Volvo's award winning compact class contenders, the S40 saloon and V40 estate have entered phase II of their life. Large scale modifications, taking three years to complete mean the new models will be better value, safer, more dynamic and appeal to a wider audience than ever before when they go on sale next month.

Sporting new engines and transmissions, retuned chassis, improved specification and class leading safety measures adopted from the rest of the Volvo range, the new S40 and V40 package will be hard to beat with a starting price of just £14,495 on the road.

Exterior changes are subtle: new front and rear bumpers, new side markers, distinctly brighter and better taillights, new alloy wheels and all cars now come with double headlights as standard. But the really impressive changes are all under the skin.

Revised engines

The T4 high-pressure turbo and 2.0 T engines have been extensively revised. Firstly, the T4 will be given a larger displacement, up from 1.9 to 2.0 litres. Power output and torque remain the same (147 kW/200 bhp/300 Nm). Twin-scroll turbo technology is being introduced on both manual and automatic T4 versions. These changes produce improved response, improved starting capability and lower fuel consumption.

The 2.0 T light-pressure turbo improvements include higher torque and more horsepower, along with lower fuel consumption. The new version of this engine delivers 165 bhp, an increase from 160 bhp. Combined fuel consumption changes from 32.5 mpg to 34 mpg.

The previous 95 bhp 1.9-litre turbo-diesel is now replaced with two new more powerful, yet frugal and refined 1.9-litre common rail turbo-diesels. The new 102 bhp, and 115 bhp turbo-diesel engines will attract diesel buyers towards the S40 and V40, especially among fleets. Combined fuel consumption on both the new diesel engines is 52.3 mpg compared to 50.4 mpg on the combined cycle of the previous 1.9 D.

The 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 litre remains unchanged, although an upgraded 1.8i (125 bhp) direct injection petrol engine will be introduced in September.

Improved comfort and handling

To help enjoy all the extra urge from the revised engines, the chassis has been stretched in a couple of directions. By widening the front track by 18mm, to accommodate bigger tyres, and by extending the wheelbase by 12mm, while also upgrading the entire front suspension and chassis setting, Volvo has dramatically improved comfort and handling characteristics.

New Transmissions

All cars benefit from the slick-shifting five-speed manual gearbox, although a clever new five-speed automatic similar to that found in the V70 is available on all petrol engined models barring the 1.6 and 1.8i (125 bhp).

The new gearbox offers enhanced comfort and improved performance thanks to the lower first gear and closer steps between the gears. Fuel consumption is improved especially during high-speed cruising.

Safety

The new S40 and V40 will continue their position as one of the safest cars in the class thanks to adding Volvo's Inflatable Curtain (IC) technology - as found in the Volvo S80 and new V70. The Inflatable Curtain substantially reduces the risk of head injuries in a side impact by inflating in 25 thousandths of a second and covering the upper part of the inside of the car from the front to the rear pillars. IC technology is now standard on all Volvos barring the C70.

Driver airbag is fitted to all models, with passenger airbag a no cost option. Both have dual-stage technology as seen on the new V70, inflating at different levels dependent on the severity of the accident. Helping to protect the Volvo drivers of the future, the S40 and V40 now also has ISOFIX child seat mountings in the rear seats.

Interior Design

The dashboard has been given a facelift, which gives it an attractive new look, combined with improved ergonomics and functionality. The tunnel console is completely new - higher than the old one and more versatile. The padding in the seat has been upgraded for greater comfort and quality. Two new upholsteries have also been developed to give the car an elegant aura.

The new Volvo S40 and V40 have made great strides in terms of their luxury features too. Air conditioning, remote control central locking, electric front windows and electric and heated door mirrors are standard on all models, while distinctive fixed-focus double headlamps and a front centre armrest are also fitted across the range.

New gas discharge headlamps will be available as an option - the first Volvo to use this technology. From September a new navigation system, integrated with the stereo will also be available.

As has become traditional for Volvo, customers will be able to tailor-build their new S40 and V40 utilising the numerous option packs to match their personal needs. And with list prices having remained unchanged from its predecessor (£14,495 to £21,615), the additional equipment fitted to the new S40 and V40 ranges equates to an equivalent £800 reduction compared to the previous models.


Since their introduction in 1995, the Volvo S40 and V40 range has been one of Volvo's greatest success stories, building a reputation as one of the safest cars in its class. In the EuroNCAP test the S40 and V40 were awarded top marks (four stars). Awards around the globe include Volvo V40 "The Most Beautiful Car in the World" in Italy, Medium Sized Car of the Year in Argentina, Fleet car of the year in Belgium and Import Car of the Year, in Japan.

Last year Volvo Car UK sold 22,810, claiming 4.44 % of the medium sized segment, beating the likes of the Nissan Primera, Toyota Avensis, Honda Accord and Audi A4.