When Volvo redid its compact S40 sedan a couple of years ago, it wisely called upon its Swedish heritage of clean lined simplicity and function inside and out. Designers didn't fail in the redo, and sent out a svelte, eye-catching, perfectly balanced small luxury auto that didn't yell "safety," even though it's there. Some upgrades for 2006 refined the vehicle, and a variety of tweaks and upgrades for 2007 enhance it even more.
All three S40 models gain standard Dynamic Stability Traction Control with DSTC knob moved to a steering wheel mount, and auxiliary input and MP3 capability added to audio. Other standard or option changes depend on model, and include a new premium overhead console (2.4i), standard five-speed "Geartronic" automatic, sport wheel and gearshift knob (T5), and stand alone availability for Sirius Satellite Radio, Keyless Drive and 17-inch "Zaurak" or "Sagita" wheels (T5 and T5 AWD).
Beyond the basics are a half-dozen options packages that, depending on model, can add moonroof, wood inlay, front chin spoiler, headlamp washers, rain sensing wipers and a trunk mounted spoiler, plus Dynamic Sport Suspension and Volvo's DVD-based nav system on T5 versions (the priciest option at $2,120.)
The S40 (and slightly pricier, companion V50 wagon) was designed with a younger buyer in mind, who also might have a tighter budget when buying a vehicle. Volvo doesn't disappoint. It offers a range of entry prices from $24,240 for the four-cylinder 2.4i model (2.4-liter, 168-horsepower) with five-speed manual, and $28,390 and $28,990 respectively for the 2.5-liter, 218-horsepower five cylinder turbo with automatic that powers the T5 and T5 AWD.
Volvo has successfully laid claim to safety king status for decades and shows no signs of relinquishing the title. The S40's 26 safety features, including anti-submarine seats, inflatable side curtain airbags, intelligent driver information, whiplash protection seating and daytime running lights are standard on all models.
While S40s call for premium fuel, estimated mileage of 30 mpg (2.4i) and 27 (T5 AWD) with manual should help balance that out. Drop 8/7 mpg with automatic.