Swede relief It looks like a Volvo S60 - or does it? Volvo's new S40 is slightly smaller, fitting just below a BMW 3-Series while the S60 slots in above - and there are many detail design differences. Top versions have five-cylinder engines much like the S60's, but this more compact range includes several four-cylinder engines, both petrol and diesel, which extend down to entry-level 1.6s. Crucially, though, the S40 is based on Ford's C1 platform, derived from the current Focus, which also underpins the next Focus, the Focus C-MAX and the Mazda 3. Volvo calls it P1 (for Premium), and former Ford product development chief Martin Leach has said that the cars all feel more different from each other than they might have done if developed on unique platforms - because each brand has tried so hard to inject its own dynamic fingerprint. Certain traits stay intact, though, as we shall see. The other main point of interest is the S40's interior, representing a new take on upmarket surroundings. Its centrepiece is the 'floating' centre console, inspired variously by a famous bent-wood chair by Arne Jacobsen, by Palm Pilots and by Bang & Olufsen remote controls. Thin, like a flat-screen TV, the console has nothing but empty space behind it and a so-called IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System) within it. The top model is the T5, which is less muscular than some other Volvo T5s with 220bhp from its 2.5-litreengine. This, a 170bhp 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated five-pot and a 2.0-litre turbodiesel four, will all be offered from the February UK on-sale date. A 1.8 petrol follows soon after, and two 1.6s - one petrol, one diesel - complete the range at the end of 2004. There will also be some bi-fuel engines. Volvo's previous S40 continues to be built at Born, Holland until spring 2004, and its demise after that signals the end of Volvo's Dutch connection which began with DAF. The new S40 and its forthcoming V50 estate version, which share nothing at all with their predecessors, are to be built in Ghent, Belgium. Prices from £16,000 approx. On sale February 2004 No version or price information available. SUMMARY: For: Attractive and innovative cabin, crisp, enjoyable steering and handling, smooth five-cylinder engines, sophisticated safety features Against: Occasional transmission snatch, and that's about it Sum-up: Volvo's current style is sporty and sculptural. Now it's blended with a great interior, the expected safety virtues and the best handling a Volvo has ever had to make a very appealing package. ------------------------------------------------------- Pininfarina and Volvo Car Corporation establish joint venture in Sweden 22 Sep 2003, IDnr. 402 Source: Volvo Car Corporation: Pininfarina and Volvo Car Corporation establish joint venture in Sweden Pininfarina SpA and Volvo Car Corporation have signed an agreement with the aim to develop and manufacture Volvo's next generation convertible. A new company will be formed in the joint venture and the base will be in Uddevalla, Sweden, where the current Volvo convertible has been built since 1997. This new company, which will be called "Pininfarina Sverige AB," will be responsible for all operations at the Uddevalla plant, including project management, process engineering, prototyping and testing services. Pininfarina will be the majority owner with 60 percent and Volvo Car Corporation will hold the remaining 40 percent. The top management structure, which has not yet been decided, will be a combination of Pininfarina and Volvo executives. "We are happy to be able to continue to offer our customers cars such as the convertible, and to do so by a co-operation with such a well established and well respected partner as Pininfarina," said Hans-Olov Olsson, President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation. "This co-operation with Volvo Car Corporation is an outstanding example of our full service provider strategy," said Pininfarina CEO Andrea Pininfarina. "Besides handling the engineering development of a new Volvo convertible, we will also be responsible for its production in Sweden". Further details on the co-operation will follow as the joint venture develops.