2010 Volvo S40 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
April 10, 2010

The 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 are ideal for inner-city confines, and with both economical and sporty models on offer, most buyers should be able to find a package they’re comfortable with.

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.

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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.

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2010 Volvo S40

Styling

With the addition of R-Design package, the 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 bring sportiness to the model’s age-defying fresh appearance.

The base 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 2.4i still manage sporty looks, thanks to their 17-inch wheels, although the turbocharged T5 models now look a lot more aggressive with their body kit and color-coordinated side skirts and spoilers.

Volvo has maintained its decision in 2008 to enhance its logo by 50 percent, also offering high-intensity LED rear lights and stylish front projector beam headlights. Car and Driver claims that the S40 and V50’s exterior is “athletic, highlighted by short overhangs and bulging fenders,” while Cars.com is a fan of the “V-shaped hood bulge [that] runs into a more sculpted nose” and a broader lower air intake.

Car and Driver finds that the interior retains “the button-and-knob-infused stack” that isn't immediately intuitive, but taking in owner suggestions, Volvo implements changes such as additional storage cubbies to afford “more storage space in the doors and the center console,” notes Motor Trend. Cars.com remarks that “the center armrest is modified for greater comfort, and the handbrake handle is smaller and less intrusive.” Inside, the S40 and V50 provide a functional, cool place to work its controls, with Kelley Blue Book branding the S40 and V50’s interior “Scandinavian in nature.”

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2010 Volvo S40

Performance

The 2010 Volvo S40 and V50, while never laying claim to being a sports car, offer satisfying performance.

In terms of performance, the model of the 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 that most impresses reviewers is the T5 AWD R-Design with its standard six-speed manual transmission.

The T5 offers 227 horsepower from its 2.5-liter turbocharged engine, coupled with 236 pound-feet of torque, which is all available at rev ranges between 1,500 and 4,800 rpm. This prompted quotes such as “launches off the line” by Car and Driver, who also claim “great highway passing with no noticeable turbo lag.” Kelley Blue Book chips in, noting the “turbocharged engine brings the little S40 [and V50] to life.”

On the other hand, the naturally aspirated 2.4 liter inline-five with 168 hp and 170 pound-feet  draws quotes ranging from "perfectly adequate” (courtesy of Edmunds) to “unimpressive, especially up long grades,” according to ConsumerGuide.

A choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic is still offered with the base engine. Kelley Blue Book advises, “go easy on it and the stick can be slid from gear to gear with barely two fingers," and when talking about the manual and of the automatic, they find it “seemed to work quite well.”

Regarding the suspension, Edmunds comments that “most drivers would be more content with the standard setup as it offers a more livable compromise between performance and comfort.” The firmer suspension of the T5 AWD R-Design “makes for an uncomfortably stiff ride,” complains ConsumerGuide. Cars.com is happy overall, asserting that “curves produce only modest body lean, and the sedan corners crisply.”

As can be expected, the all-wheel drive hurts fuel economy, even when it isn't required, affecting mileage by up to 2 mpg. However, in the opinion of reviewers, this is offset by the efficiency of the turbo engine that offers all that extra performance.

Edmunds reports that “Volvo predicts a 0-60 sprint of 6.7 seconds with the manual and 7.1 seconds with the auto” for the T5 AWD R-Design. Estimated fuel economy is 20/26/22 mpg with the manual and 19/27/22 mpg with the auto. As for the base 2.4i model, Edmunds notes a 0-60 sprint of 8.5 seconds and estimated fuel economy of 20/31/24 mpg for the automatic.

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2010 Volvo S40

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 are not quite luxury cars despite their premium price tags, but in terms of comfort and quality, they certainly come close.

The 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 deliver in terms of comfort and quality, with the only major detraction being the limited space at the back.

No one questions the quality of the interior of the 2010 Volvo S40 and V50. Edmunds comments, “From something as simple as a high-quality headliner to the clean and classy gauges, the S40’s [and V50’s] cabin conveys an upscale feel from top to bottom.” As mentioned earlier, Motor Trend acknowledges that Volvo adds “more storage space in the doors and the center console.” Kelley Blue Book is a fan of the S40 and V50, pointing out that they sport ergonomically designed chairs whose “comfort on long drives is undeniable." Edmunds claims that the “S40 offers nearly identical interior dimensions” when comparing its interior dimensions to competitors such as Audi’s A4 and BMW’s 3-Series. The V50 will be comparable with the A4 Avant and 3-Series Touring wagons.

Kelley Blue Book finds fault with a “cramped rear seat and moderate headroom,” whereas ConsumerGuide is less harsh, claiming that “two adults get decent head and elbow space, but three will feel pinched” in the rear seat in the S40 and V50. KBB also notes that “the S40 and V50 undercuts the base Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, and Lexus IS by a good margin.” However, the same reviewers point out that “the pricing gap closes quickly once comparable features are added.”

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2010 Volvo S40

Safety

Both the 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 have a long list of standard and optional safety items—active and passive—but their crash-test ratings aren’t particular pleasing.

The reviewers have contradictory findings for safety in the 2010 Volvo S40 and V50, with some deeming it underwhelming and others class-leading. There’s no denying that the 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 take advantage of their brand’s tradition for safety, though it must be noted that the test scores aren’t perfect.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the S40 “good” for its frontal offset test, but ranks it as "acceptable" in side impact tests. The S40 achieves five stars for side impact testing for both front and rear seat passengers in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests, also scoring four stars for the driver and five for the passenger in frontal crash tests. While there are no official tests conducted for the Volvo V50 yet, the two cars are very similar structurally and are packed with the same safety features and technology.

For 2010, the hazard lights now automatically engage anytime the airbags are deployed. And with standard EBL (Emergency Brake Light) functionality, the new, brighter LED rear lights will flash rapidly in a panic braking situation. Standard active safety features include side impact and side curtain airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, an electronic stability system with traction control, and tire pressure monitoring.

Self-steering bi-xenon headlamps are an option in T5 models. The Haldex all-wheel-drive system can be had only on the T5 AWD for a premium of about $2,000. It engages only when front wheel slip is detected. Available as a stand-alone option is Volvo’s BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), “which lights an indicator just inboard of either of the S40’s and V50’s side mirrors when a car occupies its corresponding blind spot,” according to Cars.com.

Edmunds lists the standard features of the 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 as including “antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and whiplash-reducing front head restraints.” Optional features include integrated rear booster seats (in the V50) and a blind-spot warning system.

The 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 include four grades of steel in the front structure “to create optimal crumple zones” (Car and Driver) and “extremely rigid cross members for side-impact protection” (Kelley Blue Book).

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2010 Volvo S40

Features

The 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 come very well equipped but are still pricey, especially once you start to pile on the options.

If you're after a basic model, you'll be impressed, but if you're interested in all the upgrades and options, the 2010 Volvo S40 and V50 will put a smile on your face—just be prepared to pay for it. Former options that are now standard include 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.

Edmunds lists the standard features in the base 2.4i models as including “17-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, cruise control, automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, neoprene-like T-Tec upholstery (also known as Dalaro), Bluetooth and an eight-speaker stereo with CD player, auxiliary audio jack and USB/iPod audio interface.”

Upgrade to the T5 AWD R-Design and you get “all-wheel drive, a turbocharged engine, aluminum roof rails, sporty exterior trim, partial leather upholstery, driver memory functions, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and special R-Design floor mats, steering wheel, gauges and shift knob,” Edmunds notes.

Then there are the option packages, which are switched around for the 2010 model year. Kelley Blue Book reports, “Climate package includes heated front seats, headlight washers and automatic wipers. The Preferred package gets you a sunroof, a power passenger seat and keyless ignition/entry. The Multimedia package available on the T5 models is really a 12-speaker surround-sound system that includes satellite radio.”

On top of this, there are stand-alone options, which Edmunds lists as including a “blind-spot warning system, bi-xenon headlights, integrated rear booster seats, full leather upholstery, a navigation system and on the 2.4i, satellite radio and wood trim.” The T5 R-Design can also be equipped with 18-inch wheels.

In terms of in-car tech, The Auto Channel hails a “more dynamically styled instrument panels for the T5 model, Dynaudio speakers for the Multimedia package, a hard drive-based RTI road traffic information and satellite navigation system and a redesigned remote key fob with Auto Open and Auto Close for all side windows and sunroof.”

Unfortunately, the Volvos are not designed to incorporate an aftermarket stereo, and of the optional stereo, Jalopnik advises: “Don’t expect bass-thumping demonstrativeness…- it’s strictly about midrange clarity.”

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