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Small but loaded with safety equipment, the S40 is, unfortunately, too expensive to compete with the VW Jetta and too small to take on the Acura TL.
Strong complement of safety features, affordable base price, upscale interior.
No manual transmission offered, lacks sporting intentions, pricing can quickly escalate with optional equipment installed.
Minor equipment changes have been made to Volvo's S40 for 2002. A Premium package now makes it easier for base sedan buyers to purchase desirable options like a sunroof, CD player, power driver seat and faux wood trim. And a Premium Plus package adds leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel to the mix. The Sport package now includes aluminum interior accents, sport seats and an exclusive instrument cluster -- you can also get these items a la carte. A new center console design incorporates two integrated cupholders. Rear passengers will also have two cupholders at their disposal when they fold down the center armrest. And the S40 now comes with the an emergency trunk release. New exterior colors include Bamboo Green and Dark Blue.
The S40 sedan (and its platform mate, the V40 wagon) is Volvo's smallest and most affordable vehicle. Designed to appeal to younger buyers, the S40 offers impressive levels of safety equipment and an upscale image.
All S40s are equipped with a turbocharged 160-horsepower 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine. The only transmission choice (in the U.S., at least) is a five-speed automatic. On the road, Volvo has tuned the S40 for a fairly taut ride, though comfort ultimately takes precedence over performance. If you are looking for performance, Audi's A4 or BMW's 3 Series are better choices. Still, finely tuned MacPherson struts up front and a multilink rear suspension -- along with a rack-and-pinion steering system -- bring a distinctly Teutonic flavor to this Swedish sedan. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard throughout the line.
As with other Volvos, safety is one of the S40's greatest assets. Every vehicle comes with an extensive menu of airbags, including Inflatable Curtain (IC) head-protection airbags for front and rear passengers, side airbags for front passengers and the usual dual-stage front airbags. Additional crash protection comes from whiplash-reducing front seats and seatbelt pre-tensioners. Further, the standard ISO-FIX child safety seat system simplifies the process of correctly installing and removing child seats.
Inside, the S40 offers a remarkable combination of luxury and value. Comfortable, supportive front seats have that Swedish feel we've come to expect from Volvo's high-end cars, and the interior materials are of high quality for a sub-$40,000 vehicle.
Our main concern about the S40 is that the cost of adding options quickly eliminates the advantage of its low base price. For 2002, Volvo has tried to improve upon the car's value equation by making it easier for base sedan buyers to purchase some of the features that come standard in the more upscale SE sedan. Opting for the Premium package adds a sunroof, CD player with Premium speakers, power driver seat and simulated wood accents. If that's not enough, you can purchase the Premium Plus group, which includes leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. In addition, Volvo has revised the content in the Sport package, so that you now get a spoiler, leather-wrapped wheel, aluminum interior accents, leather/cloth-upholstered sport seats and a unique instrument cluster -- still no manual transmission or tire upgrade, though.
If you are in the market for an upscale compact sedan, Volvo's S40 is worthy of consideration, especially if safety is one of your high priorities. But there are many choices in this price range, so make that sure that you try out competitors like the VW Jetta, Acura TL or even the Audi A4, before buying the Volvo.
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