The Volvo S40 is a premium executive subcompact sedan produced by Volvo throughout 1995 and 2012. The first generation of the S40, the S40 I was in production between 1995 and 2004 while the S40 II was in production between 2004 and 2012. The S40 ceased production in 2012 and was replaced with the V40 hatchback.
During that time, Volvo managed to sell more than a million of these, also including the V40 estate version. The S40 is available with a few different engine options starting from small 1.6L 4-cylinder engines with 101hp and going all the way up to the S40 II S Automatica with upwards of 400hp.
The first generation of the S40 utilizes the classic Volvo boxy sedan design while the second generation of the S40 is more or less the same, yet with more rounded edges. Interior-wise, the S40 I is a bit dated right now while the S40 II is a bit more modern, but nowhere near as modern as contemporary Volvo sedan offerings.
Reliability-wise, the S40 falls below the average reliability medium, especially the 1st gen model. Nevertheless, the S40 II now offers great value on the used market, but buying it requires you to dig deeper into the history of the car in order to decide if it is indeed worth it or not as the quality of maintenance plays a huge role in the overall ownership costs.
Volvo S40 – The powertrain
The Volvo S40 I model range kicks off with the 1.6L inline 4-cylinder with 105hp while the post-facelift version of this engine offers 109hp. The next in line is the 1.6L 4-cylinder engine with 116hp/122hp. The Volvo S40 I 2.0L offers a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine with 136hp and 160hp for the turbocharged version. The range-topping T4 model offers a 1.9L inline 4 with 200hp.
The S40 II range also kicks off with a 1.6L 4-cylinder with 100/125hp. The 1.8L engine offers 125hp while the 2.0L is available with 145. The S40 II is also available with a few 5-cylinder engines with power outputs between 140hp and 230hp while the most powerful S40 model to date is the S40 II S Automatica with its 4.7L V8 engine with 440hp.
The S40 I is available with four diesel engines with power outputs between 90hp and 115hp while the S40 II is available with diesel engines ranging from 100hp to 190hp. The S40 I comes with a manual gearbox and FWD while the S40 II is also available with an automatic, a RWD, or an AWD drivetrain.
The S40 range is not all that special when it comes to efficiency as the maximum MPG the S40 gets hovers around the 30MPG mark at best. All in all, the engines are sophisticated but not too quiet.
Volvo S40 – Design and chassis
The first generation of the S40 looks old both inside and out which is to be expected considering the car’s age. The second generation is a bit more modern, but nowhere near as contemporary as newer Volvo models are. The interior design is a fair bit better with the newer model, but it is also lacking the majority of state-of-the-art features.
The chassis and suspension tuning of the S40 is tailored towards a comfortable drive which means that the S40 is no sports car, even in the case of the S40 Automatica.
Volvo S40 – Reliability and common issues
The S40 is not the most reliable Volvo car to date which means that it suffers from quite a few problems, both the first and the second-generation models. The most common issues that tend to plague the S40 are associated with the catalytic converter, lackluster brakes, leaky sunroof, oil leaks, and a MAF sensor failure.
Some of these are a bit more troubling than others, such as the issue with the brakes while issues like the leaky sunroof can be addressed at an earlier state if you pay close attention to it. The S40 II is a bit more reliable than the 1st generation, but not enough to make a real-world difference.
More about Volvo S40 problems.
Volvo S40 – Value and practicality
The Volvo S40 can be had between $2,500 and $16,000 depending on the model, the build year, equipment, the condition, and the mileage. Some of these can be of great value if they have been maintained to a decent degree. Even so, you need to pay close attention to all the service history documents.
Practicality-wise, the S40 may not be the largest sedan out there, yet it certainly offers enough space for someone who does not plan on transporting taller individuals all that often. Cargo space is also decent while the overall visibility is mediocre.
Which Volvo S40 should I buy?
Between the two S40 generations, you should focus your attention on the one you like more as both of them are relatively similar as far as quality is concerned. However, the S40 II is a more advanced car, especially because it is available in both RWD and AWD form while also sporting an automatic gearbox.
As far as engines are concerned, the T4 engines seem to be the most popular ones while some people also praise the 1.9L diesel engine to be a really dependable unit.
Is the Volvo S40 safe?
Volvo cars are known for their impressive safety credentials and the S40 is no different, especially the second generation. The 1st gen S40 is now a relatively old car which means that it is not nearly as safe as the S40 II.
However, even the S40 II lacks the majority of modern-day safety technologies as most of these weren’t available at the time. Even so, the second generation S40 is built tough which gives it fairly impressive crash testing results.
Why did Volvo stop making the S40?
You’d think that after a million units sold, Volvo will reluctantly drop the S40. However, the last few years of the S40 sales saw a huge drop in popularity as the early 2010s were the time when SUVs and crossover were starting to gain popularity fast.
Lastly, the 5-cylinder engines in the S40 are not economical nor fast while also being too noisy for the segment. Owners also complained about the ergonomics as well, but the main reason the S40 was sacked is that cars such as these were starting to lose attention rapidly.