1987 Volvo 340 GL 1.4 from UK and Ireland
A much under-rated reliable classic with tuning potential!
Very little has gone wrong with the car. Problems mainly caused by the neglect of previous owners.
I've owned a few of these, so these are all the things that have gone wrong across the range of them (you're unlikely to have all these problems in one car) :-
The exhaust blew, and I needed to buy an aftermarket one, which was surprisingly cheap from National Tyres (so cheap, I thought they'd made a mistake).
The idle solenoid in the (Solex) carburettor went so that the car wouldn't idle. This is a safety device that needs electric current (i.e. ignition on) to allow fuel flow at idle. A replacement was ridiculously expensive, so I just pulled out the 'plunger' which stops the fuel flow. Job done, no side effects.
The speedometer cable invariably needs replacing at some point (from a breaker or 17 pounds new).
Front light bulbs blew a lot, so that one side was half-beam ('parking lights') or when you put the lights on full beam, only one side worked and the other side dipped in power etc. I've seen this on a lot of other cars though, so maybe it's not peculiar to this car.
The steering rack worked itself loose so there was a lot of play. This happened on a couple of cars (as in the infamous Jeremy Clarkson 'I hate this car so much I'm going to crash it' video).
Hatch hydraulic 'lifts' invariable fail.
Handbrake cable underneath often needs 'tightening'.
Rear light clusters play up; often the contacts just need cleaning.
Virtually impossible to find an intact parcel shelf.
An excellent vehicle!
Lots of space in the hatchback.
Lots of safety features 'ahead of their time' on this old car; e.g. side impact bars and safety cage/crumple zone design, seatbelt warning etc.
Well-designed instrument panel.
Comfortable seats, but rather a lot of body roll cornering at speed; solved by lowering the car and fitting anti-roll bars.
Both the 1.4 and 1.7 are Renault engines. 1.4 is basically the Renault 5 engine built to Volvo specs. The 1.4 enjoys very good fuel economy. The 1.7 has better performance, but idles erratically. A blocked air filter most often hinders performance (and affects fuel economy). I take them out and stuff a nylon 'scouring pad' - sprayed with performance air filter aerosol - up the air intake pipe.
Fitting bigger lower profile 5 spoke alloys/185/60 R14" tyres from a 440/480; essential really for looks and handling.
Parts are easy and cheap to find at breakers yards.
I've become 'hooked' on these cars. I have a leather-clad BMW 5 series as well when I need to 'look the part' but I still enjoy driving the 340. Just the fact that there are so many of these cars still on the road tells you something...I've bought my examples for between 50 and 150 quid, so I've had amazing value for money. There is even a tuning site at www.higgins340.fsnet.co.uk
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 1st November, 2003