2003 New Car Review: Volvo V40 Wagon


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SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

    It's hard to believe, but Volvo's 40-series cars, the S40 sedan and 
V40 wagon, are now the Swedish automaker's oldest vehicles. 
Although they were introduced here in mid 1999, they debuted in 
Europe back in 1995. But Volvo has done a masterful job of 
keeping its smallest sedan and wagon up to date, with continuous 
improvements since its introduction. 
    The 2003 S40 and V40 get 10 more horsepower from their 
turbocharged 1.9-liter engines, and freshened styling highlighted by 
a new grille, bumpers, and body trim. There are interior revisions 
and changes to some of the option packages as well. But the basic 
package is unchanged, and that's no problem at all. Volvo got it 
right the first time with its smallest cars, and the V40 in particular 
combines comfort, practicality, and sporty fun in a uniquely Volvo 
way.
    The ``V'' in V40 stands for ``versatility,'' and it's not mere 
marketing hype. Its five-passenger interior has as much room as is 
found in any small SUV - and some that are not so small - and is 
just as versatile in its ability to carry people or cargo. Even 
unwieldy items like a bicycle fit with little problem. Fuel economy is 
far better than that of any SUV, and the V40 has a distinctly sporty 
character on the road. Sport plus utility equals versatility in the 
form of the Volvo V40.

APPEARANCE: With their rounded corners and edges, and 
prominent, high shoulder line, the S and V40 were radically-styled 
for Volvo when they debuted in 1995. They were the first modern 
Volvos to drop the ``box'' look, and if they look a little boxy now, 
it's just because the 60, 70, and 80-series Volvos have completely 
buried the box. As before, the V40 features a sleek aerodynamic 
shape, with a long, tapered roofline, but details have changed for 
2003. Both the S and V40 get a black ``egg-crate'' grille similar to 
that of the XC70 (Cross Country) crossover wagon and new front 
and rear bumpers and protective body side molding. 

COMFORT: Inside, the 40-series Volvos get a new three-spoke 
steering wheel, redesigned instrument cluster, and a standard 
AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo. Styling is in keeping with the rest of 
the Volvo lineup, as is passenger comfort. According to Volvo, 
driver and passenger comfort is a safety feature as a relaxed, 
comfortable driver is more likely to be alert. The V40 is in no way 
inferior to its larger, more expensive relatives in that regard. As in 
other Volvos, the front seats combine relatively soft padding with 
excellent support. Power adjustment of the driver's seat is available 
with the ``Premium Package'' option group, which includes leather 
seating surfaces and steering wheel, handbrake, and shift knob 
coverings, a power moonroof, simulated wood inlays in the 
instrument panel and doors, and other upscale features. Front seat 
heating is also available. The rear seat has a remarkable amount of 
head and leg room for the size of the car, and a 60/40 split with 
flip-up cushions and fold-down seat backs gives the V40 the 
veratility of a small SUV, with greater comfort and better handling. 
``V'' is for ``versatility,'' after all.

SAFETY: Volvo is almost synonymous with safety, and the V40 
has all of the expected Volvo safety features. All occupants have 
three-point safety belts, a Volvo innovation back in 1959. The 
safety-cage chassis has front and rear crumple zones. Dual-stage 
front airbags, and side-impact protection, side airbags and the 
``Inflatable Curtain'' side head-protection system, whiplash-
protection seats, and four-wheel antilock disc brakes are all 
standard.

ROADABILITY: With a supple, well-damped fully-independent 
suspension that provides very good ride comfort and sporty 
handling, the V40 combines sport and utility in a way that no truck 
possibly can. The MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension 
has had minor revisions since the car's introduction, but is 
unchanged for 2003. And changes aren't needed. Good suspension 
compliance, low noise levels, and nimble cornering abilities make 
the Volvo V40 a good car for any sort of road, with any sort of 
load.

PERFORMANCE: Small, useful wagons can be fun, and fuel-
efficient. While the torque rating of the V40's 1.9-liter light-
pressure turbocharged four-cylinder engine is unchanged this year 
at 177 lb-ft from 1800 through 4500 rpm, minor enhancements 
boost horsepower from 160 to 170. That's enough to be noticeable, 
and helps the fun-to-drive factor with no major impact on fuel 
economy. At 26 mpg according to the trip computer for mostly city 
and secondary road driving, the V40 is considerably more fuel-
efficient than even a small ``crossover'' SUV. Turbo lag is virtually 
nonexistent. The five-speed electronically-controlled automatic was 
introduced a couple of years ago, and continues to benefit both 
performance and fuel efficiency with smooth, adaptive shifting.

CONCLUSIONS: The Volvo V40 combines space, versatility, 
safety, and economical performance in a way that no small sport-
utility can.

SPECIFICATIONS
2003 Volvo V40 Wagon

Base Price			$ 24,900
Price As Tested		        $ 29,355
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 16-valve light-
                                 pressure turbocharged inline 4-cylinder
Engine Size			1.9 liters / 115 cu. in.
Horsepower			170 @ 5250 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			177 @ 1800-4500 rpm
Transmission			5-speed electronically-controlled 
                                 automatic
Wheelbase / Length		100.9 in. / 180.2 in.
Curb Weight			2,822 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	        16.6
Fuel Capacity			15.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		unleaded gasoline, 91 octane for best 
                                 performance
Tires				P195/60 VR15 Michelin MXV4
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
                                 antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut / 
                                 independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		22 / 30 / 26
0 to 60 mph				8.4  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Metallic paint					$  450
Climate package - includes: heated front seats,
  Dynamic Stability Assistance (DSA), 
  headlamp wipers & washers, special price	$  850
Premium package with chrome door handles:
  power glass moonroof, power driver's seat, 
  leather seating surfaces, steering wheel, 
  handbrake lever, and shift knob, simulated 
  wood inlays, trip computer, premium speaker
  system, chrome door handles. Value $4,140
  Savings $1,645  				$ 2,495
Destination charge				$   660

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