I owned a 1.8lt BMW 3 series E30. When I decided to buy a new one, my top 5 choices were: BMW 316i E90, Audi A4 1.8Turbo, Toyota Avensis 1.8, Mazda 6 1.8 and Volvo S40 1.8…
For the BMW, the engine of that time was too weak for the weight of the chassis, while the 318i is actually a 2.0lt car. So it was disqualified.
For the Audi, I dont like turbo engines since they need more fuel, the running costs are higher, and the reliability of the engine not so high, because of the high temperatures here in Greece. So it was disqualified.
For the Toyota, (I already own a 2004 Toyota Corolla 1.4lt 5door) I have the best opinion, but it is too big for me and I have a compact car – Corolla. So it was disqualified.
For the Mazda, I liked the design of the exterior, but the interior was rather poor (but roomy) and the model was going to change soon (that was the reason for not choosing the Ford Mondeo also). So it was disqualified.
The Volvo was my final choice. The S60 is too big for me, so the S40 was my choice.
Exterior: Sapphire Black. Unique design, looks like coupe and dynamic car.
Interior: White leather. Roomy interior with excellent design (specially the console at dark wood trim). All the buttons are ergonomically placed and easy to use. Quality? 1 click below Mercedes and BMW, almost equal to Audi and certainly higher than all the other cars.
Boot: Sufficient for me (404lt) with a rather small door, because of the design of the tail lights.
Handling: Like a train! I have tried the car at roads that are slippery and it had more to give than the engine could.
Comfort: Like a magic carpet the suspension swallows everything. You can do countless kms and feel like you just entered the car. Of course this means that at turns the body rolls a bit, but this does not affect the handling.
Engine: Not too strong (125hp) but tons of torque (thanks to the gearbox too). Adequate for the weight of the body for safe trips. Fuel consumption: 8.5lt/100km.
Gearbox: 5-speed manual, very easy to use with the correct gear ratio, though a 6-speed gearbox would be better for this engine, because you could do trips at highways with less engine revs.
+ Design (in and out), comfort, quality, safety, fuel economy.
- Small boot, engine noisy, rather expensive service.