Living with the Volvo 340 and 360
By Jim Beech
My relationship with the 300 Series began in 1985 when we bought our first 300, a 1984 340GL with 3,000 miles on the clock. I met the one previous owner on the garage forecourt taking delivery of a brand new 360GLT and from then on the car was SOLD! I was fortunate to make the private purchase of the floor trays and cassette holder with him. Having bought the car my next reaction was consternation - the front seats tipped forward and leaned at a strange angle. It couldn't be my fault - I hadn't even touched it! However, closer inspection revealed it was simply an example of Volvo thoroughness - one that I would come to appreciate. Passengers could reach the back without having to squirm past the front seat, and we could get our daughter Diana in and out of the child safety seat easily without tripping over the seat belt or colliding with the back of the front seat. The high driving position of the car gave good all-round visibility. Volvo had somehow achieved this without limiting the headroom. I am six foot tall and felt far from cramped. The 340GL proved incredibly easy to drive, everything was just where I expected it to be, simply and logically laid out. The instrumentation on the 340GL is praiseworthy, for its sense and simplicity. A large speedometer and clock with fuel and temperature gauges being the only dials. Above these a strip of illuminated warning symbols, choke, handbrake, seat belt etc. All you really need but no more. All clearly displayed and right in front of your eyes, practical and uncluttered.
The 340GL did not go like a rocket, but it did live up to the Volvo reputation for safety and comfort. The 340GL had an overall feeling of dependability and solidity. Not a car to get excited about, but definitely one to rely on. The boot was enormous, the boot space could be reached remarkably easily, for once we did not need the instructions to figure out the sequence of operation. Again the 340GL proved to be thoroughly logical. We were delighted by the Vital Volvo accessory, a child safety seat. The fleecy lined seat was obviously very comfortable and Diana took an immediate liking to it. There was ample space in the back for passengers to sit comfortably in safety belts, one either side of the safety seat. At no time did they complain of car sickness. The good natured 340GL coped well with the idling through rush hour city traffic and I was pleasantly surprised to find out how economical it was on petrol. Once again the 340GL proved its extraordinary carrying capacity on shopping trips. I thought that only our family could devour food like that! We were quite attached to the 340GL. We really appreciated the Volvo finishing touches, practical in value without being too gimmicky, such as a light in the glove compartment, headlamp washers, and internally adjustable wing mirrors. All small details in themselves that add up to a well thought out car that makes every day motoring a less monotonous chore. The gearbox and engine are smooth and if the car occasionally seemed under powered it more than made up for it in terms of comfort, safety and the simple pleasure of driving it. The 340GL was always consistent in all weather and road conditions. Some days the almost infinitely variable ventilation system was much appreciated, while other days I revelled in the luxury of a heated seat and powerful heating/de-mister system. One feature I must really remark on was the incredible manoeuvrability and tight turning circle of this car. More than once I heard 'you'll never get out of there' or 'you will have to back up and come round again' and each time I am proud to say the 340GL proved to the contrary! So to summarise: maybe the 340GL wouldn't win the RAC rally but it would do an awful lot for you. As a second car, the 340GL is superb. For active one car families, the medium sized 340GL is certainly a car worth considering. More than that, it is a car that I can confidently recommend. The Volvo 340GL is an ideal car.
In 1989 I took advantage of Volvo's special pricing action of £8.50 for conversion to unleaded fuel. Only negligible reduction in power and fuel economy were experienced, which were offset by the saving at the pumps. Servicing is every 6,000 miles or 6 months and 12,000 miles or 12 months. Due to our low mileage I only had the car serviced once a year by my local garage, as the Volvo dealership was too expensive! In Spring 1991 we parted company from our beloved 340GL in part exchange for a low mileage 1987 360GL, which we still own. We bought the car from the local Honda dealership as it was proved to be the best 360 on the market at the time. The dealer was very impressed with the 30,000 miles on the clock and I was able to haggle £900 over the 'book' price. In the six years that we owned the 340GL we only had to replace two tyres and an exhaust. The 360 had a few faults when we bought her. The central locking on the rear offside passenger door worked intermittently, there was a rattle from the front offside wheel and the reversing lights flickered. The attention of the dealer was drawn to these faults for the necessary warranty work. The contact transmitter was replaced on the central door locking system, and a new reversing light switch was fitted. The rattle from the front wheel was thought to be the brake calliper locating pin. This was replaced making some improvement. The calliper was then replaced which rectified the fault. Finally to summarise from a personal point of view and twelve years of ownership of the 300 Series! They are sensible, safe, cheap and undemanding. I would agree that they have a geriatric image with an uninspiring drive and bouncy ride. Yes they are dated, but they are a safety conscious family hatchback.
The 1985 model year have a fine 1.7 Renault engine option. The 360GLT SE has an impressive specification but can be hard to sell. The 360 2.0 has the toughest engine but is thirsty. The 360 is a good tow car. Power Assisted steering is standard from November 1987. There is a steady demand for the 300 Series, but scruffy cars can be hard to sell to earnest private buyers. The best buys being 340GL 1.7 and 340 1.4 five door. I would tend to avoid automatics .Saloons, three doors. tatty cars without service history and hard worked ex-caravan cars. When buying a used 300 Series look for exhaust manifold fracture on the 360, engine mounting failure, faulty water pumps, overheating, blown head gasket, broken belts, faulty carburettors, CVT clutches on autos, gearbox linkage and oil leaks, distorted brake discs and worn suspension struts. Our 360GL 'school bus' continues to run well on the twice daily run. Despite being 10 years old and having covered 53,000 miles she still turns a few heads!