UK Car Road Test

Volvo V40 1.8 SE 2001

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Why the hell is it called a V40 and the Saloon an S40.

V40 does sound better than 40 herrgårdsvagn I suppose but two letter for different body styles of the same car are kind of confusing to me at least. 

But despite the name and the paint Isn't she lovely.

Not a term normally applied to Volvos of Old but for an estate the V40 really is quite a looker. The old Volvo image really is being cast aside with some quite good looking cars. Not radical admittedly but pleasing to the eye all the same.

Probably helps that its really quite compact, you really don't expect a Volvo estate to come in quite such a small package. Granted its no mini, but it does not have the giant ever expanding girth of many of today's models. 

The V40 is pretty much devoid of chrome externally  except for the now becoming familiar front grill. This may make it a bit plain but it is easy to keep long term.

There is little on the V40 that has not been done before, many times over, but hey at least staying on the conservative side mean we don't have to cope with some new untried styling scheme which become a joke next year.

The Alloy wheels are okay, if nothing special, though they look a little undersized on the car and it seems to sit quite high exaggerating the look.

Inside is fairly typical Volvo, with a very practical straight laced design liberally sprinkled with  dose of best Viking leather work for that up market appeal .

A smattering of Forest graces the interior too, though not in the places you expect like the dash and centre console. Instead it confines itself to slips of trim and the gear knob.

The dash and controls are liberally splashed about in random shapes and patterns, though they are at least pretty much grouped fairly well.

To be fair to the Volvo this has got to be one the prettiest estates they have ever managed to produce, though as yet someway off the sporty little number that the Saint (Roger Moore Era) used to drive in the sixties. 

Its relative compactness helps and to be frank if it was not for the badges you would be hard pressed to guess what it is.

Not sure about the half black treatment of the boot mind , it looks fairly strange to my eyes.



The S40 SE has all the little touches you expect at this level, heated mirrors, tinted windows etc, but it’s the way Volvo builds them in to a practical whole that is slightly different. 
Door bins are useable, Armrest space is useable. Many Items are fitted like fog lights, and high level rear brake light that were not so long ago extras in many cars, most have always been standard in mid and high range Volvos. 
Stuff like Pollen filters were all early adopted by the Swedes. There are no glitzy gadgets just solid well proven useable stuff that we really need. Like the split rear seats to expand the boot.

Seats as well as being leather covered are lumbar height and recline adjustable and with the height adjusting pre-tensioned belts, and adjustable steering column allow any size of driver from your Elfin grandma to your Giant haystacks lookalike uncle to get comfortable


Mitsubishi's lean burn GDi motor finds its way into the V40. This 1.8 unit is smooth and responsive for its size though not over endowed with power. It does though offer potential for great economy in lightly loaded driving situations. See link below for full explanation.

High tech GDI imported motor

Volvo logo fools only a few

Read about GDi here

Noting the problems with GDi  it will be interesting to see whether the GDi motor will be retuned when low sulphur fuel is de-rigueur on the British market. ( it is close to that now with the Government fuel tax levies phasing high sulphur out) When we can guarantee that the fuel will not clog up the Cat then the GDi might just start to make for some very high economy figures.

But as it stands the the GDi is just a fairly unremarkable 1.8 litre unit. It does its job without fuss but is  a little stretched by a fully loaded estate body.

It should be hugely reliable, as we have come to expect of a Japanese engine, but then again Volvo motors have always been fairly strong and reliable

The Motor is mated to a fair five speed box and very light clutch action, the box gives reasonably swift changes without to much effort. It probably a good job to as the smallish engine and a fully loaded rear end mean the gearbox gets a good workout.

Service Interval Insurance Group Safety Rating Smog Rating
12000 10 Not Available Band (D)
Engine BHP CC Fuel Inj.
16 Valve DOHC 122 1783 Yes
Cyl Camshafts Valves/cyl Compressor
4 Double 4 None
Top Speed 0 to 60 BHP per Tonne
124mph 10.5seconds 98
MPG@Urban MPG@Cruise MPG@Speed Fuel Type
24.6mpg 44.8mpg 34.5mpg Unleaded
Kerb Weight Tow Weight Length Width Height
1255kg 1200kg 452cm 173cm 142cm
Boot Seats/up Boot Seats/Down Seats
416 Litres 852 Litres 5


Modern as Volvo's S40 maybe its suspension is still not cutting edge in its performance. Small imperfections irritate the slow acting suspension, yet it rolls quite a lot through the bends. Suggesting perhaps slight over damping and under-springing.

Perhaps the American lights infected the suspension as its not quite as sharp as you may expect. Most older Volvos (BAR T,5,6 versions) have generally had long soft suspension. This probably has too but it seems slightly at odd with with its looks. It would not be too bad if the action was not quite so wooden over small imperfections.

Compared to the Saloon it rides slightly harder in the rear as you would expect, with its increased carrying capacity.

Soft suspension does grip mind and in the lands of Snow and perpetual darkness that are its birth place keeping a tyre in contact with the surface is probably more important than any other consideration.

Brakes work fine without the noticeable intervention of ABS. Required pressure is a nice medium squeeze, not leg straining but not bottom twitchingly sensitive.

The Steering though is completely numb. Rivaling Audi in lightness little feed back gets to the hands through the power assisted helm. 
If your looking for clues as to the available grip at the front end the Wheel gives few, better to listen for the onset of tyre squeal. That said its perfect for shopping, Jams , school runs, motorways etc all the usual Volvo haunts. At 15mph around Sainsburys car park it handles at least as well as a BMW and does not get the key down the paint work half as often.

Volvos trump card is its safe image. 
Safety has become a major concern for modern buyers and two to one if you ask someone to name a safe car they will say "VOLVO". 
When you check out the features under safety heading you know the list will contain everything currently on the safety conscious buyers mental map

Integrated Trim lines on Floormats



Antilock Braking System

Child Locks

Drivers Airbag

High level brake Light

Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts

Side Impact Protection

Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts

Front Side Air Bags

Add to that all the things we take for granted, like safety cells collapsible steering columns etc , and you have one solid safe modern car to look after your family.

Bear in mind that Volvo had a leading role in either developing or adopting all these things and you have to give it extra brownie points.

All the little touches are there too. The running lights, the lights in the door end etc. All features of modern cars and all fitted to Volvos for decades.

Security is almost as well specified
Central Locking

Engine Immobiliser

Locking Fuel Cap

Locking Wheel Nuts

Visible Identification Number

But do Volvos get stolen?

Well they don’t now , but Volvo keep developing along current lines they will one day, so at least you have some security against the thieves waking up to Volvo new found desirability.


If you always fancied the strength, quality, reliability, safety of a Volvo but could not face the joke looks of old models , the new models give you all the advantages of old dressed in a reasonable suit of clothes. Interior space is excellent and the boot is as always huge and useable with its flat floor and cargo nets, though the lip is strangely high and seems like an oversight on Volvos behalf. 

The only trouble is with is improved looks have come a scaling down of the size making it more competitive with normal estates, Vectra, Mondeo et al and it lack of sheer size and capacity sort of defeats the whole point of a Volvo to me.

Still its a nice enough car to live by its own merits in a very competitive sector.

Boot lip disappointingly high

Rubber strips strangely restrained for Volvo



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UK Car Road Test Volvo V40 1.8 SE 2001

UK Car Road Test Keywords: EstateV40 1.8 SE