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The editors of TheCarConnection.com have driven the new Volvo S40 and V50 and present their expert opinion here, along with a comparison to other choices. TheCarConnection.com’s auto experts have also researched available road tests on the new Volvo S40 and V50 to produce this conclusive review and help you make sense of differing accounts.
The S40 sedan and V50 wagon manage to straddle the line between fuel efficiency, refinement, luxury, and sportiness in a package that doesn't betray Volvo's traditional standards of practicality and safety. On offer for 2010 are a base 2.4i model and high-performance T5, both of which come with a host of upgrades for the latest model year.
The two engines offered with the S40 and V50 are worlds apart in terms of performance. The turbocharged, higher-powered T5 models get a 2.5-liter inline-five, which functions well with either the five-speed automatic or six-speed manual. The engine is rated at 227 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, and is available with either front- or all-wheel-drive configurations. The base 2.4i model comes with a 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder engine making 168 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque; though not winning any awards for acceleration, it can be rather fun with the either the manual or automatic.
The 2010 Volvo S40 and V50, while offering the feel and stability of a larger German thoroughbred, are very compact and easy to maneuver in tight spaces. Handling along country roads and high-speed cruising are especially fun in the T5 variant, with the S40 and V50 offering more enjoyment than the larger Volvo models. Considering it falls into the same category as other small sedans, road noise is negligible, though at lower speeds the ride isn't the most rewarding. The available Haldex all-wheel-drive system is electronically controlled and works on an instant of slippage at the front wheels before torque is sent to the rear. It does prove its worth on wet or slippery roads.
Last year, Volvo introduced a new center console and door panel design, along with improved air vents and a repositioned clock, in an effort to boost the number of storage compartments. The S40 and V50’s instrument panel design is especially stylish and distinctive, with a thin floating center stack that houses all the audio and climate control functions. In terms of seating, the front provides more than adequate space even for taller drivers, but the back can be a little cramped.
Carrying the Volvo badge means that safety is a high priority. To prove that point are offerings such as Volvo’s latest Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which uses a light at the base of the side mirror to warn the driver when a car is present in the blind spot; it remains an option on the 2010 Volvo S40 and V50. Also available is 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, as are a navigation system and keyless drive. The S40 and V50 includes front side impact airbags, side curtain bags for front and rear outboard occupants, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. Despite all the safety features, the Volvo does not achieve perfect test scores, though they are high. It tests at a mix of four- and five-star ratings from the federal government and with both "good" and "acceptable" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The list of standard features is endless, with keyless entry, cruise control, and an 80-watt, six-speaker sound system all offered on the base 2.4i. Upgrade to the sporty T5 model and you get a whole lot more—including the turbocharged engine, a flashier alloy wheel design, fog lamps, electronic climate control, aluminum accents, and an upgraded audio system. As with last year, numerous features that were usually 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. The list of upgrades on the T5 also include a sporty body kit with color-coordinated side skirts and spoilers, aluminum sport pedals, a sports steering wheel, premium leather seating trim with embossed R-Design logos, a sports shift knob, and a watch dial instrument cluster.