The swoopy Swede
Volvo did away with straight lines to enter the mid-size sedan fray
Following the surge in interest in mid-size sedans, predominantly from Japan, European makers joined in. Volvo’s entry was the S40, which cut the mustard with competitive pricing and a long list of standard features.
Gone was the straightedged styling of the past — in its place the S40 boasted a new sweeping profile that gave it a much more contemporary look.
The four-door range had the petrol-engined S and LE, turbo diesel D5 and hot T5.
Inside, the new cabin layout was also pleasing and comfortable, although rear passengers would have found it wasn’t as roomy as some rivals.
The 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine lacked a little in low-end torque but compensated with strong midrange — it was both willing and flexible if revved.
The turbo diesel, also a 2.5litre five-cylinder, not only gave you more torque for better pulling performance, but also cut your fuel bills.
In the performance T5 with all-wheel drive, the fivecylinder turbo delivered 162kW/320Nm.
Most S40 buyers chose the five-speed auto transmission over the manual options.
Ever a leader in safety, Volvo ensured the S40’s five-star rating with a comprehensive array of equipment including front, side and head airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control.
Further, the exemplary dynamic safety came by virtue of precise steering, finely balanced handling and high levels of grip.
Owners are on the whole happy with their S40s and feel they have been rewarded with its performance and reliability.
Few have had issues with the car and nothing major has been reported, which should give potential buyers confidence when shopping.
Check for a service record, one that is from a mechanic familiar with the brand.
Regular oil changes are a key to keeping all cars in fine fettle, so it’s crucial the recommended service schedule is maintained.
Most S40s will have reached the specified distance for a timing belt change, so check the service record to confirm that it has been done.
It’s worth also talking to a Volvo specialist mechanic to get an opinion on the condition of any car you’re considering buying. Such mechanics would likely be the best person to maintain your car after you’ve bought it — they charge less for their time than factory dealers but usually get hold of more affordable parts.
There have been minor recalls. In 2008 there was one to check the correct rear wheel studs were fitted; in 2010 it was recalled because the gearshift could loosen, and the power seat could travel beyond its maximum limit; and in 2011 there was an issue with the headlight cleaning pump.
Deon Van After nine years my 2006 Volvo S40 2.4 is still as good as new. The doors close solidly, the paint is excellent and it still feels tight. It’s also pretty quick if you use manual override on gear changes and plenty of revs. On the downside it’s slow to change down, which makes it feel sluggish, it’s uncomfortable for rear passengers and the fuel economy is only average.
Peter Cheng: We’ve had our S40 since 2008 and it has been amazingly reliable. We’ve never had any mechanical issues and servicing had been really affordable at under $400 a year. I’d buy another Volvo just based on its reliability. Not so good is the engine, which feels sluggish and is also a bit thirsty. It’s also a little squashy in the rear but all in all, we’re very happy with it.
Colin Shields: Buying a fouryear-old used Volvo S40 with 85,000km was a great decision. It now has done 140,000km and it’s been comfortable, safe and predictable, with low cost and no breakdowns. The fivecylinder proved flexible and powerful and fun to drive.
Aaron Bradley: I love my T5 manual. I bought it a year ago as my first car and it’s awesome. It looks great inside and out and I’ve never had any major mechanic issues.
Safe, stylish, and generally sound mid-sized affordable sedan.