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In-depth reviews

Volvo S40 saloon (2004-2010)

"The Volvo S40 has a beautifully designed interior and there’s plenty of variety in the range, but it’s quite expensive and as it’s a saloon it lacks the practicality of rival hatchbacks."

Carbuyer Rating

2.0 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.4 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Smart cabin design using good materials
  • Lots of engine and trim level choice
  • Impressive economy of DRIVe version

Cons

  • Servicing costs are high
  • Saloon format really limits practicality
  • Rear headroom is lacking

One thing that potential Volvo S40 buyers don’t lack is choice - there are seven engines and seven trims to choose from, plus the low-emissions DRIVe spec and high-performance T5. The S40 covers a wide range of prices, as well as running costs and performance levels. All cars share the same classy cabin design and general sense of good build quality and comfort. However, a narrow boot opening and low rear roofline means they also lack the sort of practicality offered by a similarly sized family hatchback.

MPG, running costs & CO2

Running costs

Volvo offers-fixed price servicing, although it’s not particularly cheap, and the price doesn’t cover fluid changes and other extra costs. However, the diesel engines boast very good fuel economy, none more so than the impressive 72.4mpg of the DRIVe. Even the powerful 175bhp D4 engine returns 55.4mpg. The petrol engines, a 2.0-litre and a 2.5-litre, should be avoided if costs are a concern.

Engines, drive & performance

What is it like to drive?

The S40 offers a wide range of adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheel, but the driving position is flawed due to the lack of a left footrest, which means you’ll either position it awkwardly underneath the clutch pedal, or hove over it. Still, the gearbox has a short throw between gears, the steering is light yet precise, and the indicators stalks and switches all feel substantial. The S40 smoothes out poorly surfaced roads, while in corners the body stays level, making it feel planted and secure. Of the huge range of engines, even the low-powered yet economical DRIVe diesel feels punchy enough for relaxed day-to-day use. The 175bhp D4 diesel will suit those looking for real overtaking power though, as will the 227bhp 2.5-litre petrol engine of the T5.

Interior & comfort

Refinement and comfort

The S40 keeps external noise out of the cabin well, although wind noise is noticeable at motorway speeds. Around town it’s a very relaxing car to drive, although the bigger engines tend to create more noise when pushed, and the larger wheels of sportier versions make the ride a little bumpier over potholes. Thin front seat backs help to create plenty of rear legroom - especially useful for rear child seats - but six-foot tall adults will find a distinct lack of headroom in the back.

Practicality & boot space

Is it practical?

The boot capacity is a reasonable 404 litres, which is bigger than most family hatchbacks, but it’s hindered by a small bootlid and an awkward shape. The narrow opening means bulkier items, like buggies, are tricky to load, and if they do fit there’s little room for much else. There’s a reasonable amount of cabin storage space, including some behind the centre console, and a box between the front seats, but there’s no more than average.

Reliability & safety

Quality, safety and reliability

A five-star adult occupant safety rating from Euro NCAP, and four stars for child protection, confirms the S40 is a safe car. It features a unique side impact protection system, electronic stability control is standard, and there’s an array of front and side airbags, plus an optional blind spot monitoring system. Quality is excellent, with most surfaces swathed in soft plastics. However, the S40 has struggled with reliability in the past, being subject to a surprising number of recalls.

Price, value for money & options

Is it value for money?

All cars get alloy wheels, air-conditioning and lots of safety equipment, and will hold their value well. However, the S40 isn’t cheap to buy, as it’s pitched somewhere between mainstream models such as the Ford Focus and a premium car like the Audi A3 Sportback in terms of price and image. Higher level SE Lux and SE Premium cars are extremely well equipped, but resale values aren’t so good.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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