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The Volvo S40

The Volvo S40 is a small car. Unless you move around to the front and then it's a big car.

If you look from behind its shoulder it's a small car but if you look in the boot it's a big car. If you sit in the front seats it's a big car. However if you then look over your shoulder into the back seats it's a small car. Does it matter if it's big or small? Here is a car that is dramatically understated.

The S40 is described by the manufacturer as a compact car, the smallest of the 'S' series models. However its size does not in any way detract from the fact that this is a very impressive performer. It has such a solid and confident ‘feel' to it that you really do believe you're driving something far more expensive and lavish. It is extremely quiet and comfortable and sticks to the road like glue. The ride is what can be described as firm, but this is all part of what makes it work in terms of its handling and performance.

It looks smart and sporty, with an almost coupé side profile. Looking from the front it has the same imposing frontage as its two bigger brothers the S60 and S80. Performance is excellent! It is a car that absolutely loves being driven and every minute left me wanting to see what else it could do to make me smile. I would suggest that exploring its more thrilling aspects be left to those moments when you have the time and the car to yourself, as the rear passengers found the combination of a compact space and somewhat
The Volvo S40
limited visibility from the back a little too much when acceleration and cornering were pushed up a notch. From the driver's point of view it was exhilarating, but the passengers seemed to prefer a more sedate approach, which if driven appropriately, was easy to achieve.

The balance between rear seat space and luggage space seemed a little disproportionate, but perhaps the car was more biased towards being used by a couple with lots of luggage than a family. All things aside, there is ample room for two children in the back, so Daddy can still be the little boy when he wants without having to sacrifice either style or the ability to transport his little ones when necessary. One negative on the luggage front was the limited entry height of the boot opening. Despite there being a huge amount of room in the boot, it was noticeably letter-box shaped, making it a little awkward to fit larger items in. One thing I really did like though, was the liftable flap halfway back, together with an elastic strap which allowed smaller items to be stowed and secured just inside the boot entrance without them sliding all over the boot floor. An excellent idea!

Despite the impressive performance, this is a car that will please the most miserly of Scrooges. The 6th gear gives the S40 such incredibly long legs on a longer motorway run that the fuel supply seems limitless. It appears to go on forever on a single tank of diesel. Nowadays, with fuel prices climbing ever higher, it is good to know that there are still some cars out there that can offer both the high performance that we all appreciate together with a frugality that doesn't dent the pocket in the process.

The S40's interior is what some would describe as a little bland. It has a simple, bordering on minimalist, look to the dash and console and yet none of the features that today's drivers want and expect are dispensed with. Everything is presented in a plain and simple, intuitive way with a central control keypad that allows you to do just aout everything from the one place, whether it's changing radio stations or resetting the onboard trip computer. Information is presented in a clear and concise format on the dashboard directly in front of you, with full stalk-controlled scrolling.

In short, the S40 delivers in every respect. It doesn't pretend to be a large, do-it-all vehicle, but what it does is offer a tremendous value-for-money package for someone who wants an exciting saloon which a smaller family could still get a great deal of pleasure from without compromising some of the more pleasurable and exciting aspects of motoring.

Model driven:

Volvo S40 2.0D SE Sport
Price £20,495 OTR
Range starts at £13,750 (1.6S)

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