The driver's view

"Volvo's defining character (suburban, smug, safe) is something you joke about. Exposure to the real thing, its supporters reckon, is all you need to shatter such prejudices. And, indeed, the first surprise borrowing a new 940 Estate is that you do not require the skills or forearms of a Panzer driver to operate the thing. Its interior vastness proves quite useful when you want to load up with tons of household rubbish for the recyling centre, or with tons of children when you want to go to the theme park: the sort of use, presumably, Volvo Estate owners buy the things for in the first place. Moreover despite being sold, like Barbour coats, on its functionality, the S model I drove is stuffed with gadgets such as a heated driver's seat. But then proof that it is good at these things is a bit like discovering the local Rotary is good at charity fund raising: diverting, perhaps, but not enough to make you want to join the club."

Jim White

The expert's view

"Volvos 940 Estates are big, unsophisticated cars for wealthy, sophisticated buyers. How do they manage this apparent contradiction? It's largely Volvo's carefully nurtured image and their reputation as being good cars to crash. Think Volvo and you think safety. Yet although Volvo estates are big and safe, they are also low on mechanical and ride refinement, assembly quality, fuel efficiency, handling finesse and, for that matter, most other things. But they're better than they used to be. Newer Volvos such as the laudable 850-series serve up quite a bit of dash and I'd suggest this one over the 940. It's a bit smaller, a lot handier and very much more modern and nicer to drive - while still big enough for most people's needs."

Gavin Green

Audi A6 Estate pounds 19,170 Good to drive, well made, but not as spacious.

Ford Scorpio 2.0 16V pounds 17,725 Roomier, with better ride quality but depreciates faster.

Mercedes-Benz E200 pounds 24,110 Pricier than the Volvo, but much better. Minimal depreciation means it's cheaper to run.

Vauxhall Omega 2.0i 16V pounds 17,750 Probably the best value big estate. More up to date in the way it drives than the Volvo. More fuel frugal, too.

Volvo 940 LPT 2.3 S Estate: pounds 16,595 Four-cylinder turbocharged engine, 2316cc, 135bhp, at 4900rpm. Top speed 118mph, 0-62mph 10.3 seconds. Average fuel economy 22.8mpg.

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