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.

Back to top

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

Join the debate

Add a comment…
aceman 11 July 2009

Re: Volvo S40 1.6D DRIVe Start/Stop

The fuel eco is very impressive, but I'm not sure that it could do as well as volvo can claim they can - 70 odd mpg is quite steep it might get 60mpg maybe more we'll see. But something is missing, it's the interior that's a bit tacky - and I personally don't like the exterior either, to box shaped for me - you may disagree. And I think Volvo have got sort out the feel when you drive. Pretty poor, so I even though it's great at one aspect, it's pretty poor at another, and I'm not going to buy this.

theonlydt 9 July 2009

Re: Volvo S40 1.6D DRIVe Start/Stop

In no time at all, for the private buyer, I found these prices (all inc. Metallic paint and start/stop).

S40 1.6D DrivE S - £15,100

S40 1.6D DrivE SE - £16,200

S40 1.6D R Design - £16,300

S40 1.6D SE Lux - £17,400

For the V50:

V50 1.6D DrivE S - £16,200

V50 1.6D DrivE SE - £17,400

V50 1.6D DrivE R Design - £17,200

V50 1.6D DrivE SE Lux - £18,600

Now to me if you buy the base S40/V50 (which still has climate control and pretty much everything you'd ever want) I'd say 15-16k is an incredibly good price.

Let's imagine now you spec up the SE a bit (you liked cruise control and a couple of other bits SE comes with) - you add a 6 cd changer and laminated side windows. You're still at under 17k for the S40.

SE Lux for your leather and pretty much everything else is still only £18-£19k.

Volvo vs BMW? It'd be the Volvo EVERY single time

airside 9 July 2009

Re: Volvo S40 1.6D DRIVe Start/Stop

ronmcdonald wrote:

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

It's bizarre that your whole argument against this car is based on the fact that, when you 'apparently' visited a Volvo showroom, the V50 DRIVe R-Design was "a whopping £24750"

Funny how when you spec up that exact model on the Volvo website it's £21095 (£3655 cheaper than you claim!) The C30 DRIVe R-Design is £17995 (£3005 cheaper than your claimed £21k) and the S40 DRIVe R-Design is £19345 (£3605 cheaper than your claimed £22950)

Obviously if you specced the cars with every possible extra, you could come close to your claimed figures, but that's hardly relevant in this discussion. Maybe you should go back to the showroom and take a calculator this time...arithmetic clearly isn't your best subject!