Fuel economy was pathetic, with 40 mpg on only two tanks, and a normal average of between 30-35.  Not what we had hoped.

The upsides were, Roz loved it.  It would get from Devon to London and back on one tank of fuel, and would seat 4 in total comfort.

Why did I get rid of it?

Well the Cadillac took my fancy, and somehow the car never lived up to those pretty looks.