The Volvo V40 station wagon was introduced in 1997 along with its sedan sibling, the Volvo S40, as a replacement for the unpopular and boxy-looking Volvo 440. These V40 models were discontinued in 2004, and they are not the same models as the hatchback Volvo V40, released in 2012.
Prior to the release of the V40, Volvo has gained a reputation for safety at the expense of attractive styling, but as the 1990s progressed, Volvo’s 20-year reputation for strong safety features was beginning to fade as a host of other companies began to take safety seriously while marrying these new concerns with attractive aesthetics.
The new V40 and S40 – collectively known as the 40 range – sought to redress the balance, and with its pleasant contemporary styling, it did just that. Yet Volvo managed to make the V40 look unmistakeably yet favourably Volvo-esque, despite its new styling.
Initially available with a 1.9L engine, the base V40 and the V40 SE came with a choice of manual and automatic gearboxes. The 2.0L T4 and T4 SE models, also released in 1997, were initially only available with a manual gearbox, although this changed a year later when automatic versions were released, along with a 2.0L V4 T. These models were followed in 1999 by the T SE 1.9L. In 2000, the Phase 2 models were released, complete with a facelift and upgrades to the suspension and track.
The Volvo V40 offers solid handling, safety, and fuel economy in an attractive package.
The 2.0L engine initially available in the base and SE models was comprised of a 16-valve overhead camshaft with 4 all-alloy cylinders. This engine had a power output of 103kW at 5800rpm and a torque of 190Nm at 4000rpm, producing a top speed of 204km/h and an acceleration of 0-100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. In keeping with Volvo’s reputation, the V40 is not known for its performance statistics, yet if pushed hard, the car had a lot of potential. In terms of fuel economy, the manual V40 used 8.3L/100km and the automatic used 7.8L/100km – very impressive for a car of its size.
The V40 T, released in 1998, provided more power output at 118kW at 5100rpm and a torque of 230Nm at 1800rpm. With a manual gearbox, the V40 T had a top speed of 214 km/h and could reach 0-100 km/h in 8.5 seconds.
The automatic gearbox-equipped V40 T was slightly slower, with a top speed of 209 km/h and an acceleration time 0-100 km/h in 9.0 seconds. In terms of fuel economy, the manual V40 T was the more economical, using 7.1L/100km as opposed to the 8.0L/100km the automatic version used.
In terms of performance, the 1.9L T4 was at the top of the pile. With 147kW of power output at 6000rpm and a torque of 300Nm at 2400rpm, acceleration was increased to 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds and top speed was increased to 235 km/h. This turbocharged model was also more economical, using only 7.5L/100km in manual configuration and 7.7L/100km in automatic configuration.
On the road, the automatic gearbox – although generally smooth in operation – had a tendency to soak up both power and fuel, and some have complained that it also tended to get stuck momentarily when shifting up.
Handling was solid, giving a feeling of safety and security to the driving experience, although the front-wheel drive has a tendency for under-steer when pushed on corners. The ride that the V40 provides is generally good, but it can be hard and bumpy on rough surfaces.
Standard kit was more than decent on all V40 models. Indeed, this included air-conditioning, electric windows, electric wing and rear view mirrors, central locking, and a 4-speaker sound system.
Upgrade to the SE model, and one can add leather trim, climate-control, a sports steering wheel, and alloy wheels.
The T4 models include 16-inch alloy wheels, traction control, as well as ‘sports’ seats and suspension.
The safety features included as standard are reasonable even by today’s standards and include front airbags and Volvo’s ‘Side Impact Protection.’ Also included were seatbelt pretensioners, ABS, and dynamic stability assistance.
Arguably, the Volvo V40’s main competition came from the Audi A4; with the A4’s taut, clean styling and renowned engineering, it offered much beyond the prestige of being a German-made car.
However, the Volvo V40 is nicely styled, offers the same level of fuel economy, and has an awesome array of safety features and standard kit, together with a strong and responsive powertrain.