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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, May 26, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff



It’s the forgotten stepchild of the family sedan family. Of course, many sedan shoppers don’t even consider anything outside of a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry – those reliable but boring appliances that happen to be shaped like cars. The relatively few that stray outside the conservative radar screen might spring for the more stylish Nissan Altima. Or, if they read Consumer Reports, the Volkswagen Passat – the latter being the family sedan of choice for those seeking some European flair. The Volvo S40, at around $24,000, is right in the budget ballpark, but it seems to be nowhere near the stadium for consideration.

It’ll be great if we can tell you that the S40 is the automotive equivalent of Cinderella. It’s not. Even the car enthusiast magazines have dismissed it as a Mitsubishi in Volvo clothing. That’s because the Volvo S40 is precisely that – a Mitsubishi model built in the Netherlands and sold in Europe as the Carisma, but re-skinned as a Volvo. It hasn’t helped that Volvo has been selling most S40s with costly option packages that bring the actual sales price closer to $30,000. For that amount of money, there is some awfully good competition from both Europe and Japan (e.g., Acura TL, Audi A4, BMW 325i, Infiniti G35, and Saab 9-3).

Well, we had an opportunity to test drive the base model S40, and we’re happy to report that Mitsubishi makes a pretty fine family sedan. There are little touches to the car that even the Accord or Camry can’t match – for instance, the articulated hinges on the trunk lid, which prevent boxes in the trunk from being crushed. The 1.9-liter, light-pressure turbocharged, 4-cylinder motor moves the car with gusto – particular with the slight bump in power that Volvo recently fitted it with (now with 170 hp). It has more low-end torque than Volkswagen-Audi’s vaunted 1.8-liter turbo motor, and none of the latter’s turbo lag when fitted with an automatic transmission (the Volvo only comes with a 5-speed automatic). Volvo also evidently tuned the suspension of the S40 for a slightly sportier feel than before. All in all, there is very little to complain about. The cabin is smaller than the Accord, Camry, Altima, and Passat quartet. However, it’s about on par with the BMW 3-series, Audi A4, and Saab 9-3, and adequate for holding four-and-a-half passengers (including the driver).

The biggest challenge for buyers is to resist the options temptation. Try to get the car without the plethora of costly options, like simulated wood paneling, leather, and metallic paint (the latter will cost you $450 extra). Since S40s aren’t exactly selling like hotcakes, you should be able to wheel a pretty fine deal off of the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price). Ditto the wagon counterpart to the S40, the Volvo V40 – one of the prettiest wagons around. Specifications Safety: Lighting Daytime Running Lights (Halogen Semi-Sealed with Replaceable Bulb) Illuminated Side Marker Lights/Turn Signal Indicators Rear Fog Light with Auto-Off Body Safety-Cage Passenger Compartment Air Bags Driver and Front Passenger Supplemental Restraint System - Dual-Threshold Air Bags Side Impact Air Bags for Driver and Front Passenger Inflatable Side Curtains (IC) Anti-Submarine Seats Security Safe Approach and Home Safe Lighting Security System Standard Warranty: Four Years/50,000 Miles (whichever comes first) Volvo On-Call Roadside Assistance: Four Years Locks Key Integrated Remote Control with Central Power Door Locks Immobilizer, Encrypted Ignition Key Interior: Instrumentation Cruise Control Outside Temperature Gauge Ergonomically Designed Seats Driver Seat with Manual Tilt, Recline and Adjustable Lumbar Support 70/30 Split-Folding Rear Seat Flat-Folding Front Passenger Seat Comfort & Versatility Front Center Armrest Electronic Climate Control (ECC) Pollen Filter for Passenger Compartment Four Reading Lamps Illuminated Lockable Glove Box Interior Cabin Light Delay Power Windows with Driver and Passenger Auto Up/Down with Anti-Trap Feature Cargo Area Strap and Side Net Rear Seat/Trunk Pass-Through for Long Loads Upholstery Lt. Taupe Cloth/Vinyl Seating Surfaces S Graphite Cloth/Vinyl Seating Surfaces S N/A In-Car Entertainment HU-555 Audio System with AM/FM Stereo, Single In-Dash CD with Volvo CD Changer Compatibility, Anti-Theft LED, Dolby, 100-Watt Amplifier, Seven Speakers Exterior: Power-Adjustable Heated Exterior Rearview Mirrors 2-Speed Windshield Wipers with Intermittent Cycle Rear Window Defroster with Automatic Timer 7 x 16" ZEUS Alloy Wheels with 205/55/ZR16 Pirelli P6000 All-Season Tires S Engine: Transversely Mounted, 1.9-Liter, 4-Cylinder, Double Overhead Cam, Twin-Scroll Turbocharger with Intercooler Transmission: 5-Speed Microprocessor-Controlled Automatic Performance: Horsepower (SAE net) 170 @ 5,500 rpm 170 @ 5,500 rpm Torque (ft./lbs. SAE net) 177 @ 1,800-5,000 rpm 177 @ 1,800-5,000 rpm Top speed 134 mph134 mph Fuel Economy (MPG) Automatic Transmission: City2222 Fuel Economy (MPG) Automatic Transmission: Highway2929 Body: Drag Coefficient 0.31 0.31 Chassis: Front Suspension: MacPherson Struts Rear Suspension: Multilink Independent Rear Suspension Brakes: 4-Wheel Power-Assisted Disc Brakes with Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) Steering: S40 S40 LSE Power-Assisted Rack-and-Pinion Steering Turning Circle, Curb-to-Curb 34.7 ft. 34.7 ft. Turns, Lock-to-Lock 3.1 3.1 Fuel Capacity: Fuel Tank Capacity 15.9 U.S. gallons Towing Capacity: Towing Capacity 2,000 lbs. 2,000 lbs. Weight: Curb Weight 2,767 lbs. Dimensions: Height 56.0 in. 56.0 in. Length 178.0 in. 178.0 in. Track, Front / Rear 58.0/58.0 in. 58.0/58.0 in. Wheelbase 101.0 in. 101.0 in. Width 67.6 in. 67.6 in. Cargo Capacity 13.2 cu. ft. 13.2 cu. ft. Maximum Cargo Capacity (with rear seat and front passenger seat folded) 38.2 cu. ft. 38.2 cu. ft.

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