2002 Volvo V40 Wagon Auto Review

18 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2002 Volvo V40 Wagon Auto Review

2002 Volvo V40 Wagon

Upline style and safety at an entry-level price

Gary Witzenburg on 07.01.2002

So when did Volvo start making small, stylish front-drive cars? Aren’t Volvos supposed to be bigger, boxier, rear-wheel drive and less, um, attractive?

The 40-Series Volvos come in three flavors: Premium, Premium Plus and Sport. Premium includes a glass sunroof, premium cassette/CD sound system, trip computer, 8-way adjustable driver’s seat and good-looking simulated-wood trim. Premium Plus (our test vehicle) primarily adds leather-faced seating surfaces.

The available Sport package includes special sport seats, instrument cluster and headlamp trim, fog lamps front and rear, leather-trimmed steering wheel and 10-spoke alloy wheels.

Styling is subjective, but this is one very handsome small wagon. It’s also exceptionally well equipped and, as a result, pretty pricey for a car this size. Starting at a base of $24,900, our test car added $850 for a Cold Weather Package (heated front seats, headlamp washer/wipers and Dynamic Stability Assistance), $970 for the Premium Plus Package, $100 for a leather-wrapped steering wheel, $67 for pre-wiring for an optional CD changer and a $625 destination charge, for a total of $27,472.

The V40’s standard and only powertrain is a 160-hp turbocharged 1.9-liter 4-cylinder engine coupled to a 5-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. We found it a tad weak on launch but-once the turbo spools up-strong enough to propel the 2,822-pound wagon from 0-60 mph in roughly 9.5 seconds. Holding the brake to spool up boost (at about 2,000 rpm) before launch resulted in a best of 8.8 seconds with the hand-held watch.

More importantly, the V40 offers lively enough acceleration for jumping into traffic or passing, but the combination of turbo lag and leisurely transmission kick-down after stomping on the gas from cruising speed can be frustrating at times.

The V40 engine also shows a bit of shake at idle but smoothes out nicely at highway speeds. The trip computer (which also provides a second trip odometer, range and outside temperature) showed about 27 mpg following our test loop and as much as 31 mpg after extended freeway driving. EPA economy is 22 mpg city, 30 highway.

The variable-assist power steering felt precise and the handling fairly nimble around town and in sweeping highway curves. Pushing it hard in tighter turns, however, revealed typical front-drive understeer or (as stock car racers put it) push toward the outside, especially under power. Ride on most surfaces was surprisingly good for a car this size.

Did I mention that this is a small car, about the same overall length and 3.2 inches shorter in wheelbase than a subcompact Chevrolet Cavalier sedan? While it looks larger than that on the outside, it is fairly small on the inside. Front seat travel provides plenty of legroom in front, but, with rear-seat legroom (measured with the front seats full back) nearly two inches shorter than a Cavalier sedan’s, you wouldn’t want to sit behind a long-legged driver for long.

The rear seat cushions fold forward and the seatbacks down (once the headrests are removed) to provide a flat, nicely carpeted floor for up to 68.1 cubic feet of cargo.

Unlike some lesser cars this size, the V40 impressed as solid, quiet, rattle-free and tightly screwed together, with premium materials and a high-quality look and feel throughout. The only exception we noted was the tailgate’s somewhat tinny sound when slammed closed.

Also, as nice as it is in nearly every way, there are a few small ergonomic glitches and disappointments. The radio has a couple of slick knobs for choosing the sound source (AM, FM, tape or CD) and pre-setting up to 20 stations, but no way to tune in a specific station. Electronic seek and scan annoyingly skip that slightly weaker station you really want and know is there.

Also, unlike most systems we’re used to, the Volvo’s stereo doesn’t default to radio when your CD or tape is ejected; you have to reach down and manually select what you want.

Cruise control reset requires an awkward rearward thumb motion instead of the easy forward flick of most other stalk-mounted systems. There’s only one 12-volt accessory plug, so you need a clunky splitter to power two items at once, and that single plug is de-powered with the ignition off-you can’t charge your phone while away from the car and must re-start powered accessories each time you stop and restart the engine.

Some (including me) have long believed that Volvo’s reputation for safety was perhaps half reality, half hype, since all cars have to meet the same test standards. But I must admit that the load of safety gear on this small car nearly boggles the mind: dual-stage smart front air bags, Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) with side air bags and Inflatable Curtain (IC), Whiplash Protection Seating System (WHIPS), pyrotechnic front seatbelt pre-tensioners (small explosive charges that snug up loose belts on impact), ISO-FIX child safety seat attachments and (like all GM, VW and SAAB products) daytime running lights.

Volvo says its buyers perceive the V40 as a sedan with a long roof and not as a traditional wagon. Maybe so, but perception is in the eye of the beholder. It is definitely a small wagon to the rest of us, and a very nice but expensive one at that. (www.volvocars.com)

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