As the car was returned to Volvo last week, the seats were still white, despite having had the collective bottoms of the Fleet News staff sliding on and off them in all sorts of inclement weather.
The seats suffered the odd scuff but were in better shape than we had anticipated when the car first arrived here at Fleet Towers.
So after six months, how did we rate the Volvo?
Overall, we were enormously impressed, although one item that received a universal brickbat was the gearchange, so let’s get that out of the way first. Selecting either first, third or reverse was rather like plunging your hand into a lucky dip barrel – you could end up in any one of those gears depending on how the car was feeling at the time.
Imagine pulling out of a busy junction in what you think is first, only to find you are in fact in third, and you’ll get the idea of how frightening this gearbox can be. It really isn’t acceptable in this day and age from a premium carmaker and it marred the driving experience for us all.
Apparently Volvo is taking steps to correct the problem but we must speak as we find. Gearbox apart, just about everything else with this car was spot on.
Two things you can rely on when driving a Volvo – any Volvo – are the quality of the seats and the power of the heating systems. All Volvos have incredibly comfortable seats and the S40 is no exception. The heater is powerful enough to blow your wig off if you are wearing one. It will clear a misted-up interior in a minute or two.
I was also impressed with the clean, simple lines of the console. The knobs and switches for the heating system and in-car entertainment are all packaged in a wonderfully simple minimalistic way.
Old groaners like me will delight in the fact that when you switch the radio on, an LCD display lights up which looks just like an old-fashioned wireless. You twiddle the left-hand knob for volume and the right-hand one to change stations. Ah, the memories...
We were also impressed with the 2.0-litre diesel powerplant which pumps out 136 bhp and 240lb-ft of torque. There was plenty of low-down grunt which made the car feel more powerful than it really was and the six-speed gearbox gave plenty of opportunity for blipping up and down through the cogs.
However, Volvo’s claimed fuel consumption figure of 50.4 miles per gallon proved more than a tad wide of the mark.
Our deputy editor struggled to hit 40mpg, although motoring editor Simon ‘Lightfoot’ Harris did temporarily push the figure up to 46.7mpg.
As for me, I still tend to push things to the max and only managed a paltry 37.3mpg. It just goes to show how much a diesel engine can be affected by different driving styles. The S40 has now been swapped for a lively turbocharged V50 and we’ll be introducing that car in due course.
Model: Volvo S40 2.0 D SE
Price (OTR): £19,618 (£24,218 as tested)
Final mileage: 9,667
CO2 emissions (g/km): 148
Company car tax bill (2004/5) 22% tax-payer: £64 per month
Insurance group: 10
Combined mpg: 50.4
Test mpg: 39.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £7,050/36%
HSBC contract hire rate: 441 Final expenditure: Nil
What the team thinks
DESPITE being wooed by the Volvo’s contemporary interior and sporty ride, it was not enough to compensate my daily fight with the gearstick. The continued problem of engaging the wrong gear was the bane of my life while I had the S40 which is a shame. Without the niggly transmission, the S40 would be a great car.
The S40 shows that Volvo has well and truly cast off its fuddy duddy image, and I found the white leather, biscuit and brushed aluminium interior one of the most original and attractive I’ve seen in years. The engine was a little noisy but it really performed and I didn’t find the gearbox quite as bad as the others – perhaps it got problematic as it got older and looser.