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View the cars in our FastSaloons' Fleet Search Visit our Forum   Contact Us Volvo S40 T5 Road TestDate:06/10/2004   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests Volvo S40 T5 Road Test

Volvo S40 T5

Our Thoughts
A revolution in looks? A real Volvo? is it all clever styling or is there some real substance?

Exterior Styling

S40 now looks like a proper modern Volvo. Huge improvement.
I really like the new S40 styling; it is a huge improvement over the outgoing model and ties in well with the design of the rest of the range. The existing car didn't really look like a Mondeo rival it always look more like an escort. It didn't have any charisma and lacked any attitude.

So the standard S40 is good, how does the T5 compare. Well as you'd expect there are various indications to the flagship model. From the front the car gets some extra depth from its front lip spoiler - which also is also flared outwards too. From the side the car gets a skirts and a great set of alloys. Final the rear gets top and bottom treatment with a boot lid spoiler and extended lower skirt.

The complete look is classic (or should that be modern) Volvo - subtle but aggressive.

For me the looks have raised the car up a group - it's no longer looks like a Focus (on which it is based) or a Mondeo. The S40 is a BMW, Audi and Mercedes rival.

Interior Styling

You can't talk about this cars interior without first remarking on the unique centre console. It is based on the concept that things like the radio no longer actually need to be housed with the console but can be located elsewhere in the car. So only the button / control pad needs to be in the console and as a result it can be extremely thin (a couple of inches (or c. 50 mm for our younger readers)).

Unique Centre Console, Longer wheelbase = bigger cabin
Volvo has beaten everybody to the punch and looking at it in the flesh your first thought is why hasn't anyone done this before and then you think why isn't everyone doing this? The answer to these questions is firstly it's only recently become possible and secondly everyone probably will be doing this soon.

Dark grey with white dashes and numbers brushed aluminium surrounds. The speedometer is on the left and the revometer on the right. The indicated redline is at 6,500rpm, however in practice you change before 6k to get the most out of it. Power surges around 3,000 rpm.

On closer inspection you begin to question if this is a gimmick or a serious motoring improvement. Well my thoughts are that it is a step forward, sure Volvo hasn't really exploited the extra space, there is a small cubbyhole behind the console, but the console itself is much narrower and therefore there is more space either side of it. Also a knock on effect is that the scale of the buttons has decreased, not so much that you need a magnifying glass to read them, more they have shrunk to a size you are used to in consumer electronics. The layout is typical Volvo but it's smaller and neater and the quality feels better.

The central console houses a clear display for air con and audio read outs. This starts up with a neat photo of a Volvo and announces Volvo

The rest of the interior is pretty much what you'd expect; Good seats finished in black leather and uncharacteristically thick and comfy for this range of cars. Both front seats get pockets on the front edge like the bigger Volvos.

Other aspects of the interior of note are: The ignition placement, which whilst not as novel as Saab is located in a non-standard place. The actual location is on the left hand side of the instrument cluster that is a bit odd to begin with but does mean the keys aren't in the way, and does carry on the theme that things in a car don't necessarily need to be in set places. Another small thing is the glove compartment, which is very long extending a long way into the dash.

Rear legroom is not bad at all, thanks no doubt to the changes in the car's dimensions. Even though overall length is down 48mm, whilst the wheelbase is up 78mm. Height and width are up too by 44 and 54mm meaning things are more spacious in general.

Ride, Handling & Steering

Hard ride for a Volvo but works well.
The S40s ride could actually be called a little hard. Not something normally associated with Volvos and as a result of this the car handles well especially on bumpier roads, which it tracks well. Some cars like the ZT260 have a tendency to 'leap' over bigger bumps, the S40 absorbs these and keeps you feeling connected to the road.

The S40 is therefore a little different to the S60 T5 and S80 T6 which both are inherently soft. It does share a level of disengagement but this is far less then it's bigger brothers. And whilst the steering is well weighted it does lose a bit of the delicacies that cars such as BMWs manage. This is no doubt down to the unmoveable obstacle that is front wheel drive. A fact that also gives the car an reasonable amount of torque steer under hard acceleration.

Like most front wheel drive cars it benefits from traction control, without it the car struggles for traction and its tendency to under steer is increased. So we'll leave it on as it really does help. With the system switched on the S40 is really quite good fun on your favourite twisty road. Is it fast A-to-B well I don't think it's not bad, and the main thing is you'll enjoy driving it so the speed is secondary.

Engine, Gearbox and Performance

2.5-litre turbocharged 5-cylinder. 220bhp / 236lb ft
Powering the S40 T5 is a 2.5-litre (2521cc) five-cylinder turbocharged engine. This produces 220bhp (164Kw) at 5,000rpm and a nice flat torque curve peaking at 236lb ft (320Nm) between 1,500 and 4800rpm. Manufacturer claims for 60mph are 6.6secs and the car has a limited top speed of 149mph.

In practice the car is quite fast and has great mid range torque, not surprising given the peak torque figure at only 1,500rpm. The 6-speed box works well with the engine and in particularly third gear is very useful giving a wide power band for good overtaking at speeds between 60-90mph.

The gear change is fine and thanks to all the torque it is easy to exploit the engine.

I suppose my biggest disappointment with the engine is that it doesn't sound much, unlike the other 5-cylinder engines this one sounded quite flat. This was especially true when your driving around town or in traffic where there is nothing much to remind you of the performance credentials under your bonnet.

Here is the result of the Vbox testing:
Acceleration0-100-200-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
Volvo S40 T5 ((02/04 - ))


Volvo S40 T5 ((02/04 - ))










*All stats are performed on private roads and repeated several times with the average displayed.


Pretty big boot. Useful pop-up Clip. Space saver wheel.
The extra space liberated by the increase in the wheelbase is good news for rear passengers and the clever centre console is good news for the front passengers.

Boot space (404 litres) is reasonable and the space available is more or less matched by the aperture of the boot when open. Which means getting things into and out off the boot should not be a problem. There is also a novel flip up clip, I am guessing this is for bottles or similar, which is pretty useful.

The car is equipped with a space saver tyre.

Economy-wise the T5 achieves figures of 22.6mpg (urban), 44.1 (ex-urban) and 32.5mpg (combined), which is pretty good for a 220bhp car and put it close to several diesel cars not to mention its close rival the Saab 9-3 Aero.

Similarly the emissions value of 208g/km is on par with several diesels and again the Saab 9-3 Aero.

Insurance wise the car is rated as a group 15.


The Volvo S40 T5 only comes in the SE version and has an on the road price of 23,763. At this price it faces stiff competition from most manufacturer. It's closest rival is the greatly improved Saab 9-3 Aero (23,595). The Saab offers similar things 210bhp, and like the Volvo it's sporty yet comfortable too.

Comparing the Volvo to the premier brands gives the following rivals: Jaguar X-type 2.5 S (23,770/ 191bhp), BMW 320i SE (23,775/168bhp), Audi 1.8T Quattro S-line (23,795/ 187bhp) and Mercedes C200K SE (24080/ 163bhp). As you'd expect you're getting a pretty low level car in comparison to the top of the range Volvo. But that's the trade off if badge is important.

The rest of the market gives the following rivals: Alfa Romeo 2.4 JTD Ti (23,140/ 175bhp), Citroen C5 3.0i V6 (22,495/ 207bhp), Ford Mondeo ST220 (23,585 /217bhp), Honda Accord Type-S (19, 600/ 187bhp), MG ZT180 2.5 V6 (22,395 /175bhp), Mitsubishi Evo 260 (23,999 / 261bhp), Peugeot 407 3.0V6 Exec (22,250/ 210bhp), Subaru Impreza Sti (24, 995 / 262bhp), Vauxhall Vectra 3.2V6 Gsi (21,525 /208bhp).

Simplifying that list down is a pretty hard job but in reality the Performance orientated cars listed above are the Ford, Honda, MG, Mitsubishi and Subaru. The others have performance leanings but aren't going to set the pulse rising by massive amounts. The Mitsubishi and Subaru sacrifice the relative comfort for performance and so aren't direct competition for the Volvo.

So it comes down to the Saab, Ford, Honda and MG - all of which we have driven. Out of these my favourite from a driving point of view was the Honda. Whilst the Type-S is not the fastest and is certainly the cheapest, it offered the most involved driving experience. However trim levels on the Honda, Ford and MG are noticeably lower than the Saab and Volvo so this maybe an important factor to some people. Between the Saab and Volvo I think I'd go with the Volvo in terms of driving experience. It really is a good car and Volvo has made significant progress over the outgoing model, expect to see lots of them around - not perhaps as many as the Volvo adverts would have you believe though.

Related Links
Full Set of Photos taken during the test

Autocar on Volvo S40 T5

Car on Volvo S40 T5

Volvo UK's website

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