Used 2001 Volvo S40 Review

Edmunds expert review

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.

What's new for 2001

Only a year after debuting them on U.S. shores, Volvo has updated the S40 and V40 for 2001. Both the sedan and wagon gain additional crash protection in the form of standard head-protection airbags, dual-stage front airbags and a new child seat-safety system. Under the hood, engine improvements have been made to increase power and lower emissions. There's also a new five-speed automatic transmission that takes the place of the previous four-speed. Other changes are found in the cabin, with new material colors, a redesigned center stack for better functionality, more durable front-seat materials and improved switchgear. Rounding out the S40 and V40's 2001 changes are restyled headlights, bumpers and fenders.

Vehicle overview

Now in their second year, the S40 Sedan and V40 Wagon are Volvo's smallest and most affordable vehicles. Designed to appeal to younger buyers, the S40 and V40 offer impressive levels of safety equipment and an upscale image.

For 2001, Volvo has given the S40 and V40 standard Inflatable Curtain (IC) head-protection airbags, a system found on other, more expensive Volvo models. The curtains, one on each side, are woven in one piece and hidden inside the roof lining. When deployed, they cover the upper part of the interior, from the A-pillar to the rear side C-pillar, thereby protecting the occupants in the front and rear seats.

Additional crash protection comes from whiplash-reducing front seats, dual-stage front airbags, side airbags for front passengers and seatbelt pre-tensioners. Another safety addition for 2001 is ISO-FIX, a new child seat-safety system. The ISO-FIX system allows owners to safely and conveniently attach and detach a child or infant seat that is a perfect fit for the car.

All S40/V40s are equipped with a turbocharged, 160-horsepower, 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine. Volvo has made minor improvements to the engine for 2001, resulting in increased torque, better fuel mileage and lower emissions. The only transmission available is a new five-speed automatic transmission.

Inside, the S40 and V40 offer a remarkable combination of luxury and value. Comfortable and 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. The 2001's center stack is updated to be more comfortable and functional. The stack is now more anatomically and ergonomically designed, bearing a much stronger resemblance to the designs found in the V70 and S80. The climate control unit is easier to use and the radio controls are more stylish. Other changes we're glad to see is the addition of a storage area on the center console and window switches relocated to the driver's door panel.

On the road, Volvo has tuned the S40 and V40 to being fairly taut, 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, the MacPherson struts up front, the rear multilink rear suspension and the rack-and-pinion steering system bring a distinctly Teutonic flavor to these Swedish sedans and wagons.

If you are in the market for an upscale compact sedan or wagon, Volvo's S40 or V40 should be considered, especially if safety is one of your high priorities. The main thing to watch out for is choosing optional equipment. A full load of options can bloom the price of these cars considerably.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.