A smaller Volvo for smaller budgets
Review by Grant Yoxon, Photos courtesy Volvo
With the new-to-Canada compact S40 sedan and V40 wagon Volvo is trying to reach a younger, more active and less affluent buyer than Volvo’s traditional clientele.
This will be no easy task. With a base price of just under $30,000 for the sedan ($30,995 for the wagon), Volvo is trying to enter a market crowded with capable competitors, at least for the sedan. In Volvo’s view the competition is other entry level luxury compact sedans like the Audi A4, Volkswagen Passat and BMW 3 Series. But in reality, the S40 will have to compete against just about any well-optioned four door sedan priced in the neighbourhood of $30,000 including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Maxima and even domestic sedans like the Oldsmobile Intrigue.
The V40 would appear to stand a better chance, with few wagons other than the Subaru Legacy and Outback and the Ford Taurus anywhere near this price point. But a “versatile” – Volvo-speak for wagon – may not be as fashionable a choice as the many car-based sport utility vehicles that are also vying for the attention of well-paid twenty- to thirty-somethings.
Volvo is estimating sales of about 3000 vehicles a year. But to sell this many cars, Volvo will have to appeal to a market segment who, at the risk of over-generalizing, are not noted for being attracted to what Volvo has to offer – durability, safety and environmental sensitivity.
I could be wrong – in fact, I hope I am – because the S and V40 have plenty to offer. Consider just the list of safety features, which includes inflatable curtain side impact protection, side air bags, dual-stage front air bags and Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) seating for rear impact protection. No other vehicle in this price range offers this many safety innovations.
Also standard in the S40 and V40 is the ISO-FIX attachments for optional Volvo-designed, rear-facing child safety seats. The ISO-FIX design greatly reduces the risk that the child safety seats are installed incorrectly.
Three-point seat belts and head restraints are standard at all five seating positions. 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.
Active safety also plays an important role. Anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution are standard, while Dynamic Stability Assurance, a feature 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, is an available option.
If you are concerned about what how your car is manufactured and what happens to it after you’re finished with it (and you should be) Volvo intends to provide an environmental product declaration with each car sold in North America as it does now in Europe. This declaration describes the environmental impact of the cars during their production and useful life, as well as the development of technologies for recycling end-of-life vehicles.
Fuel usage figures were not yet available for Canada, but in Europe they are rated at 9.2 litres/100 km and in the US at 26 miles per US gallon, both figures for combined city and highway driving.
The S40 and V40 are powered by an all-aluminum 160 hp 1.9 litre double overhead cam four cylinder engine assisted by a light-pressure intercooled turbo. This combination delivers responsive performance (0-100 km in approximately 8.5 seconds) and terrific passing power.
On a recent two day test drive along the back roads of Vermont, the S40 and V40 proved to be great driving cars with predictable handling and steering and excellent braking. Since it’s introduction in the US in 1999, the S/V40 has been revised to improve both ride and handling. Improvements include softer springs and shocks, more comfortable McPherson struts, a 12 mm longer wheel base and a 6 mm wider track. Higher profile 195/60 tires mounted on 15 inch alloy wheels also improve ride comfort while maintaining handling ability.
Driver and passenger comfort are enhanced by a long list of standard features including: electronic climate control with cabin air filter, power windows, remote, keyless entry with central power door locking system, cruise control, trip computer, illuminated vanity mirrors, heated front seats, tilt steering wheel, and a 100 watt AM/FM cassette stereo with anti-theft circuitry and six speakers in the S40, seven speakers in the V40.
A $3000 “touring package” provides leather seating surfaces, power driver’s seat, leather steering wheel, simulated wood trim and a wood shift knob, while an $1100 “sport package” adds spoiler, fog lights and premium speaker system. This package also includes a roof rail if ordered on the V40.
2001 Volvo S40
According to Volvo, the interior dimensions of the sedan and wagon, from the rear seat backs forward are identical. But my real-world observation – stuffing myself in the back seat of both models – showed more leg room in the wagon. Cargo carrying space in the V40 is not huge, but offers greater versatility and useable space than its sedan counterpart.
Based on its experience in the United States, where the S/V40 were introduced in 1999, Volvo expects the sedan to outsell the wagon by as much as four to one. Europeans, who have been buying S and V40s since 1996 have a much higher preference for the wagon.
Among journalists, including myself, who attended the recent Canadian launch of the S/V40, the styling of the wagon was clearly a winner. Though the sedan is a handsome European design that will offend no one, the wagon is one good looking car. Add in its cargo carrying versatility and one has to wonder why anyone would prefer the sedan.
|Base price||$29,995 (S40)/$30,995 (V40)|
|Type||4-door sedan/4-door wagon|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||In-line 4 cyl., light pressure turbo|
|Horsepower||160 @ 5250 rpm|
|Torque||177 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm|
|Curb weight||1255 kg (S40)/1280 kg (V40)|
|Wheelbase||256.2 cm (101 inches)|
|Length||454.1 cm (178 inches)|
|Width||171.6 cm (67.6 inches)|
|Height||142.5 cm (56.1 inches)|
|Trunk space (S40)||13.2 cu. ft|
|Cargo space (V40)||33.5 cu. ft|
|Warranty||4 years/80,000 km|