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With the arrival of the S/V40 models next fall, Canada could well see the return of a Volvo with a sub-$30,000 price tag -- and it'll be a well-equipped Volvo at that, though smaller than we're used to.

The pricetag, the compact size and the legendary safety reputation should make the S/V40 models more attractive to women than any of the company's other cars, Volvo Canada insiders believe.

It's been a while since Volvo Canada offered a car with that small a sticker price, since the local arm of the Ford-owned Swedish manufacturer has been going resolutely upmarket since the demise of the venerable 240 a few years back. Right now, the least expensive car the Toronto-based company sells is an S70 sedan that lists for around $35,000.

It's impossible to guarantee where the S40 sedan and the V40 station wagon will be priced in September of 2000, but it is easy to make some informed guesses.

The car is just now going on sale in the U.S., with the S40 sedan listing at US$22,900 and the V40 wagon at $23,900. A straight conversion from U.S. to Canadian funds would put both models above $30,000, but Volvo insiders quietly admit that for marketing reasons they'll probably have to bite the currency bullet and go with sub-$30,000 prices.

That's for a car that has been considerably upgraded in the last few months in preparation for its arrival in the U.S.

(Canada's not getting the car this fall because it wasn't possible to tweak the bumpers enough so that they could meet this country's tougher standards in time.)