In conversation with Fedde Talsma, the Chief Designer in charge of the Volvo S40, Wim Oude Weernink traces the story and examines the constituent elements of the project that culminated in this new Volvo model. They talked about styling decisions, but also about the ways the Volvo brand has interacted with Ford, since it was taken over by the American Group in 1999. It is a relationship that also involves sharing mechanical components with other companies in the Group.
In particular, the Ford C1 floorpan, also used on the last Mazda3, was the starting point for the design team, who had to adapt their original design ideas to the dimensions of the Ford platform. That meant pushing the A pillar forwards by about 30 mm, making the wheelbase 20 mm shorter than it would be on the planned new Mitsubishi and making several technical adjustments to the packaging, such as changing the movement on the rear suspension system.
Even so, the new S40 is a true Volvo, very much in the architectural line established by Peter Horbury ten years ago, as we see from the body with its three quarterlights and the roof line that flows back to the boot and tail-lights.
As for the interior, the design team was looking for a “youthful cool” feeling. The console is innovative, with just four simple, easily understood knobs handling all main functions. Significantly, the Colour and Trim team was involved in the design process from the start and that contributed to the harmonious integration of the various elements. Aluminium, translucent composites or a wood effect cubic print motif for the central console combine with the simple yet innovative materials used on the dashboard to create an understated, clean-cut ambience that is typically Scandinavian, but also very emphatically Volvo.
The article continues in Auto & Design no. 143