Volvo S40 Drive review:

Volvo S40 Drive

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Typical Price: £17,995.00
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Excellent fuel economy; low CO2 emissions; great handling.

The Bad Questionable NOx and SOx emissions; relatively pricey.

The Bottom Line The Volvo S40 Drive is cheap to run and more environmentally friendly than you might expect, given its diesel engine. It's also surprisingly fun to drive.

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7.5 Overall

Volvo is well known for its excellent work in vehicle safety, but the company isn't as well regarded when it comes to environmentally friendly motoring. That perception could soon change, however, with the launch of the £17,995 Volvo S40 Drive -- one of a selection of Drive vehicles that promises CO2 emissions of just 99g/km, and exemption from road tax and the London congestion charge.

Slide and ride

The S40 Drive is something of a contradiction. It's marketed as an environmentally friendly vehicle, yet it's powered by a diesel engine -- a type of motor that isn't always regarded as very clean. That's being kind, in fact -- diesels are despised among eco-friendly motorists because they spit out more NOx, SOx and CO2 emissions into our environment than their petrol-powered rivals.

Volvo's tried to reduce engine emissions, however, by making the S40 Drive more aerodynamically efficient, thus reducing the amount of work its engine has to do to get the car moving. The S40 Drive is 10mm lower than the standard S40, has air-flow deflectors moulded into the body ahead of the front wheels, and has a lower lip spoiler at the front, all of which makes it slip through the air more easily. Volvo has also fitted low-rolling-resistance Michelin tyres that glide more smoothly over the surface of the road.

There's plenty of eco-minded wizardry under the bonnet too. The S40 Drive comes with a start-stop system that shuts the engine off when the car is at a standstill, and restarts it again when the clutch is lifted. The company has also optimised the S40 Drive's engine and gearbox-management software to favour fuel economy over performance, and introduced a gear-change indicator on the dashboard that reminds the driver when to shift up a gear.

Volvo has equipped the S40 Drive with eco-friendly electro-hydraulic steering too. This works much like standard hydraulic systems, but uses a pump driven by an electric motor instead of a pump that's belt-driven by the engine.

Sexy figures

Combined, the aforementioned tweaks help reduce the burden on the engine, which increases fuel economy and lowers emissions. The S40 Drive achieves an impressive 74.3mpg, which is on a par with the very best hybrids.

The S40 Drive may have a diesel engine, but its aerodynamic features should help reduce evil emissions.

Its CO2 emissions are low, too. Just 99g of the stuff is emitted per kilometre, meaning the car qualifies for free road tax and is exempt from the London congestion charge. What's less clear is the exact amount of NOx and SOx emissions it produces, compared to its petrol-powered rivals.

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