October 24, 2006
Volvo first introduced us to this S40, with its unique collision energy absorbing structure, in 2005. It continues to be the most affordable Volvo sold in Canada and the good news is that prices are unchanged for the 2007 model year.
In addition to a base version, the S40 is available in a sporty T5 version and a T5 with all-wheel-drive. And there’s also a wagon version called the V50.
Upgrades on the ’07 are generally minor but do include new wheels, an MP3 audio input, and a keyless drive system that is a new ($800) option on the T5. Always a priority at Volvo, standard safety features include side curtain and side-impact airbags, projector-type headlamps, a rear fog light, plus anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.
Our test S40 was a base version with 2.4-litre engine and a 5-peed manual transmission. A move up to a T5 adds a turbocharged version of the five-cylinder engine, a power sunroof, traction control and a 6-speed manual transmission. And up another step there’s a T5 AWD (all-wheel-drive).
Built by Volvo in Ghent, Belgium, the S40 may be the smallest and least expensive Volvo on the Canadian market but it’s still a premium product in its class and every bit as safe a Volvo as it’s larger stable mates.
Beneath an attractive, clean and elegant design, the S40 hides its ‘Volvo Intelligent Vehicle Architecture.’ Structural deformation zones that use three different grades of high strength steel can absorb and control collision energy forces in a collision.
Those rounded corners, smooth surfaces and the absence of any protruding features are also a deliberate attempt to help reduce the risk of injury to a pedestrian or cyclist, in an impact with the S40. The hood and front fenders also have energy-absorbing properties that also reduce head injuries and a padded front bumper helps lessen pedestrian leg injuries.
A rear view of the S40 shows the big taillight assemblies, which have become a modern Volvo styling trait. Like all things Volvo, no doubt there’s a safety reason behind the oversized rear illumination.
The overall interior theme is functional, neat and modern with easy to clean surfaces. Considered a breakthrough in automotive interior design a slim, free-floating centre console is an interesting interior feature and it has a concealed storage space behind it.
All ’07 models receive a new overhead console design and a new rear-view mirror. A dash-mounted ignition switch is a classy touch and the key includes a built-in electronic security link (although it is somewhat big).
The front seats are raised to allow some extra rear foot room for rear passengers, but legroom is an issue if you’re an above average size person. The rear seats are a 60/40 split-fold design and the front passenger seat can fold flat too.
Volvo uses environmentally compatible cabin materials with low PVC content and has a pollen filter in the vent system.
No surprise that the S40 excels in this area and includes safety stuff like front/rear side-curtain airbags, pretensioners on all out-board seatbelts and active (WHIPS) front seat head restraints.
Child seat installation issues, however, were a surprise. The centre rear seat was not fitted with easy to use UAS anchors and attaching a child seat top tether was also a chore. The anchor is positioned on the vehicle seatback and can only be accessed when it’s pulled forward. When attached, with the seatback locked back into place, it’s also very difficult to tighten the tether strap.
Our base blue S40 came with grey cloth upholstery and the driving position had enough seat/steering wheel adjustments to get it just right. Throttle pedal foot room, however, was a problem. The space between the brake pedal and the carpeted centre tunnel was a tight fit for my right foot. I do wear an extra-wide shoe size but I don’t have particularly big feet (size 10.5). Anyone wearing work boots or wide fitting shoes would likely have the same problem – the automatic transmission version is probably better.
On the road the naturally aspirated 2.4-litre engine is a quiet and willing worker. A 0-to-100 km/h of 8.6 seconds was clocked at the Canadian Car of the Year evaluation event, which is very respectable. The T5 turbo engine version can ‘do the ton’ in about 7 seconds.
I liked the S40’s smooth shifting 5-speed manual transmission. It has a nice lever action and the clutch has a smooth, light feel. Combined with an engine with good low-speed torque, this is a very easy (minimal effort) manual driver.
The electro-hydraulic steering is on the light side but has a precise feel with good driver feedback. The suspension is on the firm side (which I prefer) so it offers a nice balance of ride and handling and the brakes were excellent too.
Intelligent, fun, yet responsible and practical, the Volvo S40 is both desirable and an exceptionally safe vehicle choice.
At a glance: 2007 Volvo S40
Base price 2.4i $31,495
Base price T5 $37,495
Base price T5 AWD $39,995
Engine 2.4-litre inline 5, DOHC, 20 valves and 2.5-litre inline 5, DOHC, 20 valves, turbocharged
Horsepower 168 @ 6000 rpm /
218 @ 5000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 170 @ 4400 rpm /
236 @ 4800 rpm
Fuel consumption 2.5 turbo City: 11.3 L/100 km (26 mpg Imperial)
Hwy: 7.3 L/100 km (41 mpg Imperial)
Manufacturer’s web site