All-new in 2005, the Volvo S40 undergoes only minor upgrades for 2006. On T5 models, the all-wheel-drive system now includes Instant Traction, which allows faster torque distribution to the rear wheels. T5 models equipped with a manual transmission now use a push-down function to engage reverse gear. There is also a T5 Sport Styling Package, including a rear spoiler, skirt kit, sport wheel and shifter knob with aluminum inlays, leather shift boot and unique floor mats. All models receive improved cupholders and new software logic for the rear seatbelt reminder.
The S40 is based on a global platform, also used by the Mazda3 and European Ford Focus; in wagon form, the S40 becomes the V50.
Two engines are available in the S40: a 2.4-litre, inline five-cylinder naturally-aspirated engine in the 2.4i, and a 2.5-litre, inline five-cylinder with a turbocharger in the T5. All-wheel-drive is available on the turbo T5 model; it’s a Haldex electronically-controlled system that delivers most of the power to the front wheels, until the rear wheels lose traction and torque is sent to the rear axle for enhanced traction.
The 2.4i features a five-speed manual gearbox (a five-speed automatic is optional), air conditioning, 16-inch steel wheels, 60/40 folding rear seat, CD player with six speakers, tilt and telescopic wheel, power windows with auto up/down on all, power heated mirrors with integrated turn signals and puddle lights, cruise control, floor mats, rear fog light, and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake distribution and emergency brake assistance.
The T5 turbo adds a close-coupled six-speed manual (the automatic is optional), front fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, folding passenger seat, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter knob, eight speakers, dual-zone automatic climate control, trip computer, and wheel-mounted audio controls. The T5 AWD has the same features, plus traction control, 16-inch black chrome alloy wheels and dynamic chassis tuning.
This being a Volvo, even the base model is packed with safety features: side-impact and curtain airbags, whiplash protection system (WHIPS) front seats, multi-stage airbags with knee pads for driver and passenger, pedestrian protection, collapsible steering column and pedals, and fail-safe engine mountings. There’s even an optional power child lock for the rear doors.
The most noticeable interior feature is a centre console that “floats” in mid-air and glows in the dark. It’s attractive but not very functional; it contains no small-item cubbies, and while there’s a small storage space behind it, it’s difficult to access. The console’s controls are not immediately intuitive and have a bit of a learning curve.
On the road, the handling qualities that make the Mazda3 so much fun to throw around are just as evident, although the ride is definitely on the firm side. Drivers with large feet may find that the small pedals are too closely spaced. Both engines move the small car out very well, and there’s no turbo lag on the T5. Competitors include the Audi A4 and Saab 9-3.
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