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 218-horsepower 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.
Current Volvo S40
The Volvo S40 compact sport sedan is available in three trim levels. The front-wheel-drive 2.4i trim comes with a 2.4-liter five-cylinder engine, while those looking for a sportier drive should take a look at the T5 R-Design or T5 R-Design AWD trim, which is powered by a turbocharged 227-hp 2.5-liter five-cylinder. A five-speed automatic is mandatory for all S40 models, and front-wheel drive is standard on all but the T5 R-Design AWD.
Standard features include alloy wheels, a telescoping steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls, a sunroof, Bluetooth and a six-CD changer with satellite radio. The T5 and T5 AWD models are decked out with sporty "R-Design" exterior and interior styling cues. Leather seating, premium Dolby ProLogic audio, a navigation system and a Sport package are just some of the optional luxury features that Volvo offers. Inside the S40, the seats, dash and panels look upscale and classy, and the ultra-slim center stack design makes a fashion statement while adding to the car's functionality. The driving position is snug and comfortable, but adult...