Volvo V40 thinks outside box

Iain Dooley checks out Volvo's compact holdall – the V40.

Engines – Volvo offered a wide choice of petrol motors for the V40, with horsepower varying from a modest 98 to a heady 226. Predictably, something in the middle should do the trick for everyday tasks. Being a generation behind current cars, the V40's diesel engines might be frugal but they could be quieter.

Exterior – Instantly recognisable as a Volvo, the compact V40 shares much with its close relation the S40. Volvo's designers did a good job of streamlining the V40's loadspace though, and the car is anything but boxy.


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Interior – With its solid construction and clever ergonomic touches, the V40's cabin feels more premium than its asking price suggests. And for a compact estate comparable to, say, Ford's Focus, it's ideal for a growing family on a budget.

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Driving – Volvo never pitched the V40 as a sporting wagon, and its great strengths lie in its ability to safely and securely transport you and your family from A to B in comfort. In petrol form it's something the V40 does well – it goes where you point it and is refined and responsive. Better economy does result in more noise, however, as the Volvo's diesel engines could be quieter.

Ownership – As a compact family workhorse or enhanced hatchback the V40 performs well. It's not too big to park yet its load bay has enough potential to accommodate a surprising amount of stuff. Solidly constructed and refined on the move, the V40 is a competent alternative to the mainstream opposition.

What to look for – Being an estate car, always check a V40's load bay for excessive signs of wear and tear. Soggy rear suspension and a tow bar should have you asking questions, while anything other than a smooth driving experience should have you walking away. Given its age don't expect a full dealer history, although lots of receipts would be a bonus.

Model history – 1996, Volvo introduces S40 and V40 range of compact saloons and estate cars respectively. Wide range of four-cylinder petrol and modest choice of diesel motors offered. Good level of standard kit for a car positioned as a semi-premium alternative to cars from Ford, Vauxhall and the like. 2000 saw revisions inside and out plus improvements to the car's engine line-up.

Reasons to buy – Affordable, well-built alternative to mainstream alternatives, practical loadspace, brand image.

Reasons to beware – Diesel refinement, modest cabin space for adults in the back, won't please keen drivers.

Pick of the range – V40 1.8 SE.

What to pay – 2001 Y �2,900; 2002 02 �3,425; 2003 03 �3,900; 2004 04 �4,450. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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