At R205 000 the new baby from the Swedish stable is no stripped-down special - it's as fully equipped as its bigger-engined brother the Volvo S40 2.4T.
This means it gets all the Volvo bells and whistles, including climate control air conditioning with pollen filter, a built-in radio/front loader CD fitted into the beautiful Volvo slim-line centre console, remote controls on the steering wheel for the audio system and cruise control, a built-in trip computer, rain sensor windscreen wipers, front and rear fog lights, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearknob, and remote central locking.
There are also electric mirrors and windows, and a tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel.
On top of that it gets 16 inch alloy wheels as standard, shod with 205/55 R16 W tyres, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brake distribution, front and side airbags, front and rear curtain airbags, whiplash protection, and traction and stability control.
"Feature for feature, especially when price-adjusted for its extra specification versus its competition, the S40 1.8i represents the best value-for-money in its market segment," says Volvo's marketing and communications boss Andre Oosthuizen.
However, the proof of the pudding has to be in the eating, and we drove the car on a testing route in and around the Franschoek and Stellenbosch areas of the Cape, including several mountain passes.
The S40 1.8i is fitted with a DOHC all-alloy four-cylinder engine producing 92 kW at 6 000 r/min and 165 Nm of torque at 6 000 r/min.
This, says Volvo, endows it with a 0-100 km/h acceleration of just 10.9 seconds and pushes the neat four-door sedan on to 200 km/h. Overall fuel consumption works out at a very frugal 7.2 litres/100 km.
Although other Volvos are known for their brisk performance, the new entry-level model is, in this regard, quite ordinary - it's the same sort of performance you would expect from other 1.8 and some 2-litre cars - but it doesn't have the "dash and flash" of its bigger-engined siblings.
That said, it's no slouch, and can be made to progress rapidly if you make good use of the slick and smooth 5-speed manual gearbox - the latter the only option.
On top of that, once moving its impeccable handling comes to the fore, and with a class-leading chassis even the tightest of bends are dispatched with alacrity.
Dare I say I even had a bit of fun!
What sets the Volvo apart, of course, is its high standards of fit and finish, as well as the marque's solid reputation for superb build quality and top-class safety.
On top of that is the car's excellent versatility.
With all the seats up the boot capacity is 404 litres, enlarging to 883 litres when the 60/40 split rear seats are folded.
Floating centre console
The car also gets the same interior as other Volvo S40s, complete with its celebrated "floating" aluminium centre console.
Upholstery trim is in high-quality cloth, with leather an extra-cost option.
The car is roomy and comfortable, and ride quality is excellent.
The car comes standard with a catalytic converter and exhaust gas recirculation feature, and service intervals are 20 000 km.
It has a 3 year/100 000 km warranty, plus a 5 year/100 000 km maintenance plan.
The S40 1.8i is the latest in a series of new Volvos introduced at almost audacious prices which, says new managing director Alan Cousins, a forthright and no-nonsense Irishman, are designed to give Volvo positive growth in the SA market.
With sales now almost double what they were two years ago, this certainly seems to be the case.
The new model makes Volvo motoring more affordable for more people, and the entry level is sure to appeal to those on car allowance who would never have been able to buy a new Volvo before; it also makes the car appealing to fleet buyers and car rental companies, and several have already expressed interest.
Plus, with local build now in full swing at the Ford SA factory in Silverton, Pretoria, Volvo is able to ensure a quick and ready supply of the new cars.
Unfortunately we won't see a V50 1.8i estate until early next year.