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Volvo S40 2.0 Turbo SE

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The S40 Volvo represents one of the new breed of Volvo, divested of its Boxed in quirkyness and aimed directly at the Mid to High end Saloon market. 

I am not quite sure where or who its supposed to compete with , is it a posh Mondeo, Vectra basher or is it a sensible BMW, Audi alternative, or is it supposed to portray solidity as a C Class alternative. 
Whether the S40 is any of these depends on whether you think Volvo has shed its old almost joke image of big sensible transport for people who don’t like driving that much.

The Volvo now no longer stands out from the crowds. 
But that’s good because they used to manage it by being the ugliest car on the block bar a few real oddities. 
The styling is not quite Euro three box new millennium clone. So its perhaps not quite as curvy as its competitors. But that gently curving Horizontal shut line front to back gives a nice impression of strength and solidity and a certain level of uniqueness to the look. The thankfully restrained outbreak of chrome is a nice touch. The Amber side lights may enhance visibility but look some what American and are slightly at odds with the clear indicator pods combined into the head lights.

Inside the S40 is fairly airy despite all the grey furniture thanks to generous widow size all round which allows good visibity too. The grey is a bit on the Sombre side but you did not really expect jazzy red or yellow did you. There is plenty of leather/ leatherette splashed around the interior. Chrome door handles are a nice but cold touch. 
I guess Volvo would describe/claim the dash has wooden fittings. But for me there is too little to call wood trim, its more sort of matchbox shaving highlights. The steering wheel is big ugly but reasonable to hold with its leather cover.

The plastics look okay and mostly feel okay bar the springly horrible handbrake.

 

 


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 saloons 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

 

The sixteen valve turbo motor sticks out a solid if conservative 165bhp. Conservative nowadays but still 20bhp up on the very hot in its time Saab 99 Turbo. 

It’s a smooth motor but never feels as fast as its figures suggest. Mainly because you have to wring its neck to get most of the top end. 
Its probably slightly blunted by the big body. Though more so the Volvo badge probably does not encourage me into hooligan mood. Rev it hard and it sprints to sixty in a creditable 8.5 seconds through the solid and precise five speed gearbox. 
It will run on to a high 133mph which suggests the aerodynamics are much improved over the old blunt buses. 
In use it feels fairly normal and there is no need to hold the power in any trepidation.

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.


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 noticable intervention of ABS. Required pressure is a nice medium squeeze, not leg straining but not bottom twitchingly sensitive.

The Steering though is completely numb. Rivalling 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

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. It’s a sensible saloon for those of us who laugh at BMW driving yuppie wannabes.

Practical and useable inside and out, with simple and efficient swithces.

 

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UK Car Road test Volvo S40 T SE