Fleet News

Volvo S/V40

Volvo

Review

##vols40.jpg --Right##ONLY the most dedicated car spotter will be able to tell any difference between Volvo's Phase II S and V40 range and the original version launched in 1995. The Swedish firm's upper medium sector challenger has been given a mid-life revision to include a new front suspension set-up, larger wheels, a longer wheelbase and new chassis settings.

It's all pretty subtle stuff which is not immediately apparent to the driver, although it was these people who told Volvo the original was too firm to drive and needed to be made more comfortable.

The result is a car which has very positive steering and firm roadholding without being too uncomfortable on a long journey. Other changes include the introduction of Volvo's inflatable curtain and dual stage airbag safety systems into the range from the larger S80 and V70 models.

However, there is one change on the Phase II version that is very noticeable - two new common rail 1.9-litre turbodiesel engines which offer improved fuel economy, lower CO2 emissions and better performance. Changes have also been made to the turbocharged petrol engines - the light pressure turbo gets more power up 5bhp to 165bhp) and torque (up 7lb-ft to 177lb-ft). The 2.0-litre engine in the high performance T4 grows from 1.9 to 2.0 litres - although power remains the same - to make the unit more responsive from lower revs. However, for fleet drivers the diesel should be the number one choice in light of forthcoming carbon dioxide-based VED and benefit-in-kind tax.

The 115bhp unit certainly matches the best of the current common rail throng, being the same dCi until used by Renault in the Megane and Laguna ranges.

As well as offering improved fuel consumption (up to 52.3mpg on the combined cycle compared with 50.4 for the old indirect injection unit), CO2 emissions are down to 142g/km - pitching it into the lowest band of benefit-in-kind tax over the first three years of the new system. This means a S/V40 driver will be taxed at 18% of the price new thanks to the controversial 3% diesel supplement.

On the road, the engine is very quiet and it is only at start up you notice it is a diesel. Performance-wise, it offers a huge amount of torque, meaning overtaking and in-gear acceleration is incredibly easy.

Inside, the dashboard has been given a facelift with a new tunnel console and more comfortable seats. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, remote control central locking, electric front windows and electric heated door mirrors. The additional equipment fitted as standard is worth about £800, although Volvo has left list prices unchanged from the original models.

Volvo is not aiming for a massive increase in sales with the Phase II versions - instead hoping to consolidate its position in the upper medium segment, where it sold 22,810 V and S40s last year.

Richard McCully, Volvo's national corporate account manager, said: 'We are looking for small growth in this sector. We have a healthy volume here, with 40% of S and V40 sales being to fleets. The new diesels have an advantage with the forthcoming CO2-based legislation - they are a real step forward over the old diesels.

'They will have an impact on the diesel share, as well as Volvo's position generally. We have been with diesel since launch, but now we are back up with the best.'

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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