Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2011 Volvo S40 If...
If you’re looking for a premium compact sedan loaded with features at a very modest price, spend some time behind the wheel of a 2011 Volvo S40. With its Whiplash Protection System and other safety features, the Volvo S40 will appeal to your need for security, as well.
You May Not Like The 2011 Volvo S40 If...
If you need all-wheel drive, a backseat large enough to fit two adults or the hands-on driving experience that can only be had with a manual transmission, the 2011 Volvo S40 probably won’t make your top 10 list.
For 2011, Volvo has discontinued the base S40 2.4i model and dropped the manual transmission and all-wheel-drive option. The T5 becomes the entry-level S40 while the R-Design remains the top-of-the-line offering.
True to the long-established school of Scandinavian design, the 2011 Volvo S40’s interior is modern yet minimalistic. It includes Volvo’s signature ultra-slim waterfall center stack, which is attractive but prohibits the installation of an aftermarket audio system. Volvo’s ergonomically designed front seats provide plenty of comfort and support on long drives, but the rear seat is cramped for two adults, especially if the front seats are in their rear-most positions. T-Tec fabric seating is standard on the base Volvo S40 T5. The Volvo S40 R-Design’s vividly contrasting white and black seats are striking. An all-black leather package is optional. We like the Volvo S40’s easy-to-read gauges, but some of the smaller controls on the floating console are difficult to operate.
Once heralded as the new face of Volvo, the aging S40 design now looks a bit conservative, especially when compared to the newest members of the Volvo family, the sleek S60 Sedan and XC60 Crossover. Still, the 2011 Volvo S40 is a handsome vehicle. It’s fitted with Volvo’s signature grille design, V-shaped hood, and body-contouring tail lights. The S40’s body follows what Volvo calls Intelligent Vehicle Architecture, which includes "extremely rigid" cross members for better side-impact protection.
Despite being quiet and refined, the 2011 Volvo S40 T5 is a lively performer. While we found the smooth-shifting five-speed Geartronic automatic transmission adeptly handled the engine’s power, the manual shift mode is not as quick or as fun to drive as a manual transmission. The Volvo S40 T5 is as at home dashing through mountain curves as it is darting in and out of city traffic. The Volvo S40 T5’s steering yields sharp, reasonably quick responses and the suspension strikes a comfortable blend of sporty and smooth. Those seeking a more-spirited driving experience should opt for the Volvo S40 R-Design, which has a stiffer suspension and a more-aggressive wheel and tire package.
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2011 Volvo S40 ranges from just over $28,500 for the base S40 T5 to about $39,000 for a fully loaded S40 R-Design. The 2011 Volvo S40 competes evenly with the Audi A3 and Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and, when comparably equipped, Lexus IS. A look at the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price shows the actual transaction price customers are paying in your area, so be sure to check it out before you begin negotiations. Although the 2011 Volvo S40 is projected to hold respectable values over a five-year period, it still trails the Lexus IS and Audi A3 in expected long-term residual values.
Both the base 2011 Volvo S40 T5 and Volvo S40 R-Design feature a 227-horsepower, 2.5-liter, turbocharged, five-cylinder engine coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. Other standards include fog lamps, eight-way power driver’s seat, keyless remote entry, heated power mirrors and 17-inch alloy wheels. The audio system includes HD Radio, a single CD changer, a USB/iPod interface and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity. Upgrading to the Volvo S40 R-Design adds a body and trim kit, sport suspension, leather seating surfaces, a power passenger seat and a power moonroof.
Popular options are mostly bundled into packages. The Climate Package provides heated seats, headlamp washers, an air filtration system, automatic climate control and rain-sensing wipers. The Multimedia Package adds a 650-watt Dynaudio 10-speaker Surround Sound system, HDD Navigation, Real Time Traffic and two map updates. A power moonroof, power passenger seat, and leather seating surfaces are part of the Preferred Package. The Blind Spot Information System and rear park assist are stand-alone options.
Multimedia PackageVolvo’s premium audio system sounds and looks fantastic. From the floating center console that houses the radio controls, to the hidden navigation screen that rises up from the dash, the Volvo S40’s Multimedia package is well worth the $2,000 asking price.Dynamic Sport SuspensionThe Volvo S40’s R-Design’s sport suspension boosts handling capabilities without extracting a significant penalty in ride comfort.
Under the Hood
The Volvo S40’s turbocharged 2.5-liter engine pumps out 227 horsepower, runs on regular gas and can go 30 miles on a single gallon of gasoline. The five-cylinder design transmits a bit of vibration and there is lack of low-end torque until the turbo kicks in. Enthusiasts will pine for more power, but they’re unlikely to purchase a Volvo S40.2.5-liter in-line 5 turbo227 horsepower @ 5000 rpm236 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1500-5000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/30
There are plenty of compact sport sedans on the market. Some try to win over customers by offering high-end features at a bargain price. Others entice buyers with a combination of European styling, handling and craftsmanship. One car that manages to do both is the 2011 Volvo S40. The 2011 Volvo S40 boasts a 227-horsepower turbocharged engine and long list of standard and available features. While not as polished as an Audi A3 or Lexus IS 250, the Volvo S40 is a viable competitor with either car, thanks to its balance of performance, economy and affordability.