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VOLVO 440 SE 2.0i 

Public perceptions of Volvo's car range seem curiously limited in that even the least well informed are aware of the enormous estate cars, the 700's and 900's, the small 340's and, latterly, due to extensive advertising, the polished 850. Yet, curiously, the mid range 440/460 hatchback / saloon models are rather less well known, a great pity as the mid size hatches and saloons have all of the traditional Volvo attributes, longevity, strength, solidity, high build quality and important safety features among them, and comprise a wide range of cars that, particularly at the lower end of the range, offer exceptional value for money and a degree of exclusivity that many of their more mundane competitors lack.

Unlike those common perceptions of the big estates and the venerable 340's, the 440/460 saloons and hatches offer a range of 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 litre engines which combine a sparkling degree of performance with a quite remarkable frugality.

From this wide range, I drove the 440 SE 2.0i and reckon it to be a much underrated competitor for any similar sized hatch or saloon on the U.K. market.

The 2 litre car is near the middle of a very wide range starting with the 1.6 and 1.8 litre Li's at £9,495 and £9,995 respectively - excellent value for money compared to some of their opponents - and topped out by the extremely rapid and civilised 440 Turbo, a real firecracker of a performance saloon at just over £15,000.

The injected 2 litre engine also offers sparkling performance from it's 110 bhp, a willing, responsive engine that is happy to rev hard without volubly complaining yet, equally, will smoothly and quietly cruise all day at motorway speeds with barely 3,000 rpm showing on the tachometer.

This enjoyable power plant is well matched to a slick, 5 speed, manual gear box with a tallish fifth for leisurely cruising. An automatic gearbox is optional as are both ABS and a driver's side airbag.

Strongly resembling the bigger members of the Volvo family, the 440 is sleek and stylish with terrific internal space, excellent head and leg room in the well trimmed cabin and a high standard of fitments.

The rather angular dash contains large, clear, instruments and all controls are well laid out. Safety is, as ever for Volvo, a high priority in the body construction with a tough survival cell and side impact bars - a feature that Volvo pioneered some 20 years ago. Well balanced power steering is standard as is an electric tilt/slide sunroof.

In addition there are power front windows, a left hand electric mirror - a la Mercedes - heated seats and a very good stereo mounted high in the dash close to the driver's eyeline.

The highly adjustable, contoured, seats are very comfortable, notably so over over long distances, and heated for those cold winter months, the rear seats splitting in the usual 60/40 ratio to increase the already large, and easily accessed, hatch area.

Ride quality is very good, slightly on the firm side, to provide both comfort and taut handling, it's twisting B road performance a continual pleasant surprise, a degree of agility and roadholding better associated with the much newer, and more overtly sporting, 850 saloons.

If you are looking to buy a mid size family hatch or saloon I suggest a long, hard, look at the 440 and 460. Both are worthy of serious consideration and stand very close scrutiny - notably in the value for money stakes - against any of the competition.

FACT FILE

  • PRICE £12,695
  • TOP SPEED 116
  • MPH 0-60 10 SECONDS
  • FUEL CONSUMPTION 27 [URBAN CYCLE] 49 [CONSTANT 56 MPH]

First Published 1993 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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