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2001 Volvo S40 and V40 Road Test

2001 Volvo S40 and V40 - Good Things Come in Small Packages

Over the last few years, Volvo has been doffing its conservative suit and putting on stylish new threads. This is much to the satisfaction of new car buyers, most of which have always been appreciative of the Swedish company's solid engineering yet put off by the bland styling of its models. The new S40 sedan and V40 wagon fit into this well-dressed family at the lowest end of the economic scale. Although these are bargain basement Volvos, they are anything but run-of-the-mill transportation appliances.

Not as radical a departure as its larger siblings (S80, V70 and new S60), the 40 series is still much more curvaceous than previous Volvos. The crested chrome grille sits front and center, leaving no question as to its heritage, but from this point back to the rear of both the sedan and wagon the lines are soft, lean and sporting. Even the colors of my test cars are less than subtle. The S40 came in Peacock Green (teal) and the V40 in Panama Yellow (special order only). Both colors displayed a high need for attention, a characteristic not usually exuded by Volvo owners.

Inside, gray, soft-tough plastics are the theme. Switches and knobs are especially big and feel like they're designed for an industrial purpose. While there are the usual entry-level luxury features, a few not normally expected in a vehicle in this price range are immediately apparent. The quality power adjustable leather seats (cloth standard) with lumbar support are heated (front only), which adds considerably to their comfort level. In the rear are two well-engineered ISO-FIX child safety seats, hidden so they only are noticeable when needed. Just pull a strap and pop it into place with a solid click, giving a parent the feeling that their children are safer in these than in plastic aftermarket boosters. Simulated wood veneer accents on doors, dash, console and shifter are quite tastefully executed, adding a bit of warmth to its otherwise stark cabin. A large power operated moonroof with sliding sun shield sits overhead, giving the little Volvo a big-car ambience.