10 seconds to go from a quiet-riding closed car to the breezy experience of a convertible. The reasonable rear seat remains intact and the trunk loses just five cubic feet of room, leaving more cargo space than most ragtops.
You can even add a new 300-watt JBL audio system designed to rock you, top up or down. Available with four or six cylinders, and only with an automatic, the Solara convertible is expected to cost about $4,200 more than the hardtop. That puts base pricing in the mid- to high-$20,000 arena, perhaps passing $30,000 when fully optioned.
For years this Dutch-built Volvo has been sold in Europe with little indication it would cross the Atlantic. But as the Swedish-built Volvos sold here have climbed in price, the company saw fit to bring to the U.S. the more affordable S40 model. Prices begin at $22,900 and stay beneath $35,000, even with all the factory options. The S40 is the sedan model, while a wagon is available as the V40.
To get a Volvo at this price, the concession is interior room. Passenger accommodations are almost identical to those of the Hyundai Accent. Of course, Volvo gives you plenty more luxury, including power accessories, automatic air conditioning and multiadjustable driver’s seat.
You can’t get a manual transmission in the S40, but the 160-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine is rather peppy. The automatic also hides the turbo lag that plagues manual transmission Volvos. The small size makes this easily the most nimble of all Volvos and the S40 is actually fun to drive while it retains an ample amount of ride comfort.