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The editors of TheCarConnection.com have driven the new Volvo S40 and present their expert opinion, along with a comparison to other choices. TheCarConnection.com's auto experts have also researched available road tests on the new Volvo S40 to produce this conclusive review and help you make sense of differing accounts.
Both versions of the compact Volvo S40 sedan, the 2.4i and T5, carry through with the same sporty yet elegant look as in previous years, but they receive a host of upgrades for the 2009 model year.
The S40’s two variants have pronounced powertrain differences. Higher-powered 2009 Volvo S40 T5 models get the turbocharged, 2.5-liter inline-five, which functions well with the five-speed automatic; the engine picks up a power increase from 218 to 227 horsepower. A six-speed manual gearbox is no longer offered in the T5. The base 2.4i model comes with a 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder engine making 168 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. It doesn’t accelerate quickly, but performance is perky with the standard five-speed manual and gutsy enough for city driving with the five-speed automatic transmission.
The 2009 Volvo S40 is remarkably compact and extremely easy to maneuver and park, yet it has the stability and poise of a larger sport sedan in high-speed cruising and curvy mountain roads, especially in sporty T5 form. Handling in the T5 feels markedly sportier than in Volvo’s larger sedans. Though the ride of the T5 can be somewhat pitchy at lower speeds, road noise is not at all the problem that it can be in other small sedans. The T5 AWD model has the latest version of the Haldex all-wheel-drive system, which is electronically controlled. It relies on an instant of slippage at the front wheels before torque is sent to the rear, but responds well to the S40’s needs on wet or slippery roads.
There’ve been a number of interior changes for 2009. While the cabin feels as airy and welcoming as before, Volvo admits interior storage was an issue, so a new center console and revised set of door panels add more bins and room for miscellaneous items—10 CDs, for example, even though the audio system now includes an iPod jack and MP3 capability. The clock in the 2009 Volvo S40 is newly positioned, and air vents are improved. The S40’s instrument panel design is especially stylish and distinctive, with a thin, “floating” center stack housing audio and climate control functions. In front, generous seats allow an upright, near-perfect position for most, with enough space for taller drivers, but the backseat area is limited in legroom.
Safety features are by no means forgotten; Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which warns the driver when a car is present in the blind spot with a light at the base of the side mirror, is an option on the 2009 Volvo S40, along with a new integrated child booster-seat system—a Volvo exclusive. Active bi-xenon headlamps, which swivel in the direction the car is steered, are available on the T5 AWD, as is a navigation system and keyless drive. The S40 includes front side impact airbags, side curtain bags for front and rear outboard occupants, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. Despite all these safety considerations, the S40 garners high, but not perfect, crash-test scores; it earns a mix of four- and five-star ratings from the federal government and both Good and Acceptable ratings from the IIHS.
Keyless entry, cruise control, and an 80-watt, six-speaker sound system are on the equipment list of the 2.4i, but the sporty T5 model adds a lot more—including the turbocharged engine, a flashier alloy wheel design, fog lamps, electronic climate control, aluminum trim, and an upgraded audio system. For 2009, numerous features that were previously optional are now standard equipment, including 17-inch Spartacus wheels, Sirius Satellite Radio, a six-disc in-dash CD player, MP3 capability, front fog lights, a power moonroof, and a trip computer.
2009 turbocharged T5 models are now equipped with standard R-Design components. The list of upgraded features include a sport body kit with color-coordinated side skirts and front and rear spoilers, aluminum sport pedals, a sport steering wheel, premium leather seating surfaces with embossed R-Design logo, a sport shift knob, R-Design inlays, and a watch dial instrument cluster.
- Big-car poise in a small package
- Comfortable and stylish cabin
- High degree of safety in a small car
- Maneuverability and ease of parking
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- No manual transmission in T5
- Rough ride (T5)
- Expensive when options are added