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> Volvo S40 2.4i - 4 Years Of Ownership Experience
toffee
post Jun 11 2009, 09:57 AM
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Come 30 June, I will be celebrating 4 years of meaningful ownership experience with my Volvo S40 2.4i.

4 years is not a short period of time; its actually one Olympic cycle and also one soccer World Cup cycle. A newborn will be on the way to pre-school after 4 years. Having said that, it was as if yesterday that I went to Federal Auto to collect my car keys.

At that point, my wife was toying between the BMW 1 series and Volvo S40. In the end, we decided on S40 becos:

(1) The legroom for the 1 series was pathetic. I hardly can sit comfortably at the backseat !

(2) The 1 series looked good in the picture but somehow the long bonnet with hatchback seems to put the car in a disproportionate shape. Unlike the S40, the physical look was a marked improvement from the old S40 ie more streamline.

(3) Federal Auto offered an irresistible proposition - 140,000km free regular maintenance without time limit. This means I will get free service for 7 years (the expected holding period for cars I owned) assuming an average of 20,000km usage annually. Such offer is likely to offset the notorious high maintenance cost of Volvos.

So after 4 years, before I conclude whether I made the right call in making the leap of faith on the Volvo brand, let's look at the my ownership experience thus far. Ownership experience in my mind comes in a package. I do not look at the performance and ownership cost of the car alone, but also the after sales support from Volvo Malaysia and the dealers like Federal Auto and Swedish Marque.

Performance

For the record, the figures look impressive; the engine supposed to churn out 170hp and 230nm of torque.A statistics not many Japanese sedans that are available in Malaysia can match. 170hp also means its better than the overpriced BMW 320i which only churns out mere 150hp. And facts and figures aside, I have mixed feelings as far as this area is concern. It could be that I was spoilt by the BMW 325 Sports which is of a different class in terms of speed, pick up and responsiveness. This is definitely a smooth cruiser in the North South Highway - smooth engine sound and quiet (This only happened after I changed my original Continental tyres to Michelin Pilot Preceda 2!) ride.

However, if you are to put the Volvo to test in Genting or Cameron Highlands, the engine seems to 'complain' as if you are putting it on a 'stress test'. It no longer purrs but more of howling. Nevertheless, it will still pull the carriage up fairly well outperforming many Jap cars I have tried before. While pick up is above average but I am not convinced the official 0-100kmh stats of 8.9 seconds is realistic.

The car seems to give me the impression that whenever you floor the pedal, the car will question you 'are u sure u r doin this' but it will not let you down as it will eventually deliver the speed and pick up.

Fuel consumption

I was not sure about the official statistics. But the car consistently delivers around 12 to 13 litres/100km for pure city use. This is with my driver occasionally kept the engine on while waiting for me. As for highway run, if one keeps to a constant speed of 110 kmh, 8 litres/100km is highly achievable. But struggles to go below 8. My best run surprisingly comes from my BMW E46 325 a couple of years back at 6.9 litres/100km. But nevertheless no complains for me vis a vis the fuel consumption


Comfort and ride quality

As always, a kid's feedback is always pure and frank. Between the BMW and Volvo, my two year + old son will always prefer the Volvo and when asked why, he always say 'seat soft soft'. Even my father who sits at the back most of the time feel that the ergonomics of the car door is excellent as it allows ease of entry and exit from the car. In general, the S40 wins in this area as it is designed mainly for family use, although I do feel the legroom at the back could be improved a little bit. Nevertheless, for a compact executive, what more can one ask for. :-P

One more thing to say is that the child friendly features are excellent. Eg, the isofix hook is designed nicely where it is deep enough so that it does not affect the comfort of the car seat and at the same time it is at a position where you can easily fix the child seat to the hook. Most cars nowadays have Isofix feature but it does not necessarily mean that it is user friendly.

Maintenance and built quality


Maintenance cost has always been the Achilles Heel of Volvo. When I asked Volvo dealers why is that so. They often attribute to that for a start, the brand does not have economies of scale to reduce cost. As a result, most parts come from Europe rather than Asia, hence it is likely to be pricier.

In any case, due to the benefit of free scheduled maintenance, my maintenance cost over the last 4 years have been fairly manageable. But of course, one can't help but to 'experience' the high maintenance cost within this 4 years. Once I sent the car to rectify the air condition problem and also to replace the brake pads, it actually set me back slightly over RM5,000++.

As for built quality, it could be better given that Volvo is a premium brand. The blowing of hot air in the air conditioner and engine management lighted up are examples where such problems should not arise during the first few years of the car's lifespan.

Three other things to watch out for are the battery, remote key battery and gearbox fluid.

(1) Battery - When I first received the car, I was surprised the factory install normal rather than maintenance free batteries, which is often a standard equipment for many premium marques. Even then, the maintenance free battery which I replace with after one year lasted only slightly over 13-14 months. I could not understand why as I have never (believe me !) replaced any of the maintenance free battery in all the BMW models I have owned so far. One possible explanation as I understand from the Autoworld forum is that BMW designs the battery to be located away from the engine, hence insulate the battery from accelerated wear and tear arising for the heat in the engine compartment.

(2) Remote key battery - For a start, I have a complaint on Federal Auto as they claimed that they dun keep inventory for the remote key battery - something not acceptable for an authorised dealer like Federal Auto.A word of caution on this item is that the contact is very sensitive. Since replacing the battery, one of my remote is not working that well due to contact problems.

(3) Gearbox fluid - Just like BMW, Volvo claimed lifetime warranty for the gearbox fluid BUT never define what is 'lifetime'. I guess they mean that assuming the average lifespan of a gearbox is approx 150-160,000km, one does not really need to replace the fluid during the lifespan of the gearbox. But due to kiasuness, I actually requested the change at 60,000km interval. Surprise surprise, it does not cost much, only around RM500++. I thought it is indeed worth it to get the peace of mind.

Overall, the maintenance cost for Volvo is indeed high. Based on experience, its higher even if compared to BMWs. Stuffs like brake pads, wipers are expensive. However, luckily we have independent suppliers whom we can buy non engine related parts from. Parts like original wipers cost about 50% of what Federal Auto quoted.

Resale value

Volvo is really an underachiever in this area. I look the papers today and note that a 2005 S40 is going at best RM95K - a loss of a staggering RM90K ! This could also attribute by the fact that Volvo Malaysia reduced the S40 price to RM169K sometime in 2007/8, and put a further dent to the resale value of S40s. Frankly, I am disappointed with Volvo for doing so as it does not take into consideration the needs of the loyal customers that they already had. A bird in the hand theory does not seem to be the volcabulory of Volvo's marketing team.

Nevertheless, the absolute loss is still not that bad due to low entry cost aka purchase price. A typical BMW 325 cost originally say RM270K but a 4 year old one would only fetch around RM165-170K. Hence, the absloute loss to the owner remains very high although the percentage loss is lower per year.

After sale services

I normally deal with Federal Auto (FA) as I have the 'service contract' with them. Overall, service level remained average at best. Most of the time I find the service advisor merely 'doing their job'and passion for the car or the work seems distinctively lacking. Generally, they are not quite communicative and sometimes find it hard to understand why certain parts need to be replaced. They always tell you after doing the diagnostic test based on their maintenance software, this part needs to change. Hmmmph, not so convincing.

Besides, I decided not to use them for insurance as well becos they want to charge 2% if I use credit card to pay; something unheard of even when one deals with the insurance companies direct or AAM. Seems to me FA is very very calculative on that score.

In conclusion

So what does that mean in the end? I adore my Volvo S40 for:

1. Its streamlined looks
2. Soft and quiet ride which is ideal for a family car
3. The sound quality of the entertainment system
4. The heavy door that gives the sense of security
5. Safe car to have cos car jackers are not known to cari pasal with Volvos

BUT I am a little wee disappointed with its:

1. Pick up. With 8.9 seconds on the stats I thought it could do better
2. Maintenance cost. This is something that keeps me awake as the car ages
3. Rear leg room
4. That Volvo Malaysia reduced the price at the expense of its loyal customers

So, the question remains, would I buy another Volvo again? Well, the acceleration is not great, the marque does not make heads turn and one may be miscontrued as boring for owning a Volvo. Its definitely does not have the snob appeal. But what the hell I care since it gives comfort and sense of security to my family. It also seems to be reliable and finally it is a car that I thought gives a good overall package and value for money. Yes, I would consider Volvo again perhaps the XC60 if they offer a smaller cc variant and provided Volvo is not SOLD to some Chinese car manufacturer !
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CnTG
post Jun 11 2009, 11:51 AM
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Thanks for the great write-up. Appreciate ur efforts in sharing ur experience w us.

Can i ask u to elaborate about the rm5k repair bill?

Thanks smile.gif

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andrewlim8
post Jun 11 2009, 03:51 PM
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toffee,

Thanks for sharing !

Actually u can easily get the Energizer battery for the car remote control at any departmental store, RM8 only.

For changing ATF, I done mine at a volvo specialist , costs only around RM270.

Car battery, 1st change after 18 months of usage, but now already 23th months, it seems to be still ok.

Brake pad , bought original from spare part shop RM650,(in facts can use TRW brand instead which is OEM for Volvo RM380)changed it at outside workshop, RM40.
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V406198
post Jun 12 2009, 06:36 PM
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QUOTE (andrewlim8 @ Jun 11 2009, 03:51 PM) *
toffee,

Thanks for sharing !

Actually u can easily get the Energizer battery for the car remote control at any departmental store, RM8 only.

For changing ATF, I done mine at a volvo specialist , costs only around RM270.

Car battery, 1st change after 18 months of usage, but now already 23th months, it seems to be still ok.

Brake pad , bought original from spare part shop RM650,(in facts can use TRW brand instead which is OEM for Volvo RM380)changed it at outside workshop, RM40.


Awesome write up !! if the you can further lower down the maintenance cost with outside independence parts supplier & workshops after your contract with FA are over then your ownership with this S402.4i will be more affordable...


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ARR
post Jun 13 2009, 08:57 PM
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Thanks for the great experience shared to us. Very usefull info for newbie to volvo like me. Thanks again..Bravo..


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fadli15
post Jun 16 2009, 11:22 AM
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Great insights!! Thanks Toffee....

But the RM5K bill for aircond repair is something shaking my leg at the moment. Care to elaborate please. Touch wood!
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razibar
post Oct 6 2009, 03:14 PM
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Tofee,

Glad that you enjoy your ride.
When you mentioned that you managed to get that 140K km free regular service. Was the agreement made on paper with detaosl terms and conditions or just a little small not signed by the big boss.? You should have pushed for free extended warranty.


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2004 Volvo S40 2.4i Safari Green
2013 BMW 328i M Sport, Alphine White/Black
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nazirmz
post Oct 19 2009, 07:08 PM
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great write-up toffee. Enjoyed reading an honest review about Volvo cars. At least those who are planning to venture into volvo's territory for the first time knows what to expect from it.

I'll always dream of owning a volvo but the demands and practicality of my lifestyle today dictates that I should and could only drive a japanese car. Maybe when I'm 55, when I have all the time and money to spend on a "volvo".....


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Balee
post Oct 20 2009, 12:36 PM
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Great write-up. Balanced view. Very informative.

Though I have no intention of getting a Volvo (more so now since the high maintenance is confirmed - by an owner) it is still very useful. I'm surprised though that the 8.9 sec century sprint is not achievable considering S40 is a petite car endowed with a big engine.
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toffee
post Dec 24 2009, 08:26 AM
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The 140km free services was formalised with them giving me coupons (duly signed) for me to exchange when come for service.

I think 8.9sec not achievable, afterall Volvo engines not designed to 'race' I think
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