Volvo has made its mark in the European luxury wagon market. In fact, until just the last year or two, Volvo was the only choice in this segment. Now to reach a larger wagon market, Volvo has launched a popularly priced wagon that is aimed at a younger more physically active group of buyers.
The Volvo V40 wagon is one half of Volvo’s newest series which includes the companion S40 sedan. Volvo now has the hardware to go after Honda and Toyota in the high-volume part of the market. And there is no doubt that the Volvo brand does carry a lot of weight with family buyers based on the company’s solid gold safety reputation.
So let’s start off the review with a look at the V40’s safety features. The new Volvo features three-point seat belts with padded head restraints in all five seating positions, an item of high priority to families with several children. The V40 is also equipped with dual-threshold deployment front air bags that respond to the intensity of an impact. The side airbags are of a new second-generation design that better protect the head and chest.
The V40 provides a new seat technology to help front-seat occupants withstand a rear-impact collision. The seat technology is comprised of two components: One element is a seatback designed to move backward with the occupant. The other is a special suspension embedded in the seatback to absorb the force of the occupant moving backward, thereby helping to quell the violent forces involved in so-called whiplash injuries.
A Real Road Test
But during my test drive, I was introduced to another Volvo safety feature , great stability under extreme duress. Driving on a rain-soaked freeway with poor visibility, I suddenly experienced a tire failure. Before I could pull off the road (California drivers don’t ever seem inclined to give way and let a car change lanes) the tire completely disintegrated. But even in this condition, the front-wheel-drive V40 was completely stable and easy to control.
At the time, the whole adventure didn’t seem much more harrowing than any other exit off the roadway, although I became quite concerned in retrospect when I saw the condition of the tire. By the time I had pulled onto the shoulder of the freeway, the tire had physically been worn to nothing and I was riding on the rim. I’m glad I didn’t have to personally test any of the car’s previously mentioned safety features.
Also for the first time, I had a reason to call a vehicle manufacturer’s road assistance programs. These programs are becoming quite standard throughout the industry. And even though I was curious if and how they worked, I really didn’t want to call one without a real problem. But now on the side of a very wet fast moving freeway, I quickly dug into the glove compartment, found the necessary phone number and called the operator. After I gave the necessary information the operator dispatched a truck that arrived in a reasonable time to tow the wagon to a nearby Volvo dealer.
Overall, I like the driving dynamics of the V40. The wagon has good handling and the ride quality seems better than the regular Volvo wagons. The V40 also provides a quiet, vibration-free experience on a wide variety of road surfaces.
Since Volvo has kept the weight of the V40 to a quite reasonable 3,000 lbs., the modest 160-horsepower engine provides ample power. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine is smooth and quiet for an engine of its type.
The test V40 wagon was equipped with many options to appeal to drivers with active interests, namely driving in wet or cold conditions. But as equipped and reaching the $30,000 range, our Volvo wagon might be a stretch for younger families.
The V40 was equipped with the Cold Weather Package, which for $850 adds heated seats, advanced traction control called Dynamic Stability Assistance and headlight washers and wipers. Our test car also came with the deluxe $2,000 Sunroof Package, which included leather seats. Volvo also loaded the wagon with the $1,900 Sport Plus package that includes fog lights, sports steering wheel, power driver seat and a premium sound system. Roof rails for tying and securing cargo on top of the wagon adds another $330 to the price.
The interior of the V40 is pleasant enough. The controls are laid out much like the larger V70 wagon. Overall, the look of the interior is very Volvolike, rather severe and functional, but not unattractive. The leather-covered driver’s seat was comfortable and reasonably supportive.
Price as tested: $30,162
Type: Turbocharged 1.9L inline 4
Horsepower: 160 @ 5,100 rpm
Torque: 170 ft. lbs. @ 1,800 rpm
Fuel economy, automatic transmission:
City – 21 mpg
Highway – 28 mpg
Curb Weight: 3,040 lbs.