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Volvo's five-door V40 has proved to be a credible entrant in the premium compact hatch sector against cars like BMW's 1 Series and Audi's A3. Now it gets extra options, more hi-tech and, most importantly, two class-leading 2.0-litre 'Drive-E' engines, a D4 diesel and a T5 petrol. Jonathan Crouch checks out brand's most competitive car for years
As with most things in life, the best products take what seems a complicated bunch of requirements and reduce them to something very simple and elegant. The Volvo V40 is just such a car. The Swedish company has built a premium five-door family hatch that looks great, drives well, makes sense on the balance sheet and which has an amazing amount of safety equipment built into it. It really is as good as it looks, especially now that Volvo offers the option of its own highly efficient engines beneath the bonnet.
Traditionally, Volvos have been better when they've been bigger. It's not that the Swedish brand hasn't tried its hardest with compact, more affordable models. On the contrary, it has a heritage in such designs stretching all the way back to the PV51 of 1936. None though has been what you'd call desirable, unless for you, desire is a virtue that's safe, solid and sensible. Here though, is a car that is. The V40 premium family hatch, launched here in the summer of 2012. Despite the 'V' designation, traditionally used by the brand to reference estate cars, this is a Focus-sized family hatch - but a rather posh one, aimed at the top end of this segment where you'll find premium models like BMW's 1 Series, Audi's A3 and the Mercedes A-Class. It's job is to take on these elite rivals, a task now made easier by the introduction of two engines from Volvo's efficient 'Drive-E' 2.0-litre range, a petrol and a diesel. Let's check this car out.
Here's a hatch clearly developed by people who care about driving and it delivers a very good compromise indeed of absorbent ride and assured handling composure. So much so that I've begun to question the 'less is more' mantra I tend to apply to the brand's other models when it comes to engine output. There's not much point in having loads of power in a car that handles like a pudding. This one though, can cope with a bit more, which is why it's worth opting for the fastest of the three diesel engines on offer, the 190bhp D4. Like the next diesel down, the 150bhp D3, it's a 2.0-litre unit but unlike that engine, this is Volvo's own impressive 'Drive-E' powerplant. Amazingly, it's nearly as efficient as the much less powerful entry-level diesel in the range, the 115bhp D2. And that variant's a lot slower than the D4: a D2 V40 gets to 62mph in 11.7s en route to 118mph. Low mileage buyers need to factor in the possibility of petrol power too, especially if they don't like the rather clattery diesel noise you get on start-up. T2, T3 and T4 variants use a 1.6-litre four cylinder unit, respectively putting out either 120, 150 or 180bhp, the most powerful version of which is good for sixty in 7.3s on the way to 140mph. If that's not enough, there's a flagship 2.0-litre five cylinder T5 model that also uses a Volvo-sourced 'Drive-E' engine, putting out 245bhp and fitted as standard with an 8-speed automatic gearbox.
The safer a car is, the safer will be its approach to exterior design. That was once true of small Volvos - but it isn't any more. In fact, it's precisely because this V40 is good in an accident that it looks so smart. Let me explain. Almost all cars have relatively high bonnet lines so as to leave an under-bonnet void to meet pedestrian impact legislation. But thanks to a unique under-bonnet airbag, this car doesn't need to allow for that, so its bonnet line can be much lower, part of a lean, wide coupe-like stance in a shape very slightly longer and wider than rival BMW 1 Series or Audi A3 models. Pleasantly different then, an observation equally applicable here in the cabin. Of course it needs to be good if sales are to be stolen from the likes of the BMW 1 Series and the Audi A3, a tough assignment tackled with an unpretentious 'Designed Around You' philosophy epitomised by this beautifully positioned infotainment screen that, once you've figured out its complicated menus, enables you to deal with audio, navigation, 'phone and other functions almost without taking your eyes off the road. The idea is that, like IKEA furniture, this cabin should be typically Scandinavian, comfortable, simple, intuitive and visually pleasing. And broadly it is. Cabin space is fine and there's a 335-litre boot.
Prices sit in the £20,000 to £35,000 bracket. To put that into perspective, for one of these, you're looking at a comparable model-for-model premium of around £1,500 over what you'd pay for a mainstream Focus or Astra in the family hatchback sector. It's not these cars that Volvo is really targeting with the V40 though. The brand would prefer to be stealing sales from much posher so-called 'premium' compact hatches, cars like the BMW 1 Series, the Audi A3 and the Mercedes A-Class. That's quite a big ask as this V40's pricing isn't really much different to any of these cars. What is different though, is the spec you get as part of the deal. All models come with alloy wheels, electronic climate control that also cools the glovebox, plus leather-trim for the gear knob and for a steering wheel that has audio controls for an eight speaker stereo with USB and iPod inputs, operable via the same 5-inch colour screen you can use to set up the Bluetooth connection for your 'phone. This display can also use Volvo's Sensus infotainment and navigation system. Within the range, you can also opt for a 'Cross Country' trim level, offering mildly SUV-style looks for a modest premium. Either way, safety-wise, there's a world first - an under-bonnet airbag that springs out to protect pedestrian in the event of an impact. Plus of course, you get all the usual basics. That means dual-stage front airbags on both sides, side airbags, a knee 'bag for the driver, inflatable curtains, ISOFIX childseat fastenings, a Roll-Over Protection system, the WHIPS anti-whiplash system and, to hopefully make sure you'll never need all that, the DSTC Dynamic Stability and Traction Control system, the usual ABS braking assistance, Corner Traction Control, Engine Drag Control to stop the wheels from locking during engine braking on a slippery surface and even a Trailer Stability Assist system if you've fitted a towbar. If you want the safest car in the family hatchback class, you're looking at it right here.
If you want the reason why more than 60% of all UK V40 customers will end up buying the least powerful 115bhp D2 diesel variant, then you don't have to look far to find it. This model is capable of a headline-grabbing 83.1mpg on the combined cycle and an 88g/km of CO2 reading that'll side-steps the need for road tax and payment of the London congestion charge. To put that into perspective, at the time of launch, a comparable 109bhp Mercedes A180 CDI managed 55.4mpg and 136g/km. Even BMW's eco poster pin-up model, the 116d EfficientDynamics, struggles to get close. I should point out that the super-frugal returns I'm talking about only apply if this V40 is fitted with an appropriately weedy set of wheels and tyres. Bigger sizes have quite an impact on those figures, so be warned. Step up to the 150bhp D3 and it's not as if you've entered a world of big bills either. That averages 65.7mpg and emits a mere 114g/km of CO2. I'd be looking at the 190bhp 2.0-litre D4 variant though. Thanks to Volvo's clever 'Drive-E' technology, this variant manages an impressive 99g/km of CO2 and 74.3mpg on the combined cycle. The same technology allows the 2.0-litre 245bhp petrol automatic T5 variant to 137g/km of CO2 and a combined fuel figure of 47.9mpg. And the more affordable 1.6-litre petrol models? Well the 120bhp T2 delivers 53.3mpg and 124g/km, while both 150bhp T3 and 180bhp T4 models average around 53mpg on the combined cycle and put out not much more than 125g/km of CO2, the kind of figures you'd have expected from a good diesel not so very long ago.
With the V40, Volvo has brought its brand up to date. Fashionable styling clothes some serious safety in a very assured piece of design further improved by the option of Volvo's own 'Drive-E' 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines. Gothenburg has taken on the Germans before - but never like this. In the premium compact hatch segment, only BMW's 1 Series can out-handle this car - and that's only because of its rear wheel drive, a layout Volvo thinks is better suited to Silverstone than Surbiton. In any case, careful development of this car's dynamic Focus-inspired underpinnings has left us with a car an enthusiast might still enjoy. Which is a surprise. But then, much about this car is. Efficient yet characterful, stylish yet sensible, it ought to appeal far beyond Volvo's core customer base. It ought to, but it may not. BMW, Audi, Mercedes - even Alfa Romeo customers: they're all pretty parochial. They shouldn't be. A drive in one of these would blow away quite a few prejudices. Whoever would have thought it?
The Volvo V40 is more or less the successor to the C30 and the smallest vehicle available in the Volvo range. It is built upon a Ford platform and utlisies their engines too, however that is where the comparisons end. The Volvo V40 is much more luxrurious inside and much more powerful underneath, as it uses EcoBoost technology it is also quite economical for its class.
The Volvo V40 is the swedish premium car manufacturers small family car which debuted in 2012. It is built on the Ford Focus platform but that is where the similarities end - the Volvo V40 is its own car with its own identity. As with all the cars in the Volvo range the V40 boasts superior safety features, high tech and luxurious cabin and ample standard equipment. The V40 comes in a variety of strong and reliable engines that Volvo is famous for - there are still a lot of old Volvo's on the road with no signs of giving up yet!
Lease a Volvo V40 if you want a sturdy and powerful family hatchback. The Swedish manufacturers are well know for their safety in the cars and this one is no exception winning the 2013 Auto Express safety award. V40's comes in the guide of D2 - D5 and T3 - T5 which denotes the engine power. The trims which denote its features are ES, SE and R Design. The R Design differs to the point where it has an exterior bodykit to give it more of a sporty look. Nav and Lux can be added on to the trims for increased comfort.
The Volvo V40 sits comfortably between the Ford Focus and perhaps the Audi A3 in terms of luxury however its pricing structure leans closer towards the Focus which gives a V40 lease the edge. Have a look around the Volvo V40 car leasing hub today for the latest images, reviews and HD video.
For more information on how to lease a Volvo or to simply ask us a question, please call us on 01565 880880, or alternatively, choose your favourite S60 and click the big green button to enquire online.
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