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SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin

Volvo Full Line Video footage (11:04)
     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 23,900
     Price As Tested                                    $ 30,162
     Engine Type           Turbocharged DOHC 1.9 Liter I4 w/PFI*
     Engine Size                                 119 cid/1948 cc
     Horsepower                                   160 @ 5100 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               170 @ 1800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  100.3"/67.7"/176.0"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3017 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                   195/60R15 H-rated all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                Two percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            21/28/24          
     0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     17.5 seconds @ 83.5 mph
     Top speed                                           125 mph

     * Port fuel injection

Volvo has garnered lots of acclaim lately from its product evolution. Its 80 and 70-series luxury sedans and wagons are revolutionary compared to the models they replaced, and the V70 Cross Country is Volvo's answer to the modern SUV/Wagon hybrid. And to fill the under $30,000 range of vehicles, Volvo now imports its S40 (sedan) and V40 (wagon) models. This week we test a loaded V40.

OUTSIDE - The V40 exterior offers curves and smooth shapes. The term "boxy" doesn't apply to this wagon, but the company was wise to retain the classic chrome grille that identifies it as a Volvo. The sloping hood climbs to a steeply raked windshield, which rolls into a slightly arched roof. From there, the rear hatch has been heavily rounded and in the case of our test vehicle, it wears a small rear spoiler. And naturally, Volvo's years of producing vehicles with full safety cage construction makes the V40 stiff and strong. Fifteen-inch spoked alloy wheels and all-season tires are standard on all 40-series models.

INSIDE - The V40 interior is luxurious and looks like a scaled-down version of the interior of the 80-series models. The dashboard has smooth contours and an eye-pleasing texture, while optional faux wood trim on the center console and door panels gives an additional touch of luxury. The front bucket seats are well-bolstered and comfortable for long-distance touring, and offer a feature that reduces the chance of whiplash in a rear-end collision. Since the V40 is a compact car, rear seat room is adequate for two adults but a squeeze for three. There are three-point seat belts for all, and the rear seat folds down in a 70/30 split. Cargo room is good at 61 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat, and versatile, too, as a two-position tie-down belt, parcel shelf and cargo net come standard. Other standard V40 features include electronic climate control, tilt steering, keyless entry, cruise control, power windows, door locks and mirrors (also heated), rear window defroster and a 100-watt AM/FM/cassette stereo.

ON THE ROAD - Both 40-series models are powered by a 1.9 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine with front-wheel drive. It uses dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder to produce 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. Maximum torque appears at a low 1800 rpm, which helps launch it to speed with authority. The turbocharger is considered light pressure, so turbo lag and engine strain is minimal. Mated to this is an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission with settings for Winter, Economy and Sport. An optional cold-weather package adds traction control (TRACS), which helps reduce wheelspin on slippery surfaces, and Dynamic Stability Assistance (DSA) which helps the driver maintain control in unstable situations.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Like most cars these days, V40 rides on a unibody chassis. Its cocoon-like body shell is designed to minimize crash forces on its occupants, although an added benefit is a very rigid feel on the road. The front suspension uses MacPherson struts, while the rear setup is a multilink design. Both ends use coil springs, tube shocks and stabilizer bars. Anti-squat and anti-dive geometry is built into the suspension system, while passive rear steering is standard. The ride is stable, but soft. During hard cornering, the body leans and the tires complain, but overall, the handling is very predictable. Filling V40 with people and cargo produces some bottoming over big bumps, but the tail stays planted. It uses rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes while an anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard and side-impact airbags, a rear fog light, ABS, whiplash-absorbing front seats and daytime running headlights are standard. TRACS and DSA are optional.

OPTIONS - Metallic paint: $400; Cold Weather Package (heated front seats, TRACS, DSA and headlight wiper/washer system): $850; Sunroof Package (leather seating surfaces, simulated wood trim, power glass sunroof) $2,200; Sports Plus Package: (rear spoiler, front fog lights, sport steering wheel, 8-way power driver's seat, CD player and premium speakers, trip computer): $1,900; Roof rails: $310; CD pre-wire: $27.