Just like musicians who produce a winner of a first album then face the impossible task of creating an equally brilliant follow up. Volvo were in a similar position with their newly launched V40 executive hatch. It’s tasked with replacing not only the S40 and V40 but the C30 too. It faces tough opposition from the all-new Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class as well as the evergreen BMW 1-series. Without such a posh badge on its snout the new V40 has a real battle on its hands, read on to find out if it’s any good.
Despite Volvo’s recent divorce from Ford the V40 is blessed with the same brilliant chassis as the all-conquering Focus although the Swedes have fettled with the settings to suit the character of their car. It’s no surprise that it’s an absolute dream on the road feeling nimble and agile with plenty of grip. Body movements are also well managed with very little lean when really pushed and the steering is super direct although it’s a tad over assisted at times. It’s not difficult to have a lot of fun in the V40 on the right roads.
Refinement is first rate thanks to the rides superb bump absorption that seems to have been perfectly tuned for Britain’s decaying carriageways. Wind and road noise are barely noticeable on the move thanks to the modestly sized wheels and sleek shape; the diesel engine also goes about its business with minimal clatter. It all adds up to a relaxed environment for undertaking long cross country jaunts.
The 1.6 litre 4 cylinder 115 bhp diesel engine is also borrowed from Ford and it’s obvious why. Fitted to the V40 its unlikely to win any races but it is spritely enough to take the stress out of overtaking thanks in part to the slick six speed manual gearbox and broad spread of power. It comes with Volvo’s unobtrusive StopStart technology as standard which contributes to the headline-grabbing fuel economy of 78.5 miles per gallon combined and road tax exempt 94 grams per kilometre of CO2.
Those looking for practicality are well catered for thanks to a spacious cabin with plenty of room for four stocky adults and a roomy boot. The inboard rear seats are a unique touch that increase the shoulder room available to class leading levels although it results in a narrow centre seat. It’s very easy to get comfortable behind the wheel as Volvo have a knack for supremely comfortable and supportive seats and there’s bags of adjustment. The steering column also adjusts for rake and reach but we did find visibility obscured by the thick rear pillars and small windscreen.
Safety is always at the forefront of Volvo design and the V40 is no exception. It’s the first production car in the world to be fitted with a pedestrian airbag that pops out from under the bonnet and covers the entire windscreen and a-pillars. The result; the best pedestrian rating in the history of Euro NCAP. Also Volvo include a City Safety system that automatically applies the brakes at lower speeds to avoid a collision. On top of this our car came fitted with the £1,850 Driver Support Pack which includes a blind spot warning system, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning all of which ensure all occupants are kept as safe as possible at all times.
Not only is the cabin the safest place to be but its also a great place to spend time as its intelligently designed and constructed from well chosen, plush materials throughout. The design itself isn’t exactly exciting, it’s more like a scaled down version of Volvo’s other superlative interiors. You get the usual uncluttered floating centre console with clearly grouped switches but the highlight is definitely the optional (standard on some models) £350 Active TFT display. It replaces the traditional instrument panel with a customisable display with three different themes; Elegance (brownish), Eco (blue/green) and Performance (red). It’s an absolute must for gadget fans.
There is also little to get excited about on the exterior instead Volvo has gone for a clean, simple design that incorporates themes seen in other models. That said it’s still an attractive machine thanks to its sleek roofline that tapers towards the rear and a backside that borrows much from the 480 of the late 1980s. There is also a subtle upward flick to the waistline evoking the P1800 of the 1970s which is a very nice touch. For those looking for a little more style there are models with larger, more attractive wheels which make a big difference to the look of the car and the familiar sporty R-Design trims are also on offer.
Price as tested: £22,545
Engine: 1.6 litre 8v 115 bhp – 0-62 mph: 11.9 secs – Maximum Speed: 118 mph –
Economy: 70.6 mpg (urban) –83.1 mpg (extra-urban), 78.5 mpg (combined) – Emissions: 94 g/km – VED (12 months): £0
Dimensions: Length: 4369 mm – Width: 1802 mm – Height: 1445 mm – Wheelbase: 2647 mm
The Volvo V40 has a lot of talented rivals to compete with but it seems to hold its own unique appeal despite its lack of excitement. Thankfully the V40 is excellent to drive thanks to its borrowed underpinnings and offers levels of comfort that its rivals cannot match. It’s also thoughtfully designed, well built and is the safest car you can currently buy with a vast array of safety gizmos that all work brilliantly. If this isn’t enough the D2 is frugal and road tax exempt making it well worth a look.
For more info visit www.volvocars.com