Volvo 440 and 460 (1987 – 1997) Review

Volvo 440 and 460 (1987 – 1997) At A Glance


+Well liked by owners, best bet is probably the 1.8 CVT auto, cheap to run and insure

-Below-par ride quality, can rust prematurely, it's no looker.

The Volvo 440 was the part of the family of cars that moved its maker into the front-wheel drive era. The 440 hatchback might not have been the first - that honour goes to the 480 - but it was commercially the most significant. It was designed to replace the bafflingly popular 300-series, and sold well, not only because it looked good, but was also well appointed with safety kit, and offered at a very competitive price. Offered with efficient 1721cc Renault power from launch, including the excellent Turbo unit also used in the 480.

The 460 saloon came to the UK in 1990 and was instantly recognisable by its more prominent grille and larger rear  end. Offered with 2.0-litre power from launch in an attempt to move upmarket. Facelifted in 1994 with smoother front-end styling shared with the Volvo 850, and a wider range of uprated 1.6-litre engines. Largely forgotten today, these worthy hatchbacks and saloons may struggle more than the 340/360 to attain cult status.

At its 30 year Anniversary in June 2018, Volvo filled us in with some Volvo 440 history:

The Volvo 440 was presented for the first time in June 1988. This was a five-door family car that shared its technology with the 480 sports coupé. Volvo now demonstrated in earnest that front-wheel drive was the way forward.

Work on what later became the Volvo 440 began back in 1978. This was a new project that would lead the company to the Volvo cars of the future. Free thinking and aiming for the stars were the name of the game – and so the project was dubbed Galaxy.

In September 1980, the first front-wheel-drive prototype was ready. Although its primary aim was to test the various functions, in terms of appearance it resembled what later became the Volvo 440. The G4, as the prototype was called, displayed the attributes that Volvo was looking for: it had front-wheel drive and it was fun to drive, and interior space was good while external dimensions remained compact.

The Galaxy project later culminated in the launch of two model series. The big 850, which was presented in the summer of 1991, had the greatest impact, but the 400 programme actually came about several years earlier. That part of the project was taken over by Volvo subsidiaries in the Netherlands in 1992, and this was where development work continued.

The first of Volvo's new front-wheel-drive models was the 480 sports coupé, which was officially launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 1986. This distinctive niche product paved the way for the 440, which was presented two years later and ended up battling in earnest for car buyers in the mid-range class.

The Volvo 440 was a modern hatchback model with a practical rear seat that was split into two sections. The centre panel on the dashboard faced the driver, making it easier for him or her to access the controls. The arrangements linked this model programme with the 700 series, with its smooth sides and low, almost vertical side windows.

All the engines were four-cylinder with a single overhead camshaft, from 1.6 to 2.0 litres, including a 1.7-litre turbo model.

Being Volvo, safety was a prime consideration, and anti-lock brakes (ABS) were available as an optional extra as early as 1989. Seatbelt pretensioners and airbags were optional extras from Model Year 1991 onwards, and Volvo's integrated side impact protection system (SIPS) was introduced to the model in 1994.

The 440 was produced in Born in the Netherlands, where the predecessor models (the 340/360) and the 480 were also manufactured. (And where the XC40 is now built.)

The next model version in the 400 series – the 460, a saloon version of the 440 and 10 centimetres longer – was presented in 1989.

Production of the Volvo 440 and 460 was discontinued in November 1996; successors, the S40 and V40, had been in parallel production for more than a year at that time.

The design of the Volvo 440 is attributed to Peter van Kuilenburg, who worked at the design department at Volvo Car B.V., but its shape was based on the G4 prototype designed by Jan Wilsgaard, Head of Design.

Join the club

Formed in 1962, the Volvo Owners' Club has 3000 members. It offers dedicated, expert advice to keep members' cars on the road and has helped preserve models that are still used daily. It also embraces modern Volvos and plays an important role in helping its solving the complex electronic issues modern cars can present. All Volvos are welcome, from traditional classics like the PV544 and Amazon, 1980s modern classics like the 700, and newer models like the S40, S60, V60 and XC60. The cost of joining the club is £35 (£30 membership and £5 joining fee) - but the joining fee will be waived for new members quoting HJ19.

Ask Honest John

What kind of automatic does a Volvo 460 have fitted?

"We recently purchased a house, which has a Volvo 460 1.7 SE 1994, with 72,000 miles. The car is in good condition with only minor rusting at door bottoms and the relatives of the previous owners of the estate have said to do what we want with it. It seems to run well and the garage has said it will go straight through an MoT with some tyres. My question is what type of auto box is in this car? I know its not the CVT version, but someone suggested it may a Renault or ZF box? I just want to know, as if its a liability i will just send it over the bridge, but it has a tow bar so would be good for runs to the dump and for bike rack. Many thanks "
I believe it's a four speed ZF unit and they can suffer from the primary drum splitting - but you should have plenty of miles left in it yet. More pressing will be to keep an eye out for rust. There's only 371 left so if you don't want it, make sure it goes to a Volvo enthusiast rather than your local scrap yard.
Answered by Keith Moody
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