“What are you driving,” my friend asked.
“A Saab S40,” I replied.
“There is no Saab S40,” he countered.
That’s right. It’s a Volvo S40.
It’s an easy mistake to make. Volvo’s aren’t supposed to be this sporty. The Volvo S40 is part of a three-vehicle development program that also includes the Mazda3 line and the European Ford Focus. Engineers from all three companies brought their core competencies to the table to produce a group of well-designed, well-built small cars, and they have succeeded.
Volvo engineers brought their body-structure knowledge to design the basic platform for all three vehicles and then went the extra mile to add structure to the Volvo to make it stiffer and safer. A center rib section not only serves to strengthen the chassis but also serves as a unique “flat panel” center stack which adds some additional storage space in the front seat area. The S40 is quiet and solid on the road. The turbocharged 2.4L inline 5-cylinder pumps out 220 hp and 236 lb. ft. of torque and mated to a 6-speed manual transmission moves the little car from zero to 60 in 6.8 seconds.
The interior is clean and simple and reminds me of some of the recent Volvo concept cars I’ve seen. The center stack is a single piece of brushed metal with buttons lined up neatly under the radio.
The Volvo family styling scales down well to the smallest member of the family. The rear shoulders don’t overpower the look of the car and the front end resembles the rest of the Volvo clan. Am I the only one who noticed that Volvo’s badge is the universal ‘male’ symbol? Someone will have to explain that one to me.
The S40 can be a blast to drive if you feel like working at it. If you’re not in the mood to fling it around corners and run it aggressively through the gears, it can be a little stodgy. The S40 I drove had a very stiff clutch. Stiff enough to be a nuisance in stop and go driving. I’m also not a fan of the ignition placement. You need to weasel the key fob up behind the windshield wiper handle to get it in the ignition. With plenty of empty space on the face of the IP, it could have easily been moved down or over.