Classy: The underrated Volvo S40


Lesley Sorrell has a budget of £4,000 to replace a 20-year-old Toyota Carina E automatic, and is looking for something similar which must be automatic, but a saloon rather than a hatchback.

A Car for the Head

Small saloons don't really exist in the UK any more, though they make sense from a security point of view, as the boot denies access to the rest of the car and keeps valuables from prying eyes. But there are some exceptions that fall within Lesley's budget. With the Renault Megane and its bustle-like boot, buyers get a good-value small family car that is cheap to buy and run. Even better, the level of safety equipment is very reassuring. There are better cars, the Ford Focus for instance, but you won't get more for your money. Indeed, £4,000 will buy a very tidy 2008 1.6VVT Expression from a car supermarket. It will have around 50,000 miles and be decently equipped with air-conditioning, cruise control and remote locking.

A Car for the Heart

The Renault Megane is all very well, but something a bit classier might suit Lesley even better, so roll forward the underrated Volvo S40. This was Volvo's first attempt to build a compact executive to compete against the BMW 3 series and Mercedes C-Class and it wasn't half-bad. What Volvo brought to this sector was its traditional virtues of solidity and safety. Not surprisingly it scored four stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests, has an impressive side-impact protection system, a full complement of air bags, seat-belt pre-tensioners and ABS brakes. There is a massive choice here, with at least 10 engines, not including upgrades, and a bewildering combination of trim packages. However, £4,000 will buy a low-mileage, full-service-history 2003 S with leather and air-conditioning.

Looking to buy?

Email James Ruppert at onefortheroad, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.

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