2000-2004 Volvo V40

Ian Dawson
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The V40 hit the road again for nearly every holiday weekend thereafter: Christmas in Connecticut, northern Michigan for President's Day, upstate New York to collect Easter eggs, and Indianapolis for the Indy 500 during Memorial Day. In March, a family of three made a 2000-mile round trip to Texas, averaging an impressive 30 mpg, and their biggest complaint was the existence of only one twelve-volt plug. A kid's gotta listen to his own CD player, dontcha know.

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Whenever there was more than one person in the V40, the car was taken to task for its lack of cup holders. When the one front-seat holder that did exist was in use, it covered the climate controls as well as the in-dash CD slot. Strangely, the V40 has two controls for the driver's power window: one on the door and one on the center console with the other three. We couldn't help but wonder if there might be room for a second cup holder down there if the redundancy were eliminated. During a midsummer trip to Death Valley, a photographer solved the problem with an 89-cent cup holder that hung from the window ledge.

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The V40 was fairly reliable and didn't cost much to maintain, but by its last quarter, we all agreed that it was feeling every one of its 32,000 miles. Still, there were only two significant mechanical problems. At 10,000 miles, the steering wheel clunked during sharp right-hand turns. The dealer found that the steering column was too short, causing a steeper angle on the steering shafts and putting too much pressure on the steering knuckle, making the knuckle bind. The service writer seemed quite familiar with the problem; it was fixed under warranty by loosening the knuckle, adjusting the countershaft, and torquing it back down. Then, starting at about 22,000 miles, it was impossible to shift the V40 out of park without depressing the "shift-lock override" button, not the usual procedure. The service folks found that the shift-lock switch, which locks the transmission until the brake pedal is pushed, had fallen out of its mounting bracket. They snapped it back into place but not without improperly replacing the gear-selector trim surround, which necessitated another trip to the dealer.

The front-wheel-drive V40 and S40 have a standard 160-bhp, 1.9-liter turbo-charged four-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. A manual gearbox is annoyingly unavailable. In general, we were happy, but hardly thrilled, with the powertrain performance. Turbo response was progressive, with little lag, and there was sufficient low-down torque. The standard four-speed automatic, according to Mark Gillies, was "responsive to part-throttle kickdown," and Michael Jordan said it provided "soft, well-managed shifts." "The power delivery is quite linear for a turbo four," chimed in Matt Phenix. Our Texas travelers were "impressed by the engine, which made it easy to merge into traffic and pass." But contributor Kirk Seaman dissented: "The drivetrain is less than enthusiastic, and the transmission is reluctant to downshift." At 19,604 miles, another tester noted: "There's little exhilaration in driving this car, but the grip is good when you push it, and the steering is nicely weighted." And yet another had this to say: "This is not my father's milk-chocolate brown '81 240. That was a tank, whereas the V40 feels smooth and sleek to drive, and the turbo is great for passing on the freeway."

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Although the V40 is a perfectly competent car--a very good car, even--nothing about its dynamic performance stood out, grabbed us, and said, "Drive me!" The V40 isn't an enthusiast's car, and it's not a Volvo enthusiast's car. Its interior looked like a Volvo, and the seats were definitely Volvo, but, overall, the car didn't have the quirky character one expects of a Volvo. It felt like a Mitsubishi masquerading as a Volvo, which is what it is.

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