Monday, 16 July 2012 5:55 PM
It’s been 20 years since Volvo had a 5-door hatchback in their range of cars. The boldly-styled C30 is a smaller Volvo hatch that can still be bought, but as a 3-door only, some more practical-leaning punters may have been put off. But, the all-new V40 hatchback – with a full compliment of five useful doors – aims to put that right, and it’s just gone into Volvo dealers across the UK.
The new V40 is a very important car for Volvo and comes to the very competitive C-Segment that saw 321,000 new cars sold in the UK, in 2011. You can see why Volvo want a slice of this big pie, but with competition from the likes of the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series, as well as high specification Ford Focuses and VW Golfs, there is plenty of well-established choice for customers to test drive.
Today, I’m driving a good chunk of the V40 range, from the lowest-emitting and predicted best-selling diesel D2 with its tax-attractive 94g/km CO2 rating, through the more powerful D3 and D4 diesels, and the most sporty, 180bhp T4 petrol model. There are three trim levels in the V40 range; ES, SE and SE Lux, and I’ll be sampling the SE and SE Lux cars only. The V40 range starts at £19,745.
Volvo V40 first drive review
Cool on the outside and warm on the inside is how Volvo like us to feel about their cars; a Scandinavian design style that’s less look-at-me than some of the competition – kind of making a statement without making an obvious statement.
Well, the new V40 shows some familiar Volvo design traits, such as the high shoulder lines and defined bonnet shape, as well as the strongly ‘pinched’ rear-end that curves in and up above the also familiar L-shape rear lights.
The A-pillars are steeply raked in a coupe style, while the minimal glasshouse height and estate car-style rear-end gives the V40 length and a low ‘n’ lean side profile. Understated, yes, but the details are definitely there, and for me, I’m finding some attractive angles as I shoot the V40 in the north Wales sunshine.
Into the interior:
Again, we see some familiar Volvo design cues inside the new V40 like the steering wheel shape and the ‘floating’ centre console that holds the human-shaped climate controls. On these test cars that centre console finish was a very attractive ‘grained metal’ effect.
New for the V40 is a frameless rearview mirror that looks like an expensive glass coffee table top and clear, LED-lit gear knobs / selectors. The rearview is a neat trick alright, but I would wonder if the gearshifters could feel comfier in a more traditional leather finish. All-new, all-digital clocks steal some of the interior limelight with three different driving modes; from more of an eco-flavour up to a jazzy bright red performance look. They look clearly high-tech.
I’m driving the mid- and high-trim V40s today; the SE comes with cloth seating and the SE Lux enjoys leather furniture, so I can’t tell you how impressive or not the base model ES interiors are. But, in general, the V40 seats are handsome and comfortable – leather or not – and the fit and finish of things is on the money for where the V40 fits; at the premium end of the market. And, there’s a whole stack of new passive and active safety equipment to read about, too.
The Volvo designers have packaged the interior in a graceful and clutter-free way, with all the toys there ready to use, but without it looking like a buttons-bomb has gone off. And, for me, at over 6-feet tall, I found excellent adjustment to driver’s seat and steering wheel for a truly pukka driving position; just like the much more expensive Volvos I’ve driven. In fact, the steering wheel slid so far towards me it made me jump! That’s good, by the way.
The drive: D2. 4-cylinder, 1.6-litre, 115bhp turbodiesel 6-speed manual with Start/Stop. From 96g/km of CO2
The diesel-powered D2 is expected to be the big-seller in the V40 range, with its sub-100g/km CO2 rating lighting up the eyes of fleet buyers and frugal families alike. The quoted combined economy figure of 78.5mpg is also interesting in these expensive-fuel-times.
With 155bhp and 270Nm of torque available, the V40 D2 will make 62mph in 12.3secs and pull on to a top speed of 118mph, which should be quick enough for the frugally-minded.
On the road, and the V40 D2 puts its power down calmly and quietly and feels about as quick as it should considering its frugal intentions. It’s smooth on the rougher stuff and corners with balance and control, while the brakes are progressively powerful, and the clutch and 6-speed manual gearbox both operate with smooth engineering. It’s a solid-feeling poise to the driving experience.
There is no automatic gearbox option with the most frugal of the V40 range.
The drive: D3. 4-cylinder, 2-litre, 150bhp turbodiesel 6-speed automatic with Start/Stop
The extra power from the bigger, 2-litre engine under the D3's bonnet makes a fair chunk of difference – 150bhp and a full 350Nm of torque – with the D3 auto hitting 62mph in 9.3secs, while the top speed jumps to 127mph. The auto ‘box works well with smooth and fast gear changes using the big dollops of torque very effectively.
CO2 for this automatic D3 sits at 136g/km (combined economy at 54.3mpg) which will attract more tax, but that’s the price of greater performance, and we’ve got the most powerful D4 to try out yet.
Like the D2, the D3 is calm and collected on these various test roads around north Wales, and having driven nearly 200 miles to the V40 event in a twice-the-price Volvo V60 estate, I can happily confirm that the smaller V40 drives and feels like bigger, more powerful V60. The quiet cabin and great seating position are the starting points of this comfortable cruising, while the competent chassis and relatively hushed engines do the rest. The V40 should cover big miles in style.
The drive: D4. 4-cylinder, 2-litre, 177bhp turbodiesel 6-speed automatic with Start/Stop
Speed-demons will want to drive the D4; the most powerful diesel V40 in the range, with its huge 400Nm of torque making for rapid forward progress. Simply floor the gas pedal and let the auto ‘box do the rest and you’ll see 62mph in 8.3secs and a top speed of 134mph. However, the D4 gets the same CO2 rating as the D3 (136g/km) and combined economy (54.3mpg), but with more grunt. Win!
The D4 feels settled and smooth at speed, and while its chunky torque makes for more aggressive acceleration, you don’t have to drive it full-throttle everywhere. The power is a useful reserve for joining motorways or clearing slow-moving traffic. And the V40’s chassis – and wealth of safety features – wrap the more potent powerplant up in a cocoon of on-road grip and composure. Relaxing or fast; the choice is yours.
The drive: T4. 4-cylinder, 1.6-litre, 180bhp petrol-turbo 6-speed manual with Start/Stop
While the turbocharged petrol-powered T4 gets the highest horsepower figure of all of the V40s – some 180bhp – it makes less torque than even the little D2; 270Nm vs. 240Nm. But, with a 62mph-dash of 7.7secs and a top speed of 140mph, it’s the quickest by some margin. Even so, CO2 is still a respectable 129g/km, with the combined economy quoted at 51.4mpg.
The T4 makes most of its power and most of its rush towards the top of the rev-range – as is expected with petrol-turbo cars – and as such makes the most exciting drive of the V40 range, but it is still the most niche of the range; likely to attract the least sales of the V40 bunch.
It feels respectably quick on the twists and turns trailing through the beautiful Welsh countryside, and reacts with pace and sharp wits to hard ‘n’ fast throttle, brake and turning inputs. It’s the one I’d go for if economy wasn’t front of mind, but, these days, economy is always front of mind.
Ten second sum up:
The all-new Volvo V40 – the most important new Volvo for 20 years – is a very competent package. Understatedly stylish on the outside; refined on the inside and with a wide range of modern engines and safety technology. It’s a welcome addition to the C-Segment market.
Prices and availability:
The new Volvo V40 range starts at £19,745 for the D2 Start/Stop ES, topping out at £26,795 for the D4 Start/Stop SE Lux Nav. Available now.
Volvo V40 in tax-dodging, low-CO2 D2 diesel guise
Estate car side profile makes it look bigger than it is
Bold inward curve to the rear-end
Centre console finish looks and feels great
Yes, there was sunshine!
Volvo V40 in 150bhp D3 guise. Note lower-bumper LEDs
Volvo V40 in most powerful D4 spec. Torque aplenty in this one
7-inch colour screen
Volvo V40 in 180bhp T4 turbo-petrol trim. The fastest V40
Sleek, coupe-style lines
All-new, but still recognisable as a Volvo
Trademark rear lights still look the business and highlight the 'pinched' rear-end
Calm and collected inside
Red means go for it! One of three different mood lighting set ups for the all-digital clocks
Seating is handsome and comfortable, in leather or fabric. With a great driving position
Words & pics: Daniel Anslow
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