This week we have Volvo’s very promising new V40 in for review and test in the guise of the V40 D3 SE Nav manual.
If the volume of traffic we’ve seen on Cars UK in recent months viewing stories, videos and photos of the all new Volvo V40 is anything to go by, the new V40 could be a serious contender in the premium small hatch market.
For perhaps the first time, Volvo are offering a serious alternative to cars like the BMW 1 Series (and the new Mercedes A Class) with the V40. Certainly on all the things that grab the headlines – looks, performance and equipment – the V40 seems to be a very credible effort from Volvo.
But making a car that looks good – and the V40 does look good – is one thing, but making a car that really can compete in the premium compact hatch is another matter.
So this week we have in a V40 for a review and road test – in our case the V40 D3 in SE trim with SatNav – to see if Volvo are offering more than just a mainstream car with premium car pretensions and premium car pricing.
Volvo V40 – inside and out
There’s no mistaking that the V40 is still a Volvo, but it’s a Volvo with any stodginess taken out and a healthy injection of style added.
The nose is still Volvo – but slicker Volvo – the tail lights are an interpretation of Volvo’s traditional tail lights and the back window has cues from the C30. There’s also a dose of the flair that other Volvo ‘V’ car have – sleek and good looking – but the V40 isn’t an estate, it’s a hatch. But, apparently, the ‘V’ was always meant to mean ‘Versatile’, not estate. Not that anyone knew, until now.
And it all conspires to make a very good looking premium hatch that is the match – and more – of anything BMW, Mercedes or Audi offer.
Inside is Volvo good too. The usual Volvo floating centre console its present, and there’s some nice touches too from the frame-less rear view mirror to the illuminated gear knob. And, thanks to the optional Winter Illumination Pack, our car also has a choice of seven different theatre lighting colours to choose from.
The dash has three display modes to suit your mood and driving desires (Elegance, Eco and Performance), the controls are logical and appealing, the seats are comfy and stylish and the interior of the V40 is a very nice place to be.
Even the back seat can take proper grown-ups (although the long of body may find their heads brushing on the roof) and the boot has enough room for your stuff (and a false floor too), even if it’s not overly generous.
This V40 is the SE (with SatNav) so you get plenty of toys like Cruise and Climate, but even the entry-level ES gets a decent amount of kit, including all the safety stuff you’d expect from Volvo like City Safety, a plethora of airbags, WHIPS, Adaptive Braking and the very clever pedestrian airbag.
We’ve also got the V40 Driver Support Pack on our car (£1850 option) that throws in Volvo’s latest BLIS system, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise with distance alert, lane keep aid with driver alert and speed limit display and collision warning with auto brake. All clever stuff and worth the extra peace of mind if your V40 is going to be a kiddie taxi.
If you buy a car on looks (and safety) alone, the new V40 is going to be at, or near, the top of your list.
This is a Volvo V40 with the D3 diesel engine, which means 148bhp and 350Nm of torque from a lowly 1500rpm. Unless you’re a company car driver and need the sub 100g/km of the D2, it’s the pick of the range (well, in practical terms, certainly).
It’s a good engine, the 2.0 litre 5-cylinder diesel, but it’s perhaps a bit noisier than many of the four-pot diesel engines we’ve got used to. But it does make a half decent noise when you push on, and push on you can thanks to a decent amount of torque that kicks in at 1500rpm, just as the turbo comes in to play. It’s not quick – 0-62mph is 9.6 seconds – but it’s lively and responsive.
Underpinning the V40 is the heritage of Ford ownership, with the Focus platform providing the basis for the V40. But that’s a good place to start if you’re going to enjoy the drive, and Volvo has made a very good job of tweaking the Focus platform to make it feel more fluid, yet just as able.
The electric steering is surprisingly natural in its feel, and the V40 is nicely accurate making it an agile performer when you take to the twisty stuff with plenty of appetite when you turn in, and lots of grip too.
But that pleasing ability to impart a bit of fun in to a swift B road blat doesn’t seem to compromise the ride. It’s fluid and comfortable, dealing well with pitted and ridged road and doing a better job of cosseting than the Focus, thanks no doubt to the – surprisingly good – tweaks Volvo has made to the V40’s setup.
Don’t run away with the idea that the V40 drives like a hot hatch on back roads. It doesn’t. But it makes a good fist of feeding information back to the driver and has enough grip and handling to make it an enjoyable experience. It also does it with a deft touch that feels in keeping with its ‘Premium’ pretensions.
Just remember to keep the revs up over 1500 (and preferably below 3000) and the V40 D3 is peppy and rewarding. On motorways, it has plenty of torque at cruising speeds to recover quickly when baulked, and around town it responds well to the ebb and flow of speed just as long as you fall in to the habit of keeping it in the right rev band.
Economy is good too, as are emissions. The D3 has an official average of 65.7mpg (although we got 49mpg) and emissions of 114g/km.
Volvo V40 – Verdict
The new Volvo V40 is a big deal for Volvo. They see it as the start of a new world where Volvos are seen as the equal of the German competition, and on the evidence the new V40 presents we find it hard to argue.
The V40 is certainly more appealing than an Audi A3, it probably has the measure of the new Mercedes A Class and even the BMW 1 Series only keeps its nose ahead of the V40 when it comes to driving dynamics; but that’s down to a predilection for RWD cars on our part.
The V40 has great levels of standard kit, a fluid and comfortable ride that can still sparkle when you push on, looks as good as anything that’s remotely competitive and, even though the headline prices seem on a par with the German competition, actually offers more value thanks to its high spec.
That will be enough to keep any Volvo lover happy, but will it be enough to take buyers from Audi, Mercedes and BMW?
For the keen driver, the 1 Series has the edge, even if the Volvo is better looking and better equipped. The V40 also has real character, something the A3 really lacks, so the biggest competition is likely to come from the new Mercedes A Class, a car that offers a similar balance of decent looks and practicality from a premium FWD hatch.
For our money, the Volvo V40 has the edge on looks, but we’ll leave a final decision until Mercedes send us a new A Class for the week. But if you are in the market for a premium hatch, you should make sure you add the V40 to your list of viewings before you make your mind up.
You may be surprised at the choice you eventually make.
Volvo V40 D3 SE Nav Specs
- Engine: 1984cc, 148bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 9.1 seconds / Top Speed 130mph
- Economy: 65.7mpg – Official / 49.8mpg – Test
- Emissions: 114g/km
- Price: £23,795 / Price as tested £29,370
- Test car supplied by Volvo UK