From £17,325
Impressive fuel consumption but not great to drive

What is it?

This is a fuel-saving, carbon dioxide-staunching 108bhp 1.6-litre turbodiesel S40, that achieves an impressive 104g/km when equipped with £250-worth of optional Start-Stop hardware.

That happens to be the same carbon dioxide figure as for the outgoing, second generation Toyota Prius and it’s usefully lower than the 114gkm achieved by the Focus Econetic whose gene pool it shares.

The Volvo’s 72.4mpg combined fuel consumption is, by odd coincidence, the same as for the new Prius – though the Focus manages 78.4mpg - and it also qualifies in band B for road fund duty besides attracting a low 13percent benefit-in-kind tax for company car users.

So purely on a running-cost basis, this is an attractive car. Without stop-start – curiously, Volvo is test-marketing the S40 1.6D DRIVe in both forms – it scores 119g/km and 62.8mpg combined.

The same figures are achieved with identical hardware in the sister V50 estate and C30 coupe, the neat three-door needing aerodynamic modifications that include under-floor panelling, an extended roof spoiler and a rear diffuser to score the same numbers, alterations that make it look quite sporting.

Aerodynamic mods for the S40 include a partial blanking off of the radiator grille, suspension lowered by 10mm and some rather stylish alloy wheels whose slender cooling slots limit turbulence.

Also included are an intelligent alternator (it mainly charges when you’re coasting and braking), low rolling resistance tyres, a recalibrated engine management system, thin-viscosity transmission oil and power steering that draws less energy.

And your chances of achieving pleasing consumption figures are improved by a gearshift indicator in the instrument pack.

What’s it like?

Driving the Volvo S40 has never been a particularly edifying experience despite its close relationship to the Ford Focus, and in physical terms the S40 DRIVe is no better, and in some respects a little worse.

Its lowered suspension means a less cushioning from a ride that wasn’t great in the first place and the taller gearing requires more shifting, though not to a testing extent.

But, the possibility of achieving exceptional fuel economy figures adds a worthwhile diversion to the driving process, especially as the standard trip computer allows you to monitor your miserliness.

The stop-start equipment has the scope to improve consumption by four to five percent, but there is a refinement penalty, the diesel’s high compression provoking engine shake that’s too apparent on shut-down and start-up.

That may well lead some to hit the stop-start button in the centre console, switch it off and avoid the shudders. The diesel Mini, which shares the same powertrain, suffers the same problem, but not to quite the same extent.

Should I buy one?

If low running costs and doing a bit to avert global warming are your goals, this car promises real gains.

Trouble is, the S40 remains the disappointing car that it has always been, and while its fuel consumption will warm your heart, the driving experience will rarely have the same effect.

But with numbers like these it’s worth another look, as are its more stylish V50 and C30 siblings.

Join the debate

Comments
14

7 July 2009

[quote Autocar]

Trouble is, the S40 remains the disappointing car that it has always been, and while its fuel consumption will warm your heart, the driving experience will rarely have the same effect.

[/quote]

If one searches through the roadtest archive on your website, they will find a glowing review of the current S40 when it was new back in 2003. What makes you decide that it is and always was a disappointing car now?

I take it that Autocar as a publication have an overall dislike for the brand of Volvo Cars, as no matter how impressive the car is there are always the same critcisms such as the car having an 'unsettled ride' or 'poor steering feel'.

7 July 2009

Typical Autocar I'm afraid. The first thing I thought when reading this was - "hang on, Autocar like the S40 don't they?" So where's the disappointment from, Autocar?

7 July 2009

What I'm interested in:

1. If the S40 is refined - especially more/less refined than before.

2. If the economy figures are anywhere near achievable.

3. If the start/stop is worth it.

4. An accurate comparison of competitors - had anyone else picked up that he seems to have the old prius, new prius and the focus muddled up at various points?

Only number 3 seemed to get answered... so what else did they actually talk about? I'm not particularly trusting of any info re. ride/comfort and always try the vehicle myself - I find the Volvo doesn't turn in as well, or sharply, as the Focus (agree with Autocar), but find the ride more comfortable and the steering more suited to long distances/motorways as it is more relaxed.

7 July 2009

Yes - I thought the same. The last new S40 I rode in had a pretty decent ride as far as I was concerned, as your own reviews would attest.

Fair enough, the writers at Autocar drive many hundreds more cars than most of us ever will in our lives, and the class benchmarks constantly change, but still...

... where's the detail?

Come on guys, what was disappointing? How does it compare to the class best? I mean, "disappointing" covers a whole lot of ground, from too sporty and stiff for an everday road car, to being too soft and cosseting for anything but sedate driving. For all I know from the article, all the wheels might come off when you try to go round a corner - I'd be pretty disappointed if that happened, wouldn't you?

On a more serious note, impressionistic judgements rather than qualitative ones undermine the usefulness of a review. Everybody has different preferences - one man's "direct" steering is another man's "twitchy and nervous" - and you're doing your audience a disservice if you can't tell the ones who don't share your preferences that this is a car they might like.

8 July 2009

I visited a Volvo dealer last weekend looking for a V50. They had three DRIVe's in the showroom: a C30 at £21k, a S40 at £22950 and a V50 at a whopping £24750.

The S40 and V50 were both R-Design models yet despite the body kit, the V50 looked exactly like my last Volvo - a '04 2.4 SE V50. The salesman went to great lengths telling me about the low cost of ownership of the DRIVe !!!

Who in their right mind is going to pay £25k for a car whos performance is poor, that achieves an extra few mpg over the standard model and costs approx £150 per year extra road tax? With depreciation, the cost to run this car over 3 years will be horrendous so why stick an economical engine under the bonnet?

I can see this engine being available in their base models, but surely nobody will ever pay £25k for a DRIVe Rdesign? Imagine driving a car with full sporty body kit, aluminium sports pedals etc, and being out-accelerated by a 80- year old cyclist! Yeh right.

I'd love to see how many £25k DRIVe's Volvo manage to sell. I said to the salesman I could be looking at a 3 series for that sort of money - he then tries to tell me his Volvo would retain more money than the BMW and his was the better car to drive!!! How he managed to keep a straight face I'll never know.

8 July 2009

[quote ronmcdonald]Who in their right mind is going to pay £25k for a car whos performance is poor, that achieves an extra few mpg over the standard model[/quote]

A company car user.

V50 1.6d DRIVe R Design Sport has a P11d value of £21,005 and costs the higher rate company car driver £1092 per year.

The 2.0d R Design Sport has a higher P11d value of £21,355 and costs the higher rate company car driver £1794 per year.

So more than 60% more expensive and only gets you a 1.7s quicker 0-62 time.

By comparison, the cheapest base spec BMW 3 Series Touring is the 318d Touring and costs £25,225 and is £1816 a year to the company car driver.

8 July 2009

[quote MrTrilby]

[quote ronmcdonald]Who in their right mind is going to pay £25k for a car whos performance is poor, that achieves an extra few mpg over the standard model[/quote]

A company car user.

V50 1.6d DRIVe R Design Sport has a P11d value of £21,005 and costs the higher rate company car driver £1092 per year.

The 2.0d R Design Sport has a higher P11d value of £21,355 and costs the higher rate company car driver £1794 per year.

So more than 60% more expensive and only gets you a 1.7s quicker 0-62 time.

By comparison, the cheapest base spec BMW 3 Series Touring is the 318d Touring and costs £25,225 and is £1816 a year to the company car driver.

[/quote]

Very true. Makes me glad that I no longer have a company car and can choose whatever i like without having to worry about sodding emissions!

8 July 2009

?ven if the car is dissapointing something absolutely questionable, even more questionable is the way this article comes to this conclusion. The opportunity to get a reasonably priced, low-emission, low consumption car is unimportant according to Autocar. Not all the drivers want to drive like a bully, I mean offensively. And if sb wants a faster Volvo, there is a great lineup to choose from. From 1.6 to 2.5 (up to 230 hps).

8 July 2009

So if I were a company car buyer I'd be paying £800 a year more in tax for the BMW 318d - to me that's a no brainer - a small price to pay, not to mention the many other benefits of BMW ownership.

But of course even company car drivers don't get there cars for nothing. Do you have any leasing cost details on both models? I'm a cash / private buyer and have owned V70's, S60's, V50's a 318 and a 320 (in times when that engine was a straight six). Even taking in to account discounts, the BMW's worked out by far the cheapest cars to run for me, therefore from a company point of view I'd take an educated guess the lease cost on that £25k V50 would be a great deal more than the BMW?

Again I don't have any current info to hand (I was out of the Volvo showroom faster than you could say "HOW MUCH!"), but my old V50 required an annual service where as the BMW's were variable (every 2 years given the miles I did). Not sure if that still holds true? For me, servicing a straight six BMW worked out less than half the price of servicing a 5cyl V50 over 3yrs. (Volvo dealer prices weren't cheap!).

I still can't understand who'd buy a £25k car with all the performance of a wheelbarrow.

8 July 2009

£25k does sound high. However, I have a Volvo V50 2.0D R-Design on a company car scheme. Apart from the fact that it is swift, looks nice with the R-Design bits, has a great spec (leather, climate control, excellent hifi, etc etc) and is very cheap as a company car compared to my previous company Merc C230k and Golf GTi, the other thing is that the list price was discounted by something like £6k. Its sooooo much cheaper than anything else of similar size, power or specification and massively cheaper than a Beemer 3 series, or 1 series for that matter, despite their massive residual value advantages.

And as for Ronmcdonald's statement that £800 is nothing, well that was true for me in the past when I was single and hooning around in a big petrol engined Merc, but now as a married man with a baby and along with that a bigger set of financial responsibilities, I would be extremely happy to be able to save £800 per year. £800 per year is a lot of money to a lot of people. Also, although I like Beemers and I might admit that the Beemer 3 series is a better performance car, it is uncomfortable and looks sh!t in my opinion.

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