Volvo V40 - car review
After stuffing a Volvo XC90 with four dining chairs and a table at the weekend, it's easy to imagine why people choose Volvos. They're solid, safe, dependable and capacious.
All very good reasons to consider a Swede when shopping for a premium motor. Until early in the 21st century, aesthetics would not be high on the tick list of reasons to buy a Volvo. C30 went some way to altering that perception with its launch in 2006. The point was rammed home by the stunning S60 which appeared in 2010.
The V40 on test here owes a great deal to the shooting brake version of that S60. The two cars are incredibly similar to look at. It's just that the V40 is smaller.
The V40's mission is to gain a foothold in the hotly contested premium compact hatch sector. This realm is ruled by Audi's A3 and BMW's 1 Series, two cars which push all the buttons for young go-getters perusing the fleet list.
This, then, is surely North Face of the Eiger without crampons, or a rope, or is it? For Volvo has obviously done it's homework and the V40 is everything you'd expect a Volvo to be, only this time it's blessed with a touch of sparkle.
First of all, it looks rakish, not quite David Niven, but pretty good nonetheless.
Volvo has not been coy with it's designs, using broad shoulders and sharp lines to offer the appearance of power and a pert tail and sweeping roofline to hint at agility.
Climb aboard and the cabin is no less impressive. Again the penmen have been bold. The seats are well sculpted and the upright dash marches from door to door reinforcing a double cockpit feel. Of course, the ubiquitous floating centre console, found throughout the Volvo range, makes an appearance.
Beyond the solid fixtures and fittings, electronic additions should ensure you will never bore of the cabin. A range of hues is available to change to ambiance of the cabin at the push of a button, from deepest red to coolest blue. That adjustability spreads to the dash itself, should you raid the options list. For an extra £350, you can select the Active TFT instrumentation.
The TFT (thin film transistor) instrument display offers three different themes depending on you want and illuminates the gearshift.
An "Eco" theme has a green background and includes an economy meter to allow you to drive as economically as possible. A "Performance" theme has red background illumination and includes a power meter that tells the driver how much power is being used and how much is available.
Finally, "Elegance" has an amber illumination and offers a more conventional dash display.
The V40 comes with Bluetooth music streaming and handsfree mobile connectivity as standard.
A navigation system with directions in the main instrument cluster, and a mobile app that can find your car in a large car park, lock or unlock doors and even give you a journey log – whacky and maybe just a little too gadgety.
Despite the intended marketplace of the V40 it still offers decent levels of space and practicality. More suited to four occupants than five the V40 managed to carry three chaps and all their golf equipment with judicious use of the flexible boot floor and folding rear bench.
Volvo's being what they are, top-of-the-line safety is pretty much guaranteed. Volvo was the first manufacturer to fit seatbelts to its cars and the company's ethos of producing the safest cars possible continues with the V40. Systems such as blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and pedestrian detection with full auto brake are just a few of the approaches Volvo has employed on the V40.
Joining these is a world first – a pedestrian airbag. Should a collision occur this bag deploys from the rear edge of the bonnet to help reduce injury caused by hard points such the A-pillars. Hopefully, you will never need it.
Finally, a word or two about the engine line-up. Three diesel and three petrol units are available. The biggest seller is sure to be the lively but exceptionally economical D2 four-cylinder diesel unit.
Sitting beneath the 100g/km of CO2 emissions and returning a claimed figure of more than 78mpg on the combined cycle, this is sure to win the hearts of economically minded, yet is offers much more than just frugal motoring. Married to particularly sharp six-speed manual transmission, once past the inevitable turbo-lag the 1.6-litre diesel unit proves quite an engaging drive, whistling the V40 through 60mph in less than 12 seconds and onto claimed 118mph.
The ride is firm, although not uncomfortable, and the steering is sharp enough for a car of this ilk. It copes well enough with most of the varying conditions thrown up by Britain's fine array of road surfaces.
"The V40 is our first C-segment five-door hatchback," says Volvo's President and CEO Stefan Jacoby. "We expect most buyers will be new to Volvo. We also believe it is a class leader in many areas."
With pricing starting at under £20,000 for the D2 ES, if you've never considered a Volvo before, now may be a good time.