FLUSHED with success in various motoring award contests, Volvo’s S40 is currently on a high. One of the three finalists for World Car of the Year, the car has also been voted the Best Compact Saloon in CAR’s Top 12 Best Buys for 2005, and named South Africa’s Car of the Year by the SAGMJ. From the end of May, the model’s line-up will be increased (locally, for the first time) with the addition of a dieselengined version, featuring a 2,0-litre turbocharged and intercooled fourcylinder mated with a six-speed manual gearbox. (A Geartronic autobox will be available later.)

Not surprisingly, the engine features many of the current innovations in diesel engine technology. It is even less of a surprise when you learn that the engine was developed with the benefit of expertise gleaned from mother company Ford’s joint engine development programme with Peugeot, who are acknowledged leaders in the field. Displacing 1 998 cm3, the iron block/alloy sump engine has a near “square” bore/stroke ratio and operates with an 18,5:1 compression ratio. Twin overhead cams with roller followers control two inlet and two exhaust valves per cylinder, with clearances hydraulically adjusted. The camshafts are hollow, for reduced weight, and are constructed of separate components rather than ground from a billet. Two separate inlet channels with different lengths and geometry optimise swirl.

A second-generation Siemens common rail injection system utilising piezo-electrical injectors delivers a number of injections during each combustion cycle, which results in better combustion, improved fuel economy, lower noise and reduced emissions. The prime and main injections of each combustion action are adaptively timed to discharge a precise amount of fuel according to engine load conditions, providing engine speeds are not in excess of 3 000 r/min at full load, or 4 000 at low load, above which there is insufficient time for two injections. The Garrett turbocharger features a variable nozzle turbine and, forcing the charge air through an intercooler, helps produce peaks of 100 kW at 4 000 r/min, and 320 N.m of torque at 2 000, with an overboost providing an additional 20 N.m for full bore take-offs.

On paper, then, a competitive sounding engine, but does it live up to expectations? With the STC stability and traction control switched out, we achieved a zero to 100 km/h time of 9,72 seconds, passed the kilometre marker in 30,88 seconds at 171,6 km/h, and went on to a top speed of 206 km/h (in 5th gear), which are figures close to the manufacturer’s claims, and on par with the best of the S40’s rivals. Significantly, though, so is the fuel consumption. CAR’s fuel index works out at 9,72 litres/100 km, which is up there with the best in class, and attributable in part to the high gearing, which has the top three ratios at less than 1:1.

It is worth noting that the exhaust system’s particulate filter operates together with an additive that is fed into the fuel, requiring the filter to be cleaned or replaced, and the additive topped up, every 100 000 to 120 000 km.

So, no quibbling with the 2,0D’s engine, performance and economy. For some strange reason, at low revs the engine sounds a bit oldfashioned rattly, but it is a well insulated and smooth running unit with none of the usual faint diesel vibrations entering the cabin that one can usually detect through the steering wheel or pedals.

As we expressed in our test of the petrol-engined 2,4i in July 2004, there is a lot to admire about the S40, although there was a suggestion that the car’s excellent dynamics had been blunted just a tad by the installation of the turbodiesel. However, it remains a highly rewarding car to drive.

Test summary

Like the five-cylinder petrolengined derivatives, the S40 oilburner is very well specced and competitively priced in its class. The 2,0D comes across as a highly competent and frugal premium compact saloon that will broaden the S40’s appeal at a time when two of its biggest rivals – the new Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series – are reaching the market with envious eyes on Volvo’s trophy cabinet…