- Supremely comfortable seats, as per Volvo
- R-Design is a genuinely handsome package
- Joyous manual gearbox
- More wheel-slipping than you’d think
- Might struggle to attract german-bias buyers
You could argue that Volvo has left the family hatchback class untouched for too long. The Swedish brand revelled in the realms of large saloons and practical estates for a while, occasionally treating us to a coupé or two, but they’ve never really put up a fight with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Audi A3 and so on… until now.
Right away I’ll tell you that Focus, Astra and Golf drivers will certainly experience a big improvement when they jump in the V40.
On the Road
We had the T3 model on test - featuring 150bhp and 184lb ft of torque. Great 2.0litre petrol engine, all in all, feels more powerful than 150bhp and only suffers from lag if you’re too high a gear - otherwise, it’s pleasantly responsive. There is a T5 version with 245bhp available, meaning the 0-60 mph sprint drops to 6.2 seconds. Yes, that’s lovely and quick, but it’s a massive £7,000 more than the T3 model that we had - which was no slouch as it takes just 7.8seconds to 60mph.
After driving a few of the diesel engines in other Volvo models, the one that best suits you comes down to the type of driving you do. The 3rd tier of the petrol and diesel engines seems to be the sweet spot, so look for D3 and T3, which offer the best balance of power and economy.
I’m always keen to take onboard feedback from my friends and family, as they are regular motorists themselves. Every passenger I had in the Volvo complimented the smooth ride on suburban roads. The R-Design is equipped with bigger alloys, but Volvo appears to have done a good job with keeping the drive comfortable. Potholes and speed bumps are dealt with in relative comfort, but the car still drives firm enough to encourage you to press on.
The V40 does feel well disciplined in the corners, and letting off the gas just as you feel it might start understeering will neatly tuck the front end back in line. The car is predictable, useable and well behaved under normal driving conditions, so not much negative to report here.
This is make or break nowadays in the premium sector. When you’re competing with the likes of the stunning new Audi A3 and the utilitarian BMW 1 Series, it’s essential to get it right. Volvo have done a good job. The Volvo range shares interior components with one another, so the dampened buttons and scroll wheel on the centre console are equally satisfying in this V40 as they were in the V60. The leather steering wheel is well stitched and feels solid, with no excessive feedback from the road surface. Lastly, there are little to no vibrations to be felt through the wheel, the gear stick or the the pedals when idling - which is always nice.
Road and wind noise are comfortably hushed - not silent, but hushed.
In the car
I know I’ve badgered on about it in every single Volvo review I’ve ever written, but they’re the best seats in the business. Don’t take my word for it, go and sit in one at the dealership and I guarantee you’ll agree. Nice and adjustable, very supportive, fine leather, very stylish head-rests. Job well done.
Elsewhere, the centre console uses the same tombstone-design found elsewhere in the Volvo range. Its functional and does the job with ease, but if you don’t like physical buttons then this will get on your nerves, because there’s loads of them.
The steering wheel is a joy to throw around and doesn’t take much working. The leather isn’t too firm, allowing for a nice amount of bounce. Generally, the material choices in Volvos are very high-end, as you would expect from a premium manufacturer.
One small criticism is that the ‘floating’ centre console looks great and works well, but using the storage behind the console itself is a very awkward affair - it would work better if the human wrist bent the other way, but for most of us - it doesn’t.
One notable positive is the number of solid metals used, in the steering wheel, the door handle, the gear stick and door inserts. I long for a cabin filled with soft touch materials, but where the harder stuff is necessary, I like shiny metal. The Volvo ticks the relevant boxes here.
Front passengers will have no qualms with the leg and headroom, and neither will 2 rear passengers - although things get quite csy with a third in the middle rear seat. The V40 is certainly suited to 3 children abreast, but 3 adults in the back won’t be ideal for long journeys.
In the boot, you’be not got huge amounts of space. 335 litres is OK, but when the Volkswagen Golf has 380 litres, the Astra has 351 litres and the Civic a massive 477 litres, the V40 is lacking. Not as bad as the 316 litres available in the Ford Focus, though.
Well the T3 we tested isn’t the most economical model, nor the fastest. Still though, for a family sized hatchback with mid-table grunt, 51mpg isn’t bad at all, really. If you spend more time on motorways then we’d recommend the D2 Diesel model with the ‘Inscription’ specification. No idea what ‘Inscription’ is meant to mean, but it’s the name of the trim level that bring economy up to 78mpg when paired with the diesel unit. CO2 outputs drop to 94g/km too which (if you were to buy before April 2017) is free to tax.
Elsewhere, the long service intervals and solid build quality make this a relatively reliable car. We can’t imagine you’ll be paying out too much through the course of ownership.
We really like the solid build quality of the Volvo range. While the Focus is a great car, the big plastic case embodying the centre console is cheap and hollow, whereas everything inside the Volvo is well structured and feels strong. We’re confident that this is a car which will fare will against the test of time.
5 stars on the Euro NCAP test - because Volvo. 5 different grades of steel are used to ensure that the V40 is a family hatch with the safety of an SUV. The auto-brake system will do its best to detect imminent impacts and bring the car to a stop. This aims to reduce or completely prevent a collision. Great news for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike.
The V40 also uses a blind spot detection system, which is ideal for changing lanes on the motorway, as well a lane-keeping system so you don’t run wide.
Our final, and favourite, safety feature is the pedestrian airbag. This is a safety system inside the bonnet which inflates to cushion the fall of pedestrians in the worst case scenario. Very considerate, Volvo. The V40 was the first car to score maximum points on the pedestrian safety segment.
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