In 1995, Volvo introduced its new model for the compact executive car class, the Volvo S40, to replace the ageing Volvo 440. The styling on the new S40 departed from Volvo’s traditional boxy exterior and opted for the curved and clean lines trending with automakers during this time. Although the body exterior was updated, the familiar grille and badge were incorporated announcing that this was a Volvo, in a new package but still adhering to their commitment of providing the safest cars with high regard to environmental standards.
Initially launched as the S4, this designation was already being used by Audi on their sports model, so Volvo renamed it as the S40. The S40 was a direct competitor to the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 but was priced less and was more practical in terms of space and comfort.
First Generation S40, 1995-2000 (Phase I)
The S40 entered the market as the 1996 model year. Volvo and Mitsubishi built it in the Netherlands as a joint venture, with the S40 sharing the same platform as the Mitsubishi Carisma. In 1997, the S40 was the first-ever car to be rated four stars by the Euro-NCAP (New Car Assessment Program).
Volvo initially marketed the S40 in two petrol engine versions – the 1.8L (85kW, 165N⋅m) and the 2.0L (103kW, 183N⋅m).
In 1996, a diesel version was added to the line – a 1.9D engine that produced 66kW and 176N⋅m of torque. Also, during this year, the 1.6L petrol producing 77kW and 143N⋅m of torque became an option.
From 1998, three more petrol variants joined the range. The additional petrol options were the 1.8i (92kW/ 174N⋅m), the 2.0T low-pressure turbocharged (118kW/ 23N⋅m) and the 1.9 T4 high-pressure turbocharged (147kW/ 300N⋅m) engines. The following year, a fine-tuned 1.9D came with stepped-up outputs of 70kW and 190N⋅m of torque. Finally, in 1999, the S40 arrived in the North American marketplace badged as the 1.9T.
First Generation S40, 2000-2004 (Phase II)
The year 2000 saw the implementation of numerous technical improvements and a few cosmetic upgrades for the S40. A new front suspension, improved rear suspension, upgraded engine management system, larger brake discs and other modern safety features were incorporated. These models were recognizable by the redesigned front wing and bumper, side-marker lights, double lens headlights and new taillights. The interior received a new centre console with newly-styled controls for air conditioning and stereo.
The 1.8i petrol was still being offered in this model together with the 2.0L. The 2.0T was now upgraded to produce 120kW of power with 240N⋅m torque and then further tuned in 2003 to rate at 127kW with still 240N⋅m of torque. The 1.9 T4 became available from 2001 to 2003 with an increased displacement of 1,948cc from the previous 1,855cc.
Two new versions of 1.9D diesel engines were now available – one producing 85kW with 265N⋅m of torque and the other rated at 75kW with 215N⋅m.
Second Generation S40, 2004-2007 (Pre-facelift)
Volvo undertook the entire production of the second-generation S40 using the P1 platform in its factory in Belgium. The S40, now classed as a subcompact executive car, retained its roomy cabin and featured a deeper boot than other vehicles in its class. In 2004, it received the highest rating from the Australasian NCAP. Likewise, the Euro NCAP also gave it 5-stars for the safety of adult occupants and 4-stars for child occupants.
Petrol engines were the 1.6L (74kW/ 150N⋅m), 1.8L (92kW/ 165N⋅m), 2.0L (107kW/ 185N⋅m), 2.4L (125kW/ 230N⋅m) and the T5 (162 kW/ 320N⋅m). The T5 option was available in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configuration.
Diesel-powered cars came with a few choices. One was the 1.6 DRIVe (80kW/ 240N⋅m) that produced lower carbon dioxide levels than the base engine. The other diesel options were the 1.6L D2 (84kW/ 270N⋅m) and the 2.0L D4 (130kW/ 400N⋅m).
Second Generation S40, 2007-2012 (Facelift)
The S40 was given a facelift in 2007. Additional safety features were added which included the emergency brake lights flashing during hard braking, the Blind Spot Information System or BLIS (optional) and active bi-xenon headlights. The distinctive Volvo grille and logo were now more pronounced in this new design.
The top performance model T5 received a new engine now rated at 169kW. In 2010, the 1.6L now produced 110kW with 195N⋅m of torque. A Flexi-fuel variant running on either petrol or ethanol was also available in some markets as the 2.0F (107kW/ 185N⋅m).
The diesel options remained available but with the addition of the 2.0L D3 (110kW/ 350N⋅m). Also introduced was the 2.4L D5 (132kW/ 350N⋅m) which was available in either manual or automatic transmissions.
Production of the S40 ended in 2012 but continued to be sold in the used car market and is still a practical option due to its price, comfort, and durability.