It has a solid driving feel, premium
materials, and ample safety features - just like Volvos big sedans, except for the
mini-sized price. It starts around $24,000, significantly less than a base S60 sedan. Why
buy it? It has the solid feel and great safety features of Volvos bigger sedans, but
at a more reasonable price.
Volvo is known first and foremost for its attention to safety, and
the S40 doesnt skimp, including standard features like side impact and side curtain
air bags, and dual-stage front air bags for both the driver and passenger. It also has a
built-in whiplash protection system and a passenger safety cage built into the body.
But the most important safety feature of any car is its ability to
avoid accidents altogether, with excellent performance and controllability, something the
S40 does well. In addition to terrific antilock disc brakes at all four wheels, it has a
potent, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that feels more like a V6.
It seems to lack power when you first step on the accelerator, but
there are no other complaints about this solid, smooth powerplant. It makes 170 horsepower
- 10 more than last years model - after the turbocharger kicks in, to bring some
surprisingly brisk acceleration for such a heavy car (it weighs nearly 2,800 pounds).
Power is routed through a standard automatic five-speed transmission
that executes impressively smooth shifts for the S40s price range. Like in many
high-end European sedans, the transmission tailors its shifts based on driving style,
meaning aggressive driving brings quick shifts, and laid-back cruises yield perfectly
smooth gear changes.
The biggest disappointment in the S40 is its suspension, which feels
fairly firm but allows too much body roll for such a sporty, stiff ride. Either its
suspension should be tuned for better performance and less body roll, or the ride should
be softened to give it a more luxurious, compliant feel. Thats not to say its
uncomfortable. Its just suffering from a minor identity crisis that mars an
otherwise well-refined vehicle.
Inside, this miniature Volvo clearly leans toward the luxurious
spectrum.Standard features include an eight-way adjustable drivers seat, automatic
climate control, heated mirrors, cruise control, CD/tape player, folding rear seats, air
filter, and keyless entry. Fancier packages can add leather seats, a power moonroof, trip
computer, and upgraded speakers, but the added cost moves the S40s price closer to
Despite being the smallest in Volvos lineup, the S40 has
enough space to be comfortable for highway trips - even in the back seat. Its high-quality
interior materials and splendidly arranged controls are especially impressive given its
Styling is something Volvo isnt known for, although that
perception has improved in recent years with the introduction of redesigned S60 and S80
sedans. Nonetheless, the S40s styling is bland but attractive, drawing the same mild
attention as any average family sedan from Japan or Detroit.
It does however have all the perks of being a Volvo, like a solid
Swedish feel and plenty of safety features. But average, its not. It combines the
best of Volvos engineering in a more affordable package - and that makes it quite