VOLVO caused quite a stir in 2004 with its new S40 range. It looked so different to anything else and, mindful of the custom of Scandinavians to excel in modern yet simple designs, the real coup de grace was the elegant, flowing facia centre stack housing the audio and air-conditioning controls.
Seat comfort, especially for the driver, is very important to Volvo engineers, as well as maintaining the tradition of high safety levels.
Only two versions were introduced initially – a 2,4-litre and a 2,5-litre T5, both five-cylinder petrol units, with turbocharging on the T5. Luggage space is not great at 256 dm³ to 800 dm³. Later in the same year, the attractive V50 station wagon was released.
This has a fully-flat load bay and offers luggage volumes of 256 dm³ to 1 056 dm³. Note that a space-saver spare is optional, allowing for a lower floor and more space. In 2005 the 2,0-litre diesel arrived, to be followed by the 1,8i petrol in 2006.
This was replaced by a 2,0 later the same year. Power and torque outputs for the petrol engines (1,8i, 2,0, 2,4i, T5) are 92/165, 107/185, 125/230 and 162/320, respectively. The 2,0D has 100 kW and 320 N.m. A D5 model was later added to the V50 range, sporting a 2,4-litre, fivecylinder turbodiesel offering 132 kW and 350 N.m.
Gearboxes are five-speed manual (six for the diesel and T5) or five-speed Geartronic, although a double-clutch transmission as used on some Ford Focus models has now been added to the 2,0 and 2,0D on both the S40 and V50. Having sampled this gearbox on a TDCi Focus, I can say that it is a pleasure to use.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR ENGINES
The five-cylinder engines are transversely mounted, made possible by tight packaging of the ancillary equipment. This does mean that access will be tricky, however.
Reports received included a minor oil leak from a rocker cover that was fixed under warranty on a 2,0D, while one 1,8i used oil and had a few engine light illuminations.
Another vehicle had a warning of “reduced engine power”. An engine check light on a T5 led to the dealer having to replace the fuel pump. Cam-belt changes are scheduled after a lengthy 160 000 km.
A number of 2,0D owners mentioned having to replace clutches and sometimes the flywheels were warped and had to be replaced as well.
These were mainly V50 owners, but there is no obvious explanation why this should be.
One clutch failed at only 30 000 km, but was replaced under warranty, which is a point worth mentioning as some manufacturers exclude friction materials from their warranties due to the uncertainty of the owner’s driving style and possible abuse.
SUSPENSION, BRAKES AND WHEELS
Some brake squeaks when reversing caused concern to a couple of sensitive owners and a few premature disc wear issues came down to incorrect pad material composition.
The start switch/steering wheel lock gave hassles on two cars, which seems to be an electrical signal problem that may require replacement of the mechanism. The warning display might say “steering failure” or “steering locked”. Note that the steering is electro-hydraulic.
There was one report of power windows and temperature control not always working, no doubt a connector contact problem. An ignition key gave trouble due to a problem with the microchip encoding.
The ignition key slot to the left of the steering wheel was not much liked and one loose interior mirror was sorted out under warranty. A few complained that the boot was too small.
One owner complained of sunroof rattles – something that affl icts quite a few manufacturers. A 2,4i owner mentioned window rattles over bumps.
One unhappy owner of a brand new 2,4i had a fuel pipe come loose, spewing fuel everywhere. A hose was replaced. Also on his list were an air-con/heat malfunction and a defective child lock.
Bear in mind that resale values are lower than for the “volume” brands. A couple of owners had poor servicing experiences but most were happy. It looks like it pays to choose your dealer by word of mouth rather than by proximity to your home.
Lots of positive responses were noted, so the hassles mentioned here are minority issues. Most contented customers do not comment on, or even acknowledge, their satisfaction, rather than simply telling their friends.
Chances are that they will purchase another similar vehicle, rewarding the company for the pleasant ownership experience. This is true for any brand – happy customers return, unhappy ones look elsewhere.
On that note, Volvo has informed us that in order to re-connect with owners whose cars are out of the warranty period and maintenance plan, a R500 voucher will be offered for any full service to be redeemed at any Volvo dealership.
For more information contact Volvo Car South Africa on 0860volvos.
TOPICAL TIPS ON BUYING USED
With so many makes and models from which to choose, how people achieve this tricky task is a mystery.
Which brand is usually a personal choice based on past experiences. Size is down to family, commuting, off-road or fuel economy needs, while the chances are that if you fancy a particular colour you may be disappointed unless you are in no rush and can wait until the preferred model appears.
A couple of pointers regarding engines and gearboxes might help, though.
In general, an automatic car will have an easier life than a manual and a clutch will usually require replacement before an auto ‘box gives trouble. A larger-capacity engine works less strenuously than a smaller one so will usually last longer.
Of course, you may have to spend more at the pumps, but this must be weighed-up against overhaul costs. Some will go as far as preferring to live with a lazy American V8 that will potter along for a lifetime but will cost you a couple of thousand more in fuel per year than a small engine, rather than opt for a tired four-cylinder that might need a R25 000 overhaul some time soon.
If your bigger engine used 5 litres/100 km more, you could still travel 60 000 km before you have used that R25 000, a distance that could allow you three to four years of driving.