As the current 40 Series cars from Volvo come to the end of their life, we’ve had the Volvo V40 D3 diesel with R-Design Nav Plus trim in for review.
But even though Geely had bought Volvo a few years before, the new V40 arrived with inherited engines and a platform which owed most of its gubbins to the old Ford Focus.
But actually, that was part of its strength, because if you’re going to use a platform from anywhere, at that time, for a new ‘Premium’ compact-ish hatchback, the Focus was as good a place to start as anywhere.
The V40 also had a terrific design, a design which was already showing that Volvo could deliver premium cars and still maintain their Swedish USP, and the interior was up to scratch too, with a Swedish take on interior design.
Since the v40 arrived it’s come in for a bit of a facelift last year to make it a bit more ‘Family’ and in line with Volvo’s new 90 Series cars, which has lifted its looks a bit, but not much more than that.
But was it, now the 40 Series is five years old, enough to make it competitive?
V40 D3 R-Design Nav Plus Inside and out
The facelift Volvo wrought on the V40 last year hasn’t changed the car much from the V40 we reviewed just before it got a titivate, bit it is enough to make it look a bit sharper.
The same good lines remain, with the rising belt on the sides making the V40 look squat and dynamic, the roofline is still rakish and the R-Design titivations add an extra touch of sportiness. The V40 may be knocking on, but it does still look current and appealing.
The changes for the facelift has meant the arrival of the 90 Series’ ‘Thor’ running lights incorporated in the new LED headlights, tweaked alloy designs, new colour options, new grille mesh and a bigger Iron Mark badge, with the interior getting some new trim options and new tread plates.
All of which has improved what was already a very good car, but the trouble is that the more time we spend with Volvo’s new 90 and 60 Series cars, the more dated the V40’s cabin seems.
Yes, it’s still a nice place to be and the seats are still extremely good, the digital instruments still work well and the V40 does feel a quality offering.
The equipment levels are good too, with City Safe, climate, hill start Bluetooth and more on as standard, and this Nav Plus very well specced with Intellisafe – everything from Lane Keep, Blind Spot and Adaptive Cruise to Sensus Nav to Sensus Connect Sound, Road Sign Info and Rear Park assist – as well as Winter Pack with heated seats and windscreen and auto wipers.
But however good it all is, it’s just starting to feel dated, mainly because of the once cool ‘floating’ center stack and its mass of buttons, and the infotainment screen which now looks like a 1950s TV in comparison to the excellent tablet screen on new Volvos.
It’s not enough to turn you off the V40, but it’s starting to feel its age.
V40 D3 R-Design Nav Plus Performance
The old Ford Focus platform underpinning the V40 now be very much last generation, but it’s holding up well and still makes the V40 feel pretty nimble and dynamic most of the time.
That doesn’t mean the V40 is a back road hustler, but it does mean it goes where it’s pointed – even if the steering isn’t overly endowed with feel – and the suspension on this R-Design version does make for flatter cornering too.
The trade-off with that is that it’s not quite as forgiving when it hits rotten roads, although it still copes pretty well and certainly well enough not to upset the equilibrium in the cabin.
All of which makes the V40 more than capable on local runs, back road outings or motorways, and the D3 engine in this car is probably the most sensible choice, even if diesels are once more the ‘dirty’ choice.
With 148bhp, the D3 delivers a decent wodge of 177lb/ft of torque from 1600rpm until you’d normally change up, when in a hurry in a diesel, at 4000rpm, and that’s the area in which it really works.
Go beyond and the V40 runs out of breath, and try to poodle around town at tickover or a bit above and it really doesn’t want to play.
But it’s not tough to drive to make the V40 work well, when it delivers good performance – 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds – picks up well and does everything you need. It’s also economical.
Official figures say it should do 74.3mpg, but in the real world somewhere in the 50s to the gallon will be the norm for most drivers, which from a lively, sporty-looking premium hatch is not to be sniffed at.
V40 D3 R-Design Nav Plus Verdict
The truth is that the Volvo V40 is finally starting to show its age, and it is probably no longer a match for some of the competition. But considering it’s more than five years old, and based on underpinnings a chunk older, it’s held up remarkably well.
It still looks good, it still performs well and it still has a quality cabin with good equipment levels and very comfortable seats.
But it is starting to feel a bit cramped (something the new CMA Platform for the new XC40, V40 and S40 will change) and it’s sort of stuck between two stools in the way it performs.
Volvo has managed to make the 90 Series cars dynamic enough to be nice to drive, yet comfortable enough to give them a USP over the competition. The V40, probably especially in R-Design guise, doesn’t quite achieve that.
But much of the criticism is rooted in how good Volvo’s more recent cars are, reflecting that back on the V40 makes it seem a bit ‘yesterday’ Volvo now. Which is probably not fair.
All that said, the Volvo V40 has been one of our favourite cars in the sector, and with the new XC40 arriving soon you’re going to be able to pick up some last model V40s from Volvo dealers at a bargain price.
And we would definitely encourage you to do it.
2017 Volvo V40 D3 R-Design Nav Plus Photo Gallery
2017 Volvo V40 D3 R-Design Nav Plus Quick Tech Specs
- Engine: 1969cc, 148bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 8.4 seconds / Top Speed 130mph
- Economy: 74.3mpg – Official / 49.2mpg – Test
- Emissions: 99g/km
- Price: £26,195 / Price as tested £31,470
- Test car supplied by Volvo UK
2017 Volvo V40 D3 R-Design Nav Plus test car options
Intellisafe Pro + Nav Plus – £2,750
- Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert
- Lane Keeping Aid With Driver Alert Control including Forward Collision Warning
- Active High Beam
- Road Sign Information Display
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Sensus Navigation with European Mapping and Lifetime Annual Map Updates
- Rear Park Assist
- Sensus Connect with High Performance Sound
- 7” Colour Display Screen
- 1x DVD and Hard Drive for Music Storage
Winter Pack – £350
- Heated Front Seats
- Heated Front windscreen
- Headlight Cleaning
- Rain Sensor – Auto Wipers
- Volvo On Call with App £450
- Flexible Load Floor with Grocery Bag Holder £100
- Keyless Drive (includes Keyless Entry and Keyless Start) with Personal Car Communicator £550
- Frameless Auto dimming Rear View Mirror £150
- Tempa Spare Wheel and Jack £150
- Metallic (Bright Silver) £550