View Single Post
Old 01-15-2002, 09:09 AM   #1
a007apl's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 2,268
Thanks: 0
Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
Pint-size Volvo V40 has it all

Wagon comes loaded with the latest safety and luxury equipment

Ordinarily, you'd think that the last thing the automotive world needs is another small station wagon, especially one with a price tag that nudges up against those of entry-level luxury cars.

The Volvo V40 wagon starts at $24,475. Option packages brought the price of the tested vehicle to $30,162.
But the truth is there simply aren't many choices if you want a pint-size front-drive wagon with luxury equipment and sports-sedan handling. There's the Audi A4 Avant and the tested Volvo V40.

The latter is one of two new smaller and lower-priced offerings from Volvo of Sweden. The other is the S40, a four-door sedan.

In typical Volvo fashion, the V40 is loaded with safety and luxury equipment, at a price that belies its entry-level designation. The tester had a base price of $24,475, and a couple of option packages brought the suggested sticker up to $30,162.

That's for a vehicle about the same size as a Ford Escort, with four-cylinder power. But if the size fits your needs and you can handle the price tag, it will win you over as an entertaining, useful little machine.

Surprisingly, for a European offering, no stick shift is available. The only transmission is a four-speed automatic linked to the 1.9-liter four-banger, which cooks up 160 horsepower.

The Swedes continue to be enamored of turbochargers, even as other manufacturers have abandoned them in favor of other tricks to boost horsepower.

But there's nothing wrong with a good turbo. Modern designs are hardly bigger than the average person's fist, and they provide hefty horsepower and torque boosts without hesitation and no apparent downside in long-term reliability.

On the V40, the turbocharged four is nearly as smooth as a small V-6, and it provides strong acceleration right up to extra-legal speeds. There's no embarrassment at stoplights or in passing maneuvers. And fuel economy is a respectable 21 miles to the gallon on the EPA city cycle, 28 highway.

Handling is sports-sedan precise, and the V40's size makes it a breeze to sprint through gaps in traffic. The ride is supple enough to handle rough surfaces without punishing passengers' backsides. Easy parking is a bonus.

There are a lot of nice touches and only a few shortcomings. On the short side are an automatic climate control that doesn't respond quickly or accurately to temperature changes, and power window and mirror controls that are confusingly located on the center console along with transmission switches that control "sport" and "winter" settings.

Fortunately, there is some relief from a redundant switch on the left front door that operates the driver's window.

On the other side of the equation are front bucket seats, covered in leather on the test car, that are uncommonly supportive and comfortable, and a back seat that is surprisingly roomy, even for 6-footers.

In back, there's a removable shelf for hats or small parcels, with a built-in shade to cover the cargo area. At 30 cubic feet, the cargo space is half again as big as the trunks on big luxury cars. Flip the back seat down, and you get 61 cubic feet of space.

The interior trim is done up in wood grain. But despite the fact that it's made of plastic, it's presentable and lends a luxury feel.

Among the safety items: antilock brakes, headlight washers, front and rear fog lights, side air bags, front seats with built-in whiplash protection, and three-point seat belts for all five seating positions.

Other equipment on the test car included remote locking with a security system, heated seats and outside mirrors, a power sunroof, a pollen and dust filter in the ventilation system, a compact disc player and a trip computer.

So if you're inclined toward small, European sports sedans but need extra space, the V40 is worth a look.

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on March 15, 2000.
a007apl is offline   Reply With Quote