Many, many years ago I went to Sweden to see how Volvo and Saab cars were made. I was extremely impressed, telling the comparatively new, or perhaps I should say newly-expanding, Volvo people that if they were to take a full-page advertisement in, say The Times newspaper, telling how thorough their laboratories were in checking materials and how very meticulously the Volvos were put together, they would undoubtedly reap high sales in Britain. I do not think they fully understood that I was expressing this opinion after having seen inside most of the important European car factories and those in this country from Rolls-Royce downwards. Far from such manufacturies, the Volvo engineers thought theirs was the only way good cars could be made and that that was the end of it! However, you cannot keep people from beating a path to your door if you make good mouse-traps — or cars. So since my visit of long ago, the worth of the Volvo has been appreciated, World-wide. Volvo nomenclature is confusing. The big, very useful 245GLT Estate I tested in 1982 had a 2.3-litre engine. The Volvo 3600LS 5-door Hatchback I have recently been trying has the newer 2-litre B19A four-cylinder carburetted, alloy head ohc engine, developing 92 bhp, whereas the 360 GLT model has the fuel-injection BI9E engine and gives 115 bhp. Both are hydraulically mounted and have breakerless ignition. Both have acceptable 5-speed gearboxes (mounted in unit with the final-drive, transaxle fashion), giving indicated 70 mph cruising in the highest gear at an easy 3,000 rpm, the engine developing its maximum power at only 5,400 rpm. Those wanting a less-bulky version of the high-quality Volvo are well catered for in the recently-expanded 300-series, notably with the easy to load Hatchback body. I liked the 360GLS in spite of it being one of the less lavishly-equipped models, sans sun roof, central locking, electric windows, rear spoiler or alloy wheels, etc. It was nicely appointed and finished, though it had the ingenious Volvo semi-self-levelling suspension, which to accommodate caravan-towing can be adjusted with a garage air-line, the pressure gauge hiding beneath the off-side back-seat cushion. Those who are not enamoured with the almost universal trend for FWD have in these compact ‘Volvos a “North/South”-mounted engine and the technical luxury of de Dion rear suspension, using long single-leaf half-elliptic rear springs. The 360GLS lacks gas-filled shock-absorbers and I would not rate its handling in the sports-saloon category, but it corners well nevertheless, and rides well on normal roads, at times with a very faint floating action. On rougher surfaces the suspension feels hard.
The overall impression is of a very agreeable car, pleasant and uncomplicated to drive. I liked the discreet warning-lights, the clear instruments, and the very useful stowage, including front-door bins. One’s left foot has to be parked beneath the clutch pedal and the tips of the two steering column stalk-controls (turn-indicators and flick-dipping on the left, wipers, with flick-action, on the right) are a bit harsh and also a bit rough on ungloved hands. The headlamps had a rather sudden cut-off on dipped beams and could have been somewhat more long range on full beams. But they have wash wipe, there are mud-flaps behind all four wheels and I am glad to say that no longer do you have running lights permanently in use. The old-style quartz clock, being on the fascia, is not too easy to read.
Very likeable features are the truly effective heater with all settings very clearly explained, the neat rotary switches for lamps and heater-fan, and the easily-worked multiple air and heat vents. The seats are generally comfortable and all told this Volvo 360 is a car I could live with and enjoy. On the first long run in it there was freezing fog, so full potential could not be used and I was getting about 30 mpg from the 12 1/2-gallon fuel tank. A 332-mile cross-country run at an average of over 51 mph gave some 28 mpg; the fuel gauge is widely marked but a flashing light shows with about 5-litres in reserve. The overall consumption was 25.9 mpg. The test-car had a Volvo CR-107 stereo-cassette radio and the tyres were 13 in Goodyear Grand Prix S70s. I was surprised that the screen-washer fluid instantly froze — on a Swedish car too! I could have done with the outside air-temperature gauge but did not miss the economy gauge, both blanked off from the fascia on this model. Once upon a time Standard Motors had a slogan “Count Them On The Road”. The popularity of Volvos of all kinds shows that their worth is fully understood by British motorists. The useful and enjoyable 360GLS 5-door sells here for £6,298.