Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2003 Volvo S40 Overview
Affordable, Safe and Fun
The S40 is Volvo's entry-level sedan. Priced in the low to mid $20K range, the S40 offers buyers a way to surround their families with a quality product renowned for its safety, reliability and comfort without breaking the bank. The S40 is uniquely positioned to challenge a number of competitors from different market segments. You could cross shop everything from a VW Jetta to an Audi A4 to a Subaru Legacy and still remain within the S40's price and content spectrum.
When it came time to decide on the S40's appearance, Volvo wisely chose to mirror the stand-out styling of the larger S60 and S80 sedans. The S40 employs the same rounded edges and wedge shape that has become the new calling card of the Volvo line; it is this strong family resemblance that gives the S40 a leg up over some of its more subdued rivals. There are some features you won't find on the S40, including a manual transmission and the option of all-wheel drive. Then again, not many of the S40's competitors offer such standard features as dual front airbags, side impact airbags, an inflatable side-curtain airbag and front seat headrests that are specially designed to prevent whiplash to the driver and passenger in the event of a rear-end collision.
For 2003, Volvo improves an already good value by adding to the S40's lengthy standard equipment list. A leather-wrapped steering wheel, in-dash CD player and body-color side moldings join an already ample stock that includes power windows, power door locks, automatic air conditioning, 4-wheel disc brakes, remote locking, cruise control, tilt telescoping steering wheel and a 5 speed automatic transmission. Add on the optional sport package and your S40 gets a bit more racy with blackout trim, 10-spoke alloy wheels, fog lights and a rear spoiler.
Driving the S40, you'll likely find the car's handling to be quick and precise, though you may find the little Volvo has a tendency to understeer when pushed hard into curves, a common affliction of most front-wheel drive cars. The S40's suspension is tuned more for comfort than performance and its narrow 15-inch tires howl loudly when pushed into sharp curves at speeds above 35 mph. Opting for the sport package improves the S40's handling dramatically, as does the optional Dynamic Stability Assist system (traction control in layman's terms.)
The S40's 1.9-liter light-pressure turbo engine has been improved this year with the addition of 10 horsepower, bringing the net output to 170; this engine provides good power and can pull strongly from a standing start as well as at passing speeds. The little four-cylinder engine can actually outperform some smaller V6s yet still manage to return very respectable fuel mileage figures. Credit must also be given to the S40's smooth-shifting adaptive 5-speed automatic transmission that has the ability to learn your driving patterns and better adapt the S40's performance to your style of driving.
From the driver seat, you'll find an unobstructed view of the road and the surrounding area-thanks to the S40's extensive use of glass and slim side pillars. The interior itself is well laid out, with the center dash panel angled slightly toward the driver, placing the radio and heating controls within easy reach. The S40's interior colors are a bit subdued, but at least the vast expanses of gray plastic are of the highest quality and you can add wood accents to the dash and door panels by ordering the leather package. You'll likely find the front bucket seats to be firm and supportive, though some may find them a bit too narrow in the seat. Interior room is not the S40's strongest offering, especially in the rear seat, where legroom is tight. On the other hand, the front seats do provide excellent head and legroom and the spacious trunk can accommodate loads of luggage, groceries or golf bags; the rear seats fold down to further increase cargo capacity.
Though the S40 comes fairly loaded, you can personalize your car with a long list of options including leather interior, six-disc CD changer, an integrated child booster seat, power driver's seat, heated front seats, headlight washers and a power glass moonroof.