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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Handsome looking saloon, beautifully finished inside and out and fun to drive

Against Neither the rear seats nor the boot are very roomy and the ride can be too firm

Verdict A massive improvement over its predecessor and an impressive small executive saloon

Go for… 1.8 S

Avoid… 2.5 T5 Sport

Volvo S40 Saloon
  • 1. Among the recalls was one concerning the possibility of a fuel leak
  • 2. Five-cylinder petrol automatics should have had a free electronic control upgrade to improve the gearchange and fuel economy
  • 3. Thanks to its 'floating' centre console, the S40 has one of the most stylish interiors of any car
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Volvo S40 Saloon full review with expert trade views

Any salesperson worth their salt should be able to sell a tidy, low-mileage S40 without it even having to leave the showroom. Just walking around it will easily convince the buyer that this is a handsome saloon, and a little light patter on the merits of the five-star Euro NCAP rating will leave them reassured of its safety.

Once they sit behind the wheel, it should be job done. Thanks to its 'floating' centre console, the S40 has one of the most stylish interiors of any car. The ultra-slim panel houses the stereo, air-conditioning, satellite-navigation and telephone controls, and is only attached to the dashboard at the top and the bottom.

Even if the prospective buyer insists on a test drive, the salesperson has nothing to fear. Although the S40's ride is rather firm, its drive and refinement are impeccable.

The only real downsides are that headroom in the back isn't great and the small boot has only a narrow opening.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Not many around values fluctuate but 2.0 D SE the one that sells fast

James Ruppert
Used car guru

By 2006, there were eight engines on offer, ranging from a 99bhp, 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol to a 220bhp five-cylinder turbo unit, which powers the high-performance T5 model.

Our recommended engine is the 120bhp 1.8-litre petrol, which arrived at the end of 2004. However, don't rule out the diesel engines as they are also excellent. Strongest is the 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel with its mighty 128bhp and whacking 236lb ft of pulling power. The 134bhp 2.0D and even the small, 1.6-litre 108bhp unit do a good job, too.

Four trims are on offer - S, SE, Sport and SE Sport. Every S40 is well equipped, with electric windows, climate control and alloy wheels fitted to even the S version, so there's little point in going beyond that. However, for the record, a step up to SE will provide you with leather upholstery and a multichanger CD.

A Volvo dealer's used stock or the small ads are good places to hunt out a 1.8S or SE.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Excellent reliability: low repair costs and failure rates make this a good buy

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

The S40 doesn't quite hang on to its value as well as the equivalent Audi A4 or BMW 3-series, but it's not far off and certainly doesn't come cheap as a used buy.

Tempting though the high-performance T5 may be, it isn't cheap to run. Insurance is set at group 15, and while the official fuel economy may be rated at 32.5mpg, it's going to be a lot lower than that in everyday driving. Tyres tend to take a pounding, too, once you start exploiting the engine's full strength.

Stick to our recommended 1.8-litre petrol and you'll pay no more than group 9 insurance and should see fuel economy in the mid-30s if you drive carefully.

The diesel engines are where the real big mpg savings are to be made, but remember, you need to be doing enough miles to justify the higher purchase prices. Still, 40.4mpg (D5), 49.6mpg (2.0D) and 57.6mpg (1.6D) are not to be sniffed at.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Not many around values fluctuate but 2.0 D SE the one that sells fast

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Unlike its predecessor, which was a joint venture with Mitsubishi and built in the Netherlands, this S40 is all Volvo's design and is based on the Ford Focus chassis. It's all the better for it, too - the previous model suffered from build quality problems and poor handling, but this modern S40 enjoys a superior reputation.

That's not to say that is has been trouble-free. Owners have found the electronic plastic key irritating and there have been instances of it becoming stuck in the dashboard.

There have also been faults with the handbrake, and some cars had their parking brakes modified. Five-cylinder petrol automatics should have been subjected to a free electronic control upgrade to improve the gearchange and improve the fuel economy.

Other problems that have arisen through recalls include the possibility of a fuel leak and faults with the windscreen support areas. Get the full details at www.vosa.gov.uk and check that any necessary work has been done on any car you're interested in.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Excellent reliability: low repair costs and failure rates make this a good buy

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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