The baby-sized S40 was led the way for a new design era--especially within the cabin--at Volvo when it debuted in 2003, but now that the S80 and S60 have followed suit, the time has come for a freshening. Gone are the standard bits of gray plastic trim, and the result is a clean, monotone design. The front and rear clips have been revised to look more like the S80, a car that, oddly enough, was designed to look like a larger S40. The V50 wagon gets the same treatment, but with a V70-like tailgate (a shame--designers should have gone with a wackier C30-like butt.)
Some of the changes to the new models don't stand out instantly. They are Volvos, so the S40 and V50 are safer than ever, with new, quick-responding LED taillights and optional, adaptive bi-xenon swiveling headlights. The taillights are equipped with an EBL (emergency brake light) function, meaning that they flash rapidly if the brake pedal is hit hard enough. Since the optional turbocharged five cylinder has been upped to 230 hp, EBL is even more useful than it would have been on older models.
Inside, there wasn't a whole lot needing changing--the S40's interior is its best selling point. Still, there was room for improvement. "The criticism of the current models' limited storage space served as high-octane fuel when the time came to sketch the new interior of the S40 and V50. We weren't entirely satisfied until we felt we had exploited every single available cubic centimetre in an efficient way," relates Steve Harper, designer of the S40. Along with more space, a spring green fabric color, Nordic light oak trim, and softer leather have been added as options. Both the S40 and V50 are great looking cars, and these revisions should help keep sales up, but we're still ten times more excited about the C30.