7 / 10
Following a successful diesel transplant, S40 is now punchier and more thrifty than ever.
Words by Matt Brogan Photos by Brendan Nish
Volvo’s stylish S40 sedan has undergone a successful diesel transplant this summer receiving a punchy four-cylinder turbocharged unit that not only delivers cracking performance, but also provides thrifty fuel economy figures and a skinny CO2 output usually reserved for much smaller, much less impressively equipped budget hatchbacks.
Beneath that long sculpted bonnet is Volvo’s latest DOHC 16-valve oiler that features common rail, direct injection technology and a variable nozzle turbocharger for better throttle response and a fatter torque curve.
The result is impressive with Volvo S40 2.0D offering drivers cracking open road performance, effortless overtaking and a sub-10 second zero to 100km/h time (9.6 seconds), though in certain situations, like rolling slowly before applying throttle at a roundabout, turbocharging’s arch nemesis lag still occasionally delivers an awkward, stumbling blow.
Of cast iron (block) and aluminium (cylinder head) construction, the 2.0-litre engine transmits 100kW of power (at 4,000rpm) and 320Nm of torque (from 2,000rpm) to the front wheels via Volvo’s twin-clutch automatic transmission, or ‘Powershift’ in Volvo speak. The six-speed transmission communicates fluently with throttle input – thanks primarily to a well calibrated drive-by-wire right pedal – to deliver decisive, smooth shifts even through demanding, undulating mountain roads. A manual (+/-) override is also offered, though you’ll need a bit of muscle to activate it if our test vehicle is any thing to go by.
Not content with just looking the part, S40’s low, wide stance also contributes heartily to sporty handling characteristics that seem almost out of place in a diesel family sedan. Turn-in is quick, and with the firm strut front-end feeling remarkably well composed, S40 makes a meal of challenging roads, even if the ‘around town’ ride is ever so slightly firm. Up back the S40 features a multi-link arrangement that carries the tail end with aplomb confidence, even with two rear seat passengers and their baggage on board.
If you happen to get a little carried away, the S40 will hint towards understeer, but otherwise I found the steering feedback crisp and purposefully tactile with the uncomplicated three-spoke leather wheel also feeling pleasant to the grip.
Inside the well insulated cabin (69dB @ 100km/h), S40 2.0D features comfortable, well contoured seating that provides a supportive yet well cushioned ride. The driving position is excellent in terms of ergonomics with both the seat and steering wheel adjustable in all the usual directions.
Of issue however, the positioning of the park brake is an annoying leftover from the car’s LHD (left-hand drive) origins. I also found vision through the rear window somewhat restricted, as was that via the ‘A’ and ‘B’ pillars, which can impede sight in certain conditions, such as giving way at roundabouts or when changing lanes. Otherwise the view forward is unhindered and the wing mirrors of sufficient size for safe lane changing. Should lane chaging still present a challenge, Volvo’s BLIS blind-spot system is available at an additional charge.
A generous feature list includes such niceties as single-zone climate control, an MP3 compatible single CD-tuner, full-function trip computer and steering wheel mounted cruise control (audio buttons can also be found on the wheel) are included as standard.
S40’s classy and clever interior also lends itself to a myriad of nifty storage compartments, including one just the right size for my sunnies behind Volvo’s now trademark ‘floating’ centre console. From a functionality standpoint the instruments and switchgear are simple to use and easy to understand. The dashboard is illuminated in a pleasant soft green hue at night, as is the centre LCD screen that provides climate and audio system information. Overhead and footwell lighting are also a nice touch on dark nights.
Up the back the S40’s rear seats, whilst not the greatest in this category for leg room, are indeed comfortable and feature an in-built child booster seat and 60:40 split fold functionality to increase cargo space.
The boot offers a nice, low loading height and cavernous 404-litres of space, and whilst not overly enthusiastic in the depth department, still presents a large, flat floor and decent appeture size thanks to an intelligent externally-monted hinge system that also helps prevent crushed luggage.
Safety, being synonymous with the Volvo name, comes courtesy of a full compliment of airbags, ABS braking with Emergency Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control, anti-whiplash headrests, Volvo’s Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) and, of course, three-point inertia reel seatbelts in all five seating positions (with pyrotechnic pretensioners up front). S40 also scored a maximum possible five-star crash rating in both Euro NCAP and Australian ANCAP tests.
If you can restrain yourself from getting tick happy on the options list, the Volvo S40 2.0D is an excellent value for money proposition. It’s a cut above most others in this category in terms of both drive and build quality, feeling far more prestigious than its $42,950 price tag would have you believe. Four-out-of-five steering wheels.
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