The 2001 Volvo S40 sedan is Volvo’s newest, smallest, cheapest car. Starting at $29,995 and topping out in the high $30,000 range, the S40 offers impressive performance from its relatively small 1.9 litre turbocharged four cylinder engine and standard five-speed automatic transmission. The S40’s stylish, well-equipped, compact interior includes inflatable curtain ‘head’ airbags, side airbags, and dual-stage front airbags.
Small Volvo still big on safety
Introduced in August, the Volvo S40 sedan and V40 wagon are Volvo’s new entry-level models. Starting at $29,995 and topping out in the high 30’s, the S40/V40 are relatively affordable in the ‘near luxury’ class, particularly when you consider their high level of standard equipment.
However, the S40 sedan is comparatively small in size when compared with other entry-level luxury cars – and though its turbocharged four cylinder engine is no slouch, the S40 is not available with a six cylinder engine – a competitive disadvantage when you consider that most compact luxury cars now offer a standard six cylinder engine. The S40 may well compete with some four cylinder ‘non-luxury’ cars such as the VW Passat, Honda Accord and Subaru Legacy.
The V40 wagon is unique in the entry-level luxury category – I’ll be devoting a separate Test-Drive report for the wagon at a later date.
Introduced first in 1995
The S40 and V40 were first introduced in Europe in 1995. They came to the U.S. in 1999, and to Canada in 2000. Why it took so long to bring this car to Canada is a mystery, but European carmakers often take one or two years to get cars over to this side of the Atlantic. Four years, however, seems like an excessive delay.
Fortunately, the S40 is such a well-designed car that it is still very contemporary in both appearance and driveability. In addition, some updates have been made to the S40 since its initial introduction. For 2001, ride and handling have been improved with new softer shocks and springs, revised suspension geometry, a slightly longer wheelbase, a wider track and higher profile tires. Also, 2001 models include new Inflatable Curtain airbags and dual-stage front airbags.
Small, but powerful engine
Though the S40’s standard 1.9 litre DOHC 16 valve 4 cylinder light-pressure turbocharged engine is small in this class, it has plenty of power for the size and weight of this car: 160 horsepower at 5200 rpm pulling a curb weight of 1295 kg. 0 to 100 km/h takes only 8.5 seconds. Turbo boost kicks in around 2000 rpm, so after an initial lag, power comes on strong for things like lane changing in city traffic, merging onto the freeway, or high speed passing. On the highway, the S40 is very quiet and comfortable with the engine doing just 2200 rpm at 100 km/h. But while the S40’s engine is quiet and smooth while cruising, it emits some minor vibrations while idling and under low-speed acceleration.
Fuel consumption averages 9.2 litres per 100 kilometres (31 mpg), a thrifty figure for a ‘luxury’ car, and better than many of its V6 competitors. Like most entry-level luxury cars these days, the S40 is not available with a manual transmission. It does offer a really fine five-speed automatic transmission with automatically-adapting shift patterns to suit the driver’s driving style. I found it to be very responsive, smooth, and sporty – a good match for the S40’s engine.
The S40’s small size and tight (10.6 metre) turning circle make it easy to park and drive around town, although I found steering effort to be a little stiffer than I liked. Outward visibility to the front and sides is excellent – a small third side window really helps when lane changing – but the high rear trunk lid restricts visibility slightly when backing up, and the optional rear spoiler doesn’t help matters. Fortunately, the centre rear head restraint can be recessed so it doesn’t block visibility even more.
Driving at night, I found the S40’s low beam headlamps offered adequate range, but illumination was rather scattered. The S40’s high beams were excellent in their range and intensity.
The S40’s attractive interior has a luxury look and feel. Dash and seat materials are of a good quality and colours are attractive. Optional wood trim is found on the passenger dashboard, lower console, gear shift lever and door panels, but unlike many luxury cars, not on the centre control panel.
The driver faces a small, fat-rimmed steering wheel, and easily-visible round instruments dominated by a large central speedometer and a smaller tachometer. The centre dash area is ‘Swedish’ grey in colour with protruding round dials and buttons for the climate control, seat heaters, and rear defroster. A driver information display on the instrument panel is operated by a round dial on the dash – it includes trip computer, fuel consumption, and outside temperature gauge. The headlight switch is located on the left side of the dash, along with buttons for front and rear foglights.
A single, push-out cupholder is located in the upper dash area, and a single fold-out cupholder at the rear. The front cupholder has a sping-loaded cup gripper, but the gripper gets in the way when trying to insert the cup. Rear passengers have a folding centre rear armrest and map pockets on the seatbacks.
For a small car, the S40 has a surprising amount of cargo-carrying versatility. The rear seat has a rear centre pass-through, and 70/30 split folding rear seatbacks. In addition, the front passenger seatback folds flat, allowing long objects, like ladders, to be carried inside the car.
High level of safety
The S40 has more standard safety features than other cars in its price range. These include new inflatable curtain head airbags (which protect both front and rear passengers), front side air bags, new dual-stage front air bags, SIPS side impact protection body structure, and front seats with the Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS). Three-point seat belts and height-adjustable head restraints are standard at all five seating positions.
S40’s also include ISO-FIX attachments for optional Volvo-designed, rear-facing child safety seats. The outer rear seats can be fitted with integrated child booster cushions for older children, and the split-folding rear seat has been designed to withstand forces exerted by the luggage behind it during a collision.
In a 1997 EuroNCAP frontal offset crash test, the S40/V40 was the only car to receive a four star rating.
S40’s also offer active safety features, such as anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, and optional Dynamic Stability Assurance, a system that monitors and compares the rotational speed of all four wheels and uses the engine management system to reduce torque when it detects a loss of traction.
Standard equipment extensive
For a base price of $29,995 plus a freight charge of $550, the S40 includes the 5-speed automatic transmission, disc brakes with ABS, 195/60R15 inch tires and alloy wheels, all of the safety features mentioned above, a fully independent suspension, headlight washer/wipers, rear foglight, and heated power mirrors.
Standard interior features include an AM/FM/cassette 100 watt stereo with six speakers, automatic climate control, power windows with auto-down driver’s window, heated front seats, cloth/vinyl upholstery, tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry which includes the trunk, intermittent wipers, cruise control, and rear defroster.
Options include Dynamic Stability Assurance ($500), AM/FM/cassette/single CD player ($400), pre-wiring for a 10 CD Changer ($50), dual integrated child seats ($400), metallic paint ($300), and power moonroof with sunshade ($1000).
There are two option packages. The $1,100 Sport Package includes premium speakers, front foglights, and rear spoiler. The $3000 Touring Package includes leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, artificial wood trim and wood shift knob, and power driver’s seat.
A fully loaded S40 goes for over $37,000.
|2001 Volvo S40|
|Price as tested||$31,545|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger compact sedan|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||1.9 litre 4 cylinder, turbocharged, DOHC, 16 valves|
|Horsepower||160 @ 5200 rpm|
|Torque||177 ft-lb. @ 1800 – 4500 rpm|
|Transmission||5-speed automatic with Winter mode|
|Curb weight||1295 kg (2855 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2562 mm (101.0 in.)|
|Length||4541 mm (178.0 in.)|
|Width||1716 mm (67.6 in.)|
|Height||1422 mm (56.0 in.)|
|Trunk space||471 litres (13.2 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||Combined 9.2 l/100 km (31 mpg)|
|Warranty||4 yrs/80,000 km|