Building on an already safe vehicle and a stout chassis, incremental upgrades to the 2009 Volvo S40 result in a solid choice for the safety-conscious buyer—though its crash-test ratings are imperfect.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the S40 “good” for its frontal offset test, but "acceptable" in side impact. The S40 merits five stars for side impact testing for both front and rear seat passengers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and scores four stars for the driver and five for the passenger in frontal crash tests.
For 2009, the hazard lights now automatically engage any time 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 AWD system can be had only on the T5 AWD for a premium of about $2,000. It engages when front wheel slip is detected and includes the rough-riding Sport Package. Volvo’s BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), “which lights an indicator just inboard of either of the S40’s side mirrors when a car occupies its corresponding blind spot,” according to Cars.com, is a stand-alone option.
The 2009 Volvo S40 includes 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). Building on the foundation of what Volvo dubs “Intelligent Vehicle Architecture,” it seems the company has attempted to “stuff the levels of safety found in the flagship S80 luxury sedan into the S40's small package,” according to MyRide.com.