Volvo V40 D2 review
There are a number of excellent premium hatchbacks on the market, with the likes of the BMW 1-Series, Audi A3, and Mercedes A-Class the most well recognised. Often overlooked - but unfairly so - is Volvo's V40, which has recently had a refresh in an attempt to keep it competitive in a tough market. NGC tests the new V40 to see how the Volvo stacks up against the competition.
Review by Chris Lilly
A good range of petrol and diesel engines is available, offering something from the super-frugal to a high-performance unit. Despite featuring three petrol and three diesel options, there are only two core engines - one for each fuel type. Both are four cylinder powerplants, which are offered in various states of tune. In the test car, we had Volvo's 120hp D2 diesel, which sits below a 150hp D3 and 190hp D4 in the range. It's a useful little unit to be perfectly honest, providing more than enough power for everyday needs. Sure, if you take your Volvo to a lot of track days you're going to be wanting more, but that 120hp and the 280Nm of torque available let the V40 get from 0-62mph in a reasonable 10.5 seconds, before reaching a top speed of 118mph. It's plenty of power to pull you along at motorway pace without any effort, while the low down punch from the diesel unit lets you pop out of junctions easily. The engine in the model tested put its power through a six speed manual gearbox which was slick and had a nice action. Again, it's not the last work in high performance motoring, but the Volvo in this D2 specification offers some very usable and flexible power. Of the engine options, it's one of the best of a strong bunch.
The V40 is a nicely balanced car, capable of providing an engaging driving experience when called upon with some precise steering and agile handling. It's not pin-sharp though, and is more comfortable operating as a comfy car. It's a bit of a jack-of-all-trades set-up, which is no bad thing at all. In fact, buyers looking at a hatchback are likely to want it to do a lot of different jobs to a high standard, rather than excelling at one aspect and failing at another. For this reason, the V40 is a handy car to drive just about everywhere. It does a good job at protecting occupants from pot-holes and speed bumps etc. around town with some supple suspension, has a very settled ride on the motorway considering it's not a particularly long car, and even manages to put a smile on a drivers face when pitched down a twisty B-road. In terms of ride and handling it excels at nothing - there are sportier and more comfortable cars available - but it tackles just about every environment very well. The only surface type not tried was off-road, but there is a V40 Cross Country if you want to scratch that particular itch. The R-Design trim tested adds sports suspension for a slightly stiffer set up, which I tend to prefer.
I think the Volvo V40 is one of the best looking cars in its class, and the refreshed looks have only improved the styling rather than detract from it. Volvo is in a rich seam of styling excellence with its cars at the moment, and the V40 upholds that honour despite the fundamental car being one of the oldest models on the car's fleet now. The stylish design does impact upon practicality a little though, with more spacious cars available in its class. The cabin could feel a little cramped to some, especially those moving from a more practical, mainstream family hatch to a premium offering. The Volvo isn't small though, and will cope with two adults in the rear without any problems. Head and leg room is a bit tight in the rear for a luxurious feel, and access isn't the easiest for tall passengers. Boot space is again a little lacking in overall capacity, but not to a limiting degree. It isn't helped by a relatively small hatch opening, and a bit of a lip to get loads over. The sloping rear window helps with the Volvo's aesthetics, but isn't particularly handy if you need to fill the boot to the brim remember, as it cuts into vertical load space. If you need a truly practical car, the V40 probably won't quite cut it. But for those who need a family hatchback, the Volvo will perform fine in terms of practicality.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Volvo is famous for its interior comfort, and the V40 doesn't disappoint. It feels like a more upmarket model once inside, and the seat comfort is first class - supportive but cossetting. The dashboard is now showing its age, but that's partly because the latest generation of Volvo interior design is some of the best around. The controls and instruments are actually very good, but the infotainment screen is small by today's standards, and also set into the dash, where rivals offer prominent touchscreen options. The controls in general are sited on a 'floating' centre console which remains a nice touch, with enough space for a phone and wallet to sit behind, out of sight. The instrument binnacle is now large digital, with the large central dial able to switch between display styles depending on which driving mode you're in. The driving position is good, with a comfortable set-up easy to find, and the steering wheel might look a little large, but actually proves no problems at all. All switchgear has lovely a soft-touch feel to it when you use it, and seems solidly put together.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Volvo V40 excels in this section, especially in the specification tested. Officially the D2 will return 83.1 MPG and emits 94 g/km CO2. Of course, in normal driving conditions, you'll never achieve 83 MPG, but I easily averaged almost 70 MPG, and even giving the engine a bit of a thrashing the V40 stubbornly refused to drop below the 50 MPG mark. It's as though it couldn't be a fuel guzzling model even if it tried. With this in mind, running costs will be excellent, and the V40 covered a fair few miles in my care, tested over a wide range of conditions. To tax, because of new VED rules, the V40 in D2 specification will cost £120 for the first year rate - included in a car's OTR - and then the flat £140 standard rate each year.
The V40 uses Volvo's modular range of Drive-E engines, which have been designed with a number of high-tech features to maximise efficiency. It's part of why the above economy figures are so good. The option to electrify the powertrain has been incorporated from the outset of the design process - though we won't see this happen on this generation V40. Fuel efficiency is improved by up to 35% compared to the previous units used, and up to 45kg of weight has been saved from the engine too. Volvo's i-Art fuel injection technology is at a higher pressure than precious systems, and is able to offer much improved control over fuel usage too. The six-speed gearbox as been set-up with longer high ratios to reduce revs at motorway speeds, with all ratios spaced for improved fuel economy over the previous version. Engine stop/start improves CO2 emissions by shutting down the engine in traffic. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 34.
As you would expect from a premium product like the V40, equipment levels range from pretty good to excellent. Across the range, standard kit includes 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control, electric windows front and rear, DAB radio with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and a suite of safety systems. Nav Plus adds a 7-inch colour screen with sat-nav, cruise control, and rear park assist. Inscription is one branch of moving up the trim ladder, focusing on a more luxurious feel. It includes leather upholstery, sat-nav with high quality sound system, cruise control, rear park assist, automatic wipers 17-inch alloys, chrome detailing, and active driver's display. R Design takes a sportier approach with sports upholstery, pedals, and styling details. A leather steering wheel, 17-inch alloys, dynamic chassis, active display, and front sports seats add to the entry level Momentum trim. R Design Pro adds leather sports trim, automatic wipers, 18-inch alloys, cruise control, and rear park assist.
The Volvo V40 is a great premium hatchback, and it is definitely worth of consideration of you are in that market. Not the most practical model in its class, the V40 will nonetheless cope with most of what daily life will throw at it. It has a well sorted chassis and handling set up, meaning it deals well with all sorts of driving conditions, while its biggest strength is low running costs thanks to the extremely frugal engine.
Model tested: Volvo V40 D2 R Design
Body-style: Five-door premium hatchback
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre turbo diesel / 94 g/km
Trim grades: Momentum, Inscription, R Design
On-road price: From £20,405. Price as tested £25,095
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
, In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5