Volvo V40 review
Offering tiny emissions, stylish looks and tonnes of safety kit, the Volvo V40 deservedly won Auto Express' 2013 Safety award
The Volvo V40 clearly stands out from its the premium hatchback rivals, like the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1 Series, thanks to its stylish good looks and strong fuel economy. The fact that Euro NCAP experts say the Volvo V40 is the safest car ever assessed will only further cement this hatchback’s appeal. The introduction of a low-speed collision avoidance system, which comes as standard, plus optional blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and pedestrian detection have also earned the Volvo V40 a well-deserved Safety Award in the 2013 Auto Express Car of the Year awards.
There have been two recent additions to the line up: the Volvo V40 Cross Country and a sporty R-Design. The V40 T3 R-Design - Volvo’s answer to the BMW M Sport and Audi S line models - offers a sharp, secure drive with a punchier look. The Volvo V40 Cross Country model, which takes the V40 hatch, jacks up the suspension and adds extra cladding to the bodywork, boasts a style upgrade at a small cost with minimal mechanical changes.
Whilst the Volvo V40 price may seem steep, it’s competitive against its upmarket rivals and offers good value for its class. Our long-term Volvo V40 reviews, which test the car over three months, detail how much you save with reduced running costs; the Volvo V40 diesel engine returns an impressive fuel economy of 78.5mpg.
Our choice: V40 D2 SE
Volvo isn’t renowned for designing the most stylish of cars, but the Volvo V40 breaks this tradition. It incorporates all the best styling cues from across the current range, with a sculpted front end, projector-style headlights and a contoured bonnet that echoes the V60 estate, as well as curvy tail-lamps and half-glass bootlid that are inspired by the C30 hatchback. In terms of exterior dimensions, the V40 is one of the longest and widest cars in its class, which helps to enhance the purposeful stance. The cabin feels bright and airy but it can't quite match the Audi for quality, while the infotainment system's endless reams of menus and submenus can be quite confusing. Entry-level ES cars come fitted with luxuries like 16-inch alloy wheels, heated door mirrors, cruise control, keyless start, Bluetooth and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. There are also SE, SE Lux and sporty R-Design models, as well as a rugged Volvo V40 Cross Country version that offers the option of four-wheel drive, but you'll need to add an extra £1,000 to the Volvo V40 price to take advantage of it.
The engine range is made up of three petrol engines and three diesels. The petrol options are the firm’s 148bhp 1.6-litre T3, 177bhp 2.0-litre T4 and the range-topping five-cylinder 2.5-litre T5, which boasts a muscular 360Nm of torque. But it’s the Volvo V40 diesel engines that make the most sense, as even the 1.6-litre low-emissions D2 model with 113bhp offers plenty of overtaking power. The 147bhp 2.0-litre D3 engine offers a good mix of power and efficiency, while the grunt of the five-cylinder 175bhp D4 is particularly impressive and makes passing slower moving traffic a doddle. With underpinnings based on the Ford Focus, it's bo surprise to find the Volvo feels agile and composed on twisty roads. The steering is accurate and direct, while body control over bumps is good. However, the six-speed manual gearbox is a little clunky, while the Geartronic automatic is not as smooth or efficient as the latest dual-clutch automatic gearboxes from Audi and VW. And while the interior is well insulated from wind and road noise, the Volvo V40's ride is a little firm.
Volvo has always been a class leader in safety innovation, and the V40 is no exception. It received a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP tests, with 98 per cent for adult occupant and 100 per cent for safety assist making it officially the safest car Euro NCAP has ever tested. Every V40 comes fitted with the firm’s City Safety system - which uses a laser to detect an imminent collision and automatically brake the car to prevent a low-speed accident – and a U-shaped pedestrian airbag that triggered by sensors in the bumper and pops out from under the bonnet to soften the impact. Volvo finished a solid 10th in the 2012 Driver Power reliability survey, proving that buyers still have faith in the ownership experience and reliability of the brand despite a few problems in recent years.
Volvo has sacrificed some its traditional practicality in favour of style. Although the Volvo V40 is slightly bigger on the outside than many of its class rivals, headroom in the rear seats is tight for anyone approaching six feet tall and the high, narrow boot holds only 335 litres with the rear seats in place. This is 45 litres down on the Volkswagen Golf. But despite its compact dimensions, the boot does have a false floor that allows items to be stored on two different level, while the cabin features a decent amount of storage for the usual family odds and ends.
The Volvo V40 excels when it comes to running costs. The Volvo V40 diesel (the D2) emits just 94g/km of CO2 and returns an impressive fuel economy figure of 78.5mpg, which puts it on a par with the BMW 116d EfficientDynamics. The D3 Volvo V40 diesel engine manages 65.7mpg and emits only 114g/km of CO2, while even the powerful T4 petrol has official figures of 51.4mpg and 129g/km. Although the Volvo V40 price is considered to be high, it is priced accordingly with its upmarket rivals from BMW and Mercedes and a generous amount of equipment is included as standard. However, servicing and depreciation will both be higher than for the equivalent BMW 1 Series.