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From http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/roadtest/ae_roadtest_story.php?id=44028]Auto Express[/url]

Volvo might have shot themselves in the foot with the latest S40 as it's so good that you have to wonder why you'd opt for the larger S60. Carrying nothing over from the previous S40 the transformation is startling. The first thing you'll notice is the more distinctive styling, Volvo's smallest car now sharing the familiar Volvo shoulder-line and the neat front and rear detailing of the rest of model line-up. Based on a shared platform with parent company Ford, its underpinnings are also used on the Mazda 3, Ford C-Max and 2004's Focus replacement. It also shares many of its engines with Ford too, but its five-cylinder units are unique to Volvo. On the road the S40 is an entirely different drive to its predecessor. The steering is a revelation, it's direct and crisp in feel and decently weighted too. This allied with the Volvo's safe, predictable handling and smooth ride make it an enjoyable drive. Only the clutch takes a bit of time to master, it's prone to snatch, though you soon learn to adapt to this.

Performance from the 2.4-litre petrol engines is deceptive; the S40 so refined you often find yourself driving quicker than you had thought. The 2.0-litre diesel will undoubtedly take the biggest chunk of S40 sales, while smaller 1.8-litre and 1.6-litre petrol units will be offered too as entry-level models. Inside Volvo has been adventurous with the design, it's still neatly laid out and clean cut, but the novel floating backless centre console offers a smart solution to providing more storage space and creating a visual centrepiece too. Legroom in the rear isn't overly generous and the saloon boot opening makes loading some items awkward, but overall the S40 is an attractive, well specified and relatively inexpensive 'premium' rival to the established mainstream norm. If the estate and cross-over 4x4 based on the same platform are as impressive Volvo can expect to rise up the sales charts.
 
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