Used Volvo V40 Estate 1996 - 2004 review

Category: Estate car

The Volvo V40 is an adequate family car, but it's not an estate car in the great Volvo tradition

Volvo V40 Estate (96 - 04)
  • Volvo V40 Estate (96 - 04)
  • Volvo V40 Estate (96 - 04)
Used Volvo V40 Estate 1996 - 2004 review
Star rating

What's the used Volvo V40 estate like?

Think Volvo and you probably think big, all-accommodating estate cars, but this one is a bit different. The Volvo V40 is more of a 'lifestyle' estate than a hardcore load-lugger. True, the rear seats fold quickly and easily to extend the load area - which will cope with most family clutter - just don't try taking up antiques dealing.

On older cars built before mid-2000, the ride and handling have a particularly ancient feel. However, steering feel, body-control and comfort improved when Volvo revised the chassis.


The Volvo V40 is an adequate family car, but it's not an estate car in the great Volvo tradition

  • The V40 has an upmarket, expensive look
  • Safe and well equipped
  • The loadbay is not huge
  • Ride and handling are poor on early versions

There is a wide range of engines to choose from, but although the diesels are economical, sadly they're not particularly refined.

Equipment is good across the whole range, as is safety. The cabin looks good in the usual Volvo big-button tradition, but build quality could be better on early versions.

Ownership cost

What used Volvo V40 estate will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Volvo V40 estate?

The petrol engines can run to 12,000 miles or a year - whichever comes first - before needing attention. The diesels operate to a slightly shorter time span, requiring a service every 10,000 miles.

That's not too bad and, if you take your V40 to a Volvo dealer, the hourly rates shouldn't work out more expensive than having, say, a Focus worked on by a Ford dealer. Independent Volvo specialists tend to be pricier than the class average, though.

For sheer fuel economy, the diesel engines can't be beaten, returning 50 to 52mpg. However, the 1.8 GDI petrol engine's economy is attractive, with an official 41mpg, but it needs dearer super unleaded fuel to get the best from it.

The T4 is easily the most thirsty and will return a real-world mid-20s mpg if used hard. It also suffers from group 32 insurance but lesser V40s vary from groups 19-29.

Our recommendations

Which used Volvo V40 estate should I buy?

Petrolheads may fancy the hottest version, the T4 with its 200bhp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. But, although it's brisk, it lacks the lovely warbling note of the five-cylinder unit in the larger 850 T5 estate and, even with the revised chassis, its handling is still a let-down.

It's also not worth bothering with the 1.6-litre petrol, and the non-turbo 1.9 diesel is none too rapid, either. The turbodiesel does a better job, although refinement is not great.

On the other hand, the Japanese 1.8-litre GDI engine offers a good blend of performance and economy, provided you run it on super-unleaded fuel. For all that, though, we like the lightly turbocharged 160bhp 2.0-litre turbo best.

The top trim is CD, but SE has more than enough toys to make the highest trim a needless expense. Get a car built after 1998 and it will have a CD player as well as air-con, a height-adjustable driver's seat, electric front windows and side airbags.

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