- We like...Price, cabin, ride
- We don't...Nothing much
Sweden's answer to the BMW 3-series is good to drive, handsome and strong on value. We think it's hard to beatThe Volvo S40 is – quite simply – a bargain. It’s a small prestige-badge saloon that’s good enough – in our eyes – to be mentioned in the same breath as a BMW 3-series or an Audi A4. But, unlike either of these, you’ll get a well-specced car – and stay several thousands of pounds better off.
And that’s true if you’re buying new or second-hand. Volvos do come way cheaper than our car here, which is an R-design Sport. This is a new twist on a tried-and-tested car: you get natty two-colour leather/suede seats, beautiful metal finish cabin trim, big alloy wheels and a boot spoiler. It lends a needed bit of attitude to the S40’s profile, which is otherwise tends towards the short and squat.
There’s also subtle R-design badging on the grille.
The 2.0 diesel of our car fits nicely with the Sport badging, too. This engine growls if revved when cold but, once up to temperature it’s good natured and revs easily across its narrow band with the minimum of clatter. Switching gears to keep it humming is a cinch, thanks to a precise and forgiving gear-shift. It’s not as rapid as the similarly-sized engine that BMW uses in its 320d, but it’s quick enough and – most importantly – suits the car well. It’s also economical and keeps its CO2 output acceptably low although, on both counts, the BMW 320d ds better.
There’s a sureness to the steering a firmness to the way that the car moves across Tarmac that’s in keeping with its sporty ambitions but it keeps easy and comfortable on every surface we found to cover.
Its real strength, though, is as a multi-lane cruiser because it sits serene at the motorway maximum, hauling towards journey’s end smoothly and without fuss. The cabin helps, too, because its front seats are as comfy as only Volvo (and possibly, Saab) knows how. There’s space enough in the cabin for five grown-ups and the boot is square and practical, although the opening is shallow top-to-bottom.
Like an increasing number of up-scale cars, the S40 offers keyless entry. So long as the big, chunky keyfob is in your pocket or bag, the doors open if you touch a small button to the outside of each handle. Ditto the boot. Once inside, the car starts if you twist a (rather ugly) plastic knob fitted into the ignition where the key would otherwise go. It’s easy to use but – to our mind – offers no real benefit over a regular key-and-remote plipper. If you feel the same, it’s the work of seconds to convert the car back to work with a ‘key’.
Should you buy one? If you’re considering a second-hand one, definitely. Trade figures for its value after three years on the road stand at 37% of what it originally cost new. In other words, you should get a 2006 model for less than half of what it originally cost. A BMW 3-series or Audi A4 of similar age will cost thousands more.
New, its keen prices are attractive. And if, like us, you like the whole Volvo vibe, it’s a pleasing thing to own.
To view new and second-hand Volvo S40s, go to motors.co.uk
- Engines2.0 diesel
- 0-60 mph8.9secs
- CO2g/km153, 137
- Insurance groups10E
Motors.co.uk value verdict: