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German car companies have long been the dominant players in the compact sport sedan market. The Volvo S40, introduced to the North American market in 2000, was the Swedish brand's first stab at stealing some market share. Though it had its shortcomings, the S40 was a decent small sedan that helped redefine Volvo's image. Instead of the standard boxy shape once associated with Volvos, the S40 had a sleeker silhouette and was relatively fun to drive.
Volvo released the improved second-generation S40 midway through 2004. Styling is sportier and more refined, as are the car's ride and handling dynamics. Additionally, there are now two engine choices, including a turbocharged five-cylinder. Though it still doesn't have the prestige or athleticism of its German competition, the latest Volvo S40 costs less and still offers plenty of refinement, comfort and style.
Used Volvo S40 Models
The present second-generation Volvo S40 was introduced midyear as a 2004.5 model. (A related wagon variant is called the V50.) Compared to the current model, the S40 hasn't received major changes since then, but you'll want to pay attention to the various updates over the years when shopping for a used model.
Up until 2010, Volvo offered a base 2.4i model. It came with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter inline-5 rated for 168 hp and 170 pound-feet of torque. The turbocharged T5 was a bit less powerful from the debut until 2007 than it is now; it made 218 hp. You might also encounter a model with a manual transmission; Volvo intermittently offered a manual for both the base 2.4i and T5 over the years. All-wheel drive was also available for the T5 through 2010.
There have been a few important equipment changes as well. Stability control became standard on all S40s for 2007, and upgraded audio components and the new blind-spot monitoring system joined the roster for '08. The '09 model received a slew of former options as standard equipment.
The first-generation Volvo S40 sport sedan debuted for 2000. It came with a turbocharged 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine that made 160 hp and 170 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic transmission delivered power to the front wheels, and there was no manual transmission or AWD option. Standard features included ABS, automatic climate control, power windows and locks, and heated mirrors, while features like leather upholstery and a power driver seat were optional. In 2001, Volvo added safety features to the S40 and made minor styling changes to the headlights and interior. The company also brought out a new five-speed automatic transmission. For 2003, power was increased to 170 hp, and a CD player became standard. In 2004, Volvo added an LSE trim to the lineup to sustain interest in the car until the current generation launched later in the year.
In reviews of the first-generation Volvo S40, we noted that it was a competent small sedan but nonetheless a tough sell over the less expensive but comparably upscale turbocharged or V6-powered Volkswagen Jetta. If you're interested in buying a used S40 of this vintage, we'd recommend going with one from '03 or later, as these models benefited from the abovementioned mild power bump and standard CD player.