What Car? Green Awards 2009 - Small family cars

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Best buy: Volvo S40 1.6D DRIVe S
Volvo's S40 is a superb example of moving with the times. It has always been a smart family saloon, but thanks to some clever changes, it's now one of the greenest and most desirable here.

Volvo introduced the DRIVe range in late 2008 and it became our favourite model in the S40 line-up. The basis is the standard 1.6D model, but bespoke gearing, low-friction tyres and new transmission oil helped the engine eke the most out of every drop of fuel.

Also, lower suspension, flush alloys and a range of aerodynamic features – including purpose-built spoilers, plus underbody and front grille panels – helped it to cut through the air as smoothly as possible. With CO2 emissions of 118g/km and average fuel economy of 62.8mpg, it became one of the most efficient cars in its class.

That was just the start, however. Volvo has since added an engine stop-start function to cut out any unnecessary emissions from the engine in town and a regenerative battery-charging function. This harnesses energy produced when braking to cut fuel consumption by up to 3%. The result of these features? CO2 emissions of 104g/km and average fuel economy of 72.4mpg. That's a match for hybrids such as the Honda Insight, and better than most superminis.

Green goddess
What's so good about the S40 is that it achieves these startling figures without demanding any compromise: all of the standard S40's qualities remain. The stylish, high-quality cabin makes you feel special and, because it's a Volvo, the driver environment is excellent, with comfortable seats and well-placed controls. Other cars in its class are more practical, but there's still room for four people, plus a decent boot.
As well as being incredibly efficient, the 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine is equally impressive for refinement, and there's plenty of oomph when you need it.

The S40's fine dynamics mean that it satisfies not only those who want to enjoy driving, but also those who simply want the miles to pass as effortlessly as possible. The well-weighted steering and slick gearshift take the strain out of town driving, but come into their own if you want to enjoy a country road. Similarly, the suspension is supple enough to take the sting out of most bumps, but provides controlled handling at speed.

The S40 makes sound financial sense, too. It's cheap to buy, for a start, undercutting mainstream rivals, let alone those with a premium badge. It's also well equipped, with climate control, four electric windows and stability control all fitted as standard.
It goes without saying that running costs are low, thanks to its jaw-dropping fuel economy, and business users benefit from low company car tax.

Buying used
The latest S40 DRIVe is only just hitting showrooms, so you won't find any used examples yet. The pre-stop-start model has been around for only a few months, too, but if you're lucky enough to find one, you can expect to save around £3000 on the current list price.

Green Car fact file

Best buy up to £15,000
Renault Megane 1.5 dCi 86 Extreme 5dr
Price: £14,950
Target Price: £13,271 CO2 118 g/km
NOx: 0.224g/km
Particulate emissions: 0.020g/km
Average fuel economy: 62.8mpg
Green verdict: Green credentials make this Mégane an appealing all-rounder

Best buy £15,000-£18,000Volvo S40 1.6D DRIVe S
Price: £17,245
Target Price: £15,374
CO2: 104g/km
NOx: 0.164g/km
Particulate emissions: Too low to register
Average fuel economy: 72.4mpg
Green verdict: A classy, desirable saloon that's great to drive, but as a clean as a hybrid – the S40 is a win-win proposition

Best buy over £18,000
BMW 118d ES 5dr
Price: £19,940
Target Price: £18,177
CO2: 119g/km
NOx: Too low to register
Particulate emissions: Too low to register
Average fuel economy: 62.8mpg
Green verdict: One of the most desirable cars, and it's one of the greenest, too

Warranty DirectMichelin

What Car? Green Awards 2009 - Family cars


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