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Volvo 480

Published: 29th Sep 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Volvo 480

Fast Facts

  • Books: Volvo, safety with style by Richard Dredge. ISBN 1-85960-964-3
  • Clubs: The Volvo 480:
  • Websites: Volvo 480 Club Europe:; Volvo Owners’ Club:
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Some cars are destined to fall below the radar from the moment they’re launched. Take the Volvo 480 for example; it arrived in the UK in 1987 but was never a big seller, even though it’s really rather good. Neatly styled, very well equipped, brimming with design and technology details and decently practical too, the 480 disappeared into obscurity almost as soon as the last one rolled off the production lines in Daf’s old Dutch factory, in 1995. The spiritual successor to the short-lived 1800ES of the early 1970s, the 480 was Volvo’s fi rst transverse-engined front-wheel drive offering. But just 76,000 were made over a decade of production, and good ones are already getting scarce.

What to look for?

Electrical glitches are the 480 owner’s biggest bugbear, with the instrumentation, trip computer, aerial and lighting all likely to go on the blink. Engine issues are also common, with the fuel injection often playing up, while camshafts wear too. Also, on the Turbo there’s a good chance the turbocharger will have worn out before 100,000 miles have been clocked up. The 480 was pretty well rustproofed, but neglected cars can suffer from corrosion in the rear wheelarches, the top of the A-post as well as the bottom of each door. If there’s a sunroof fi tted check its surround is intact and also look at the metal around the tailgate. Leaks into the cabin are a common issue, with the tailgate glass the usual culprit, although the rear light lenses can crack too, to let water in. Most 480 affi cionados reckon the best engine of the lot is the 2-litre, while even the entry-level S came with electric windows, power steering, central locking, alarm and heated seats as standard. Of course it’s nice to have a high-spec car, but go for an ES or SE and you’ll get an on-boardcomputer as standard – a piece of equipment that’s notoriously unreliable. And as it incorporates the fuel gauge, you might fi nd it more of a hindrance than an asset.


You’ll be doing well to spend much over £2,000 on a 480, as even the latest cars with low mileage are worth little more than this. However, if you can fi nd a really superb Celebration you might have to part with closer to £3000 if it’s really exceptional. At the other end of the scale you can pick up a running 480 from just £500, but you’re better off spending a little over £1000 on something straight that’s clearly been cared for. The key thing is to buy the latest car you can fi nd and opt for something in really good condition; specifi cation is defi nitely of secondary importance. The 480 was constantly developed, which is why early cars are best avoided; they can suffer from all sorts of reliability issues.

Driving one

Although the 480 is effectively a warm hatch, it’s not exactly a scalpelsharp driver’s car. With front-wheel drive there’s security on offer but you don’t get the thrills available in more focused driving machines. It feels decently quick though, thanks partly to the relatively low seating position, while performance is reasonably brisk in all versions. However, whether you opt for the 1.7, the 2.0 or the Turbo, much the same level of performance is on offer, with a 0-62 time of 9-10 seconds. Think of the 480 as a practical classic with reasonable performance, rather than a road burner for savouring those B-road blasts, and you won’t go far wrong.



The 480 ES enters production.


The fi rst cars arrive in the UK, with 109bhp 1.7-litre engines.


A Turbo model joins the range, with 122bhp.


There’s now an auto option while a catalytic converter is a no-cost option.


A catalytic converter is now standard.


A new entry-level model appears, the S.


The 480 2.0 ES and SE supersede the 1.7 ES; only the S is now offered with the 1.7 engine.


A driver’s airbag is now standard on all cars. Seatbelt pre-tensioners and side impact bars are standard on the 2.0 but not the Turbo until September 1994.


The GT limited edition brings leather trim, air-con, central locking and 15” alloys – 250 are made.


The run-out Celebration has two-tone leather trim, air-con, alloys and a CD player; 480 are offered.

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