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Having owned my Volvo 480 for a little over a year now, i feel its about time to write a proper review for it.
Having been a member of the invaluable online owners club and forum (www.volvo-480-europe.org) for some time before buying i felt infromed as to what to look for and had already walked away from a couple of cheaper / worse condition examples. Hard though it may be to do, its the only way you're going to enjoy your 480, read up before you go and let someone else buy the cursed ones!
I bought mine for £671 from a forum member through an ebay auction, which i still think was a bargin. There are cheaper 480's out there but to get any car with a full years MOT and some tax for that price has to be excellent value. Especially since there is no depreciation to cripple you, you should be able to sell a 480 on without any loss having enjoyed some 'free motoring' provided its kept in good condition.
From the day that i bought it i don't think there has been a single time when i've driven it and it hasnt brought a smile to mine, or someone else's face or both! Us children of the 80's just love those pop-up headlights.
The car is unique looking, and also quite rare (around 80,000 were made over 10 years of production) so not only will you occasionally turn heads, you'll be unlikely to see a car like yours on the road. Only available in two door with an opening rear glass hatch the interior is surprisingly spacious. Perhaps not the best family car, but if like me you usually have none or possibly one or two passengers there will still be plenty of room for all. The rear seat passengers even get two individual seats rather than the traditional bench which is a unique feature.
If you're after a bit of oomph to go with those unusual sporting lines then the turbo engine is the one for you. The turbo examples typically command a higher price than other models (with the possible exception of the limited edition collection and celebration models) but the increased power and torque will put a smile on your face and you'll be surprised at the caliber of the newer heavier cars you can shock either in a straight line or on the open road. For more go i strongly recomend investing £80 in an ecu upgrade for your turbo, again through the forum, which will transform a well maintianed turbo into a genuinely quick machine.
There's a good, if small, comunity of owners, meaning that second hand parts are not hard to get, with parts from other sources not hugely overpriced either. Be ready to pay unreasonable amounts for anything if you go to a volvo dealer tho, i use them only as a last resort. They also try to enforce 400 series shame on you when asking for parts, be brave and don't let them scare you off!
Overall the volvo has put up (mostly) with my abuse, and hasn't really been a pig to fix when things have gone wrong, as long as you've got a vaguely sensible head on your shoulders and a haynes workshop manual you should be able to have some very cheap, semi-quick, individual motoring for some years to come. I've just had mine MOT'd, it didnt pass first time, but nothing it failed on was particularly unreasonable, just replacing worn out parts, as you would have to with anything other than a brand new car.
Ok so at times the electronics can be dodgy, but this should be very easy to spot on any test drive, the info-centre and popup lights are supposed to be weakpoints but mine have never let me down.
The interior build quality is also fairly poor, the plastic in places is brittle and can squeak at times. Watch out for leaks in the rear caused by boot, light, and side window seals, these too should be simple enough to fix, so use them to haggle the price down if you can. Rust on the rear wheel arches is also common but more expensive to fix, finding a 480 with no rust is a hard task and if you can its probably a good buy for that fact alone.
A redeeming feature to enjoy while you are driving is the wonderful info-cente, who ever thought information about your car could be so interesting!? Essentially you have an LCD display (remeber them!?) and a selector dial, with different settings, allowing you to display average speed, avergae fuel consumption, current fuel consumption, range, oil, coolant and exterior temperatures.
If you drive it carefully most engines should return mid to high 30's mpg, but drive the turbo hard and the gauge will drop all the way to 11! even with mixed driving, without consideration for fuel you should still see at least 25.
So what's out there?
Well, perhaps contrary to convention, the base model in the range is the 480 'S' Largely the same as most 480's externally, the S is the most basically equiped. It will come in either 1.7 or 2.0 litre variants, depending on year, with the larger engine size later in the production run (1986-96)
Then there's the 'ES' again with either the 1.7 or 2.0 petrol engines, the ES will have more goodies as standard (although you may find some of these have been fitted as extras to a similar vintage S) Alloy wheels, info centre, fog lights, heated seats, ABS and other such toys are common, so dont let someone tell you what they're selling is top of the range if it has these.
A limited edition 2 tone, with distinctive turqoise and silver colour scheme was available for a short period around 1993, but other than the paint its the same as an ES
GT models are rare, and as they were produced at the end of the production run tend to come with all the toys, including air-con leather seats etc. only 250 of these were made for the uk!
Celebration models were the very last of the 480's produced, and like the GT tend to be very well spec'd, only 480 of these were made, and a genuine celeb should have a plaque on the passenger side of the dashboard stating which number it is, i.e 001/480.
Turbo models are badged as such and do not vary significantly from naturaly aspirated models in terms of interior trim or optional equiptment. They do however have mechanical differences, vented front disc brakes (after 1992) the turbo engine, and different fuel management computers.
Now is the time to buy this little dutch charmer, (ebay always has a few listed, as does autotrader and of course local press, the forum also has a for sale section, buying from a trusted member is worth going out of your way for) The 480 really is available at rock bottom prices! And with a little TLC you will turn heads and bring your passengers a smile.
There's really not a cheapest end to the 480 spectrum, you can pick up a runner for £1-200. If you want something more reliable or in better condition expect to pay £5-700 and even the best condition celebs and turbos wont go for more than £1500.
Enjoy your volvo's everyone.
I bought the 480 turbo thinking I was getting a performance car from a manufacturer with a reputation for reliability. Well, at least I was right about the first bit. The 480 can go fast. I have no issues saying that. What I do have issues with are: the dodgy mechanicals; irritating electrics; and the jaw-dropping bills from Volvo dealers that catalogued the time that I owned the car. It broke down the day after I bought it, and the day after that. New battery required, but the dealer covered that. They didn't cover the four other batteries that their beauty killed over the following twelve months... the light bulbs that it ate like smarties... the clutch that disintegrated... the brake calipers that locked up whilst on the motorway.... I can't write much more... the red mist is descending!
I currently use one of these for day to day transport. It's solid, reliable and practical. Performance is brisk but not exactly breathtaking, and the handling seems to encourage the hooligan in me. The jury's still out on the cars styling, is it ugly or funky? the pop up headlights make you think your in a proper sports car though. Build quality seems better than that of ford et al but it's not exactly a mercedes. Economy seems ok but is very dependent on the weight of your right foot 25-45 mpg