1989 Volvo 340 DL 1.4 petrol from UK and Ireland


A cheap, reliable and safe family car


Slight water leak at 100,000.

Back brake drums extremely hard to get off at 120,000.

Heated Seats work intermittently.

Hatchback struts never worked.

95,000 - intermittent on the wiper stalk causes them to freeze in place.

General Comments:

The Cabin is a little dark, but very solid. However, it is spacious, and easy to get in and out of the beat seats in. It is very tough-wearing inside, and the seat-belts work well in a crash. The dash, whilst basic, is also well designed and avoids the large clunky lights, using instead a discrete line of coloured silhouettes across the top of the dash.

The car is nippy, and responsive. The RWD might catch some people out if they start pushing the car, or on slippery conditions, but the balance is excellent. Acceleration wise, it's roughly equal to a 1998 1.25 Zetec Fiesta upto around 70, and there's plenty of torque upto the 85-90 mph mark. Top speed, even at this age, is around 110mph. The engine is hugely torque, and has enabled me to tow cars before, including broken Golf's, Accord's, and on one occasion, a Vectra that was stuck in mud. Kicking the tail out is also possible, if you want it, even with a full load of passengers.

The car is very safe, especially in a front-or rear impact, speaking from personal experience. My previous 340 (an 86) has crashed into a nova saloon, and suffered no more than a damaged wing, and radiator, whilst twisting up the other car's chassis, a 6 week old Golf VR6 struck this one at about 50mph, and was a write-off, whilst the Volvo suffered slight bumper damage, with zero intrusion to the boot area. I'd rather be in this car than any plasticity heap of the last 10 years.

The seats are comfortable for long journeys, with adjustable lumbar support, and plenty of adjustment. The head restraints are of a semi-soft foam, but unmovable, being actual whiplash preventer's, rather than something to rest your head on. Everything is in easy reach, with little need to stretch for anything.

The load capacity is very large, a least the same as a Mondeo or Camry. With the back seat folded, a 1.5x1x0.5m load should be no problems.

This vehicle did everything I could ask of it, and handled everything I could throw at it. it was fast, roomy, comfortable (even to sleep in), warm in the winter, cool in the summer (although there was no a/c) Visibility is good all round, the brakes are big and solid, so getting out of potential accidents is relatively easy. In fact, if you didn't know it was a 'hodge-podge' car, you'd never guess (body by Volvo, engines and manual transmission by Renault, CVT automatic by DAF as well as the designs. There are days when I wish I had that car with me here in the US, instead of it sitting in the UK waiting for me, as the Civic and Ford Contour (Mondeo) together do the job that the Volvo does in one, whilst they are less satisfying to drive.

Of course, if its more performance you want, you should look at the 360 automatic. I drove one of those once, and it was blisteringly quick, as it was a CVT (step-less) automatic, rather than a traditional type.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 5th October, 2003

1989 Volvo 340 GL 1.4 petrol (carb model) from UK and Ireland


Cheap, reliable banger with great brakes, comfy seats, bad handling and worse image!!!


Rear tailgate struts did not work very well. Replaced from a scrapyard for £6 after I got sick of being smacked on the head by a (very heavy) boot-lid a few dozen times.

Stereo speakers gave up after a few weeks of pumping out grunge / metal / indie music instead of their customary Radio 2. Replaced with the ones from my own car at the cost of a half-hours fiddling.

A new battery was needed at 71,000 miles at a cost of £23. (The old one was 9 years old).

The heated seats have never worked.

The starter-motor tends to stick now and again. So what, my house is on a hill! When it gets too bad I'll take it off and fix it or get a new one from the scrapyard.

General Comments:

I buy cheap cars with a year's mot and run them 'till they drop, so I don't expect much except a reliable old warhorse that gets me to work and carries all my stuff about. This is exactly what you get with a 340.

This car cost me £230, and will carry everything I can stuff in or on it in a surprising amount of comfort.

It was seriously ugly when new, so any dents, scratches or touch-ups can only improve its appearance!

Due to its truly deeply unfashionable nature, a 340 will never get stolen, vandalized or stopped by the police, despite where you take it or where you leave it. This must be a plus in a weird sort of way! This also means you can pick them up for next to nothing due to a poor street image.

Rattly old 1.4 Renault-derived engine will just go on and on-some of these babies reach 200k with ease.

They are easy to fix yourself at home as everything is big, solid and accessible. Although I'm not a trained mechanic, I do all my own repairs and the only time my cars see the inside of a garage is for their mot (if I think they stand a remote chance of passing that is!) so easy bodges is a thing I value highly.

Build quality is not as high as on other, larger Volvo models, and a 340 will rust if neglected. This is usually superficial, however (door bottoms, tailgate, wheel arches etc.). The rest of the car is pretty solid, and it feels like you're driving a much bigger car.

As they are usually owned by older people and kept in the family a long time, a 340 will not have been as abused as a Ford etc. of the same age, and can represent a real low-mileage bargain.

Insurance is a little higher than comparable cars (group 7), but the 1.4 does qualify for cheap road tax in the UK.

My 340 will cruise all day at 80-90 mph, can just scrape 100 on the speedometer, even fully loaded, and will return 35mpg on average. Acceleration is no ball of fire, but will get you out of trouble if you use the gears. (This is a heavy car for its size/horsepower).

Things to watch out for are broken door hinges, damaged carburettor mounts causing induction leaks and poor starting/performance, weak electrics and stripped propshafts, although I've been lucky so far...

All 340s have notchy, lumpy gearboxes, especially from 3rd to 2nd. They all do this, and it's nothing to worry about. Stay clear of automatics, as these are what gave 340s their reputation for being troublesome, thirsty and slow.

Also watch unpredictable rear-drive handling, especially in the wet. I love rear-drive cars, but these are a separate beast altogether!

All in all, a 340 will give you reliable 5-seater transport, do what you ask of it and is so ugly it's almost cute. Easy to live with and comradely if not exactly loveable!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 5th October, 2003