Fleet News

Volvo S40 2.0 D SE



IT'S a measure of how much I like the S40 that despite an unusually long list of niggles, I’d happily recommend it to somebody in the market for that size of car.

I know it’s a new model, but the S40 attracts a lot of attention from pedestrians and fellow motorists and I can only assume that it’s hitting all the right notes aesthetically, or I’m driving like a buffoon. So, the good looks of the car it is, then.

The engine, now about to hit the 4,000-mile mark, has loosened up noticeably and seems to get better and better over the course of a long journey. It is now much more flexible and pulls the car along much more strongly, although it is still fairly noisy.

I have been having a battle with the car’s trip computer, which, like the computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, refuses to bow to its supposed human master.

Now I’m not normally the type to spend sleepless nights worrying about how to get better fuel consumption out of a car, but the computer in the S40 has stubbornly refused to tip over the 40mpg average, even if I drive like my gran. If you so much as look at the accelerator pedal it ducks for 37mpg and it has been vexing me.

However, humanity has triumphed over the rise of the machines. I’ve been keeping a log of fuel receipts for the past 1,200 miles and, alongside discovering I should get a life, I have discovered the Volvo is doing more than 42mpg, so things are improving there as the engine loosens up.

The satellite navigation has been proving excellently useful and the nipple and two switches on the back of the steering wheel are a very efficient way of accessing the various menus.

Using them, you can also get rid of the miserable-voiced woman (she sounds like Nico, who used to sing with the Velvet Underground) and put the much chirpier male on the line.

But the question on everybody’s lips is ‘What about the white seats?’. Despite carefully selecting only the cleanest-bottomed trousers, the driver’s seat is starting to get a little murky, so it will be getting its 4,000-mile leather service with some cleaner to restore it to the original virginal sheen.

The gearbox is still a mixed bag, with reverse and third often the final destination despite the journey heading out for first, although it’s light and snicky in all other directions. The boot is hopeless and the clutch is heavy, but I can’t help liking the S40.

It has so much personality, is beautifully finished inside and the stereo and heating controls are fantastically clear and easy to use. And with the engine improving all the time, I expect that in the next month or so, the S40 should become even more likeable.

Price (OTR): £19,618 (£24,218 as tested)
Mileage: 3,914
CO2 emissions (g/km): 148
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer): £64 per month
Insurance group: 10
Power (bhp/rpm): 134/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 236/2,000
Combined mpg: 50.4
Test mpg: 42.4
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,825/35%
HSBC contract hire rate: £429 per month
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles

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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