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It may not have the prestige or athleticism of its German foes, but the 2007 Volvo S40 costs less while offering plenty of refinement, comfort and style. If you're shopping for a small sedan with a premium feel, this one deserves a look.
Sharper handling than you'd expect from a Volvo, cutting-edge style inside and out, straightforward controls, long list of safety features, available all-wheel drive.
Choppy highway ride with optional sport suspension, mediocre acceleration with non-turbo engine, not much in-cabin storage.
Available S40 Sedan Models
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Stability control is standard on all 2007 Volvo S40s, and front-wheel-drive T5 models now come with an automatic transmission only. New package options include an input jack for MP3 players and a ground effects kit (complete with chin spoiler and side skirts). Sirius satellite radio is available as a stand-alone option this year. Inside the cabin, there's a revised overhead console design.
Now in its second generation, the Volvo S40 has become a strong player among compact, entry-level luxury sedans. A mid-2004 redesign transformed it from a bland sedan with middling performance capabilities into a truly stylish car with an entertaining on-road demeanor. The fashion statement continues inside the cabin, where the S40 combines traditional Volvo ergonomics with a contemporary Scandinavian design that looks and feels upscale but isn't the least bit stuffy. Although competitors like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series continue to surpass it in driving dynamics and overall polish, the 2007 Volvo S40 is significantly cheaper, which makes it an attractive buy among small, premium sedans.
Volvo sells the S40 in 2.4i and T5 trim levels. Performance from the 2.4i model's 168-horsepower, naturally aspirated five-cylinder engine is adequate, though unimpressive for a car in this price range. Most buyers will prefer the 218-hp turbocharged engine in the S40 T5, which provides brisk response once you get past the initial turbo lag. The T5 model can also be had with all-wheel drive, making it a good choice for buyers in Northern climates. Volvo also offers two different suspension calibrations on the S40: The standard suspension offers a good compromise of ride comfort and handling competence, while the sport suspension, available as a package option on the 2.4i and front-drive T5 models, turns the compact Volvo into a more serious canyon carver. Unfortunately, it also results in a choppy highway ride on all but the smoothest pavement.
In spite of the heightened focus on style and athleticism in the current-gen S40, it offers all the safety features found in more traditional Volvos, and for '07, the company has finally made stability control (known as DSTC for Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) standard across the board. In addition to a full menu of airbags, the S40 is equipped with anti-whiplash head restraints and pre-tensioning seatbelts in all outboard positions. Crash test results have been mostly favorable, as the S40 has earned four or five stars in all government tests and a "Good" or "Acceptable" rating in all IIHS tests.
Four years into its model cycle, the Volvo S40 still offers an impressive package for buyers seeking a small, upscale sedan. However, it occupies a very crowded price bracket. Even if you've written off the more expensive A4 and 325i, similarly priced cars like the Acura TSX, Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy GT and Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T/GLI offer equal or better performance and as much or more interior room. We still think the 2007 Volvo S40 is a good choice, especially for those who want a car with one-of-a-kind styling inside and out, but we recommend test-driving a few of its rivals before making a final decision.
A compact entry-level luxury sedan, the 2007 Volvo S40 comes in 2.4i and T5 trim levels; 2.4s are front-wheel drive only, while T5s are available with all-wheel drive as well. The S40 2.4i comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with telescopic adjustment, a six-speaker Dolby audio system with a CD player, manual climate control with a pollen filter, full power accessories and heated mirrors. In addition to a more powerful engine, the T5 adds foglights, aluminum interior trim, automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat and a trip computer, all of which are optional on the 2.4i.
Popular options for the S40 are grouped in packages. The Select Package for the 2.4i adds a moonroof; a power driver seat; a 12-speaker Dolby Pro Logic II sound system with an MP3-compatible in-dash CD changer and an input jack for portable digital music players; wood-grain interior accents and a trip computer. For S40 T5 buyers, there's the Premium Package, which provides leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, driver-seat memory and a moonroof. A sport-tuned suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels can be had if you select the Sport Package (2.4i) or Dynamic Trim Package (T5). Available on either trim, the Climate Package adds heated seats, rain-sensing wipers and headlamp washers.
Leather upholstery and a ground-effects kit are stand-alone options on the 2.4i, while T5 buyers can get bi-xenon HID headlights, keyless startup and a navigation system a la carte. Sirius satellite radio can be added to any Volvo S40.
The 2.4i comes with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder rated for 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can choose either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic to go with it. The T5 gets a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline five that makes 218 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel-drive T5s take only the five-speed automatic, while T5 AWD buyers may choose either the automatic or a six-speed manual gearbox.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control are standard on all 2007 Volvo S40s. All models include front side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags, along with whiplash-reducing head restraints in all outboard positions. Volvo's OnCall telematics system is also standard. The S40 received perfect five-star ratings in NHTSA side-impact crash tests. In frontal-impact tests, it netted four stars for driver protection and five stars for the front passenger. In IIHS frontal-offset testing, the S40 earned a top rating of "Good" and a "Best Pick" designation; in IIHS side-impact testing, the car was rated "Acceptable." Additionally, the S40 is one of only a few cars to earn a "Good" head-restraint rating in the IIHS rear-impact test, regardless of whether you get cloth or leather seats.
The Volvo S40's interior is unique and styled to appeal to a young audience. The first thing you'll notice is the ultra-slim center stack, which has a distinctive Scandinavian design and allows for some storage up front. Interior trim choices include faux metal, faux wood, real aluminum or a transparent material reminiscent of an iMac computer. The ergonomically designed seats are available in different upholstery types, our favorite being the standard cloth "T-Tec" upholstery, which holds occupants in place during aggressive cornering yet still breathes well in hot weather. Adults will find adequate legroom in both the front and rear, but in-cabin storage space is at a premium. Trunk capacity measures 12.6 cubic feet, and the rear seats have 60/40 split-folding capability.
Driving Impressions: Acceleration is adequate if uninspiring on the base 2.4i model, but some buyers may prefer its non-turbo engine's more predictable power delivery. Although the turbocharged engine in the S40 T5 has a somewhat peaky power band and exhibits some lag off the line, it's definitely the better choice for enthusiastic drivers. Handling is crisp and entertaining with either the standard or sport-tuned suspension, though the standard 16-inch tires are taxed by more aggressive cornering. Those who like to drive hard will probably prefer the firmer sport suspension, but the downside is a harsh ride over anything less than pristine pavement. If you live in a pothole-ridden area of the country, stick with the standard suspension.
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