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 brings the Swedish car manufacturer into the premium hatchback market, and the car actually does a great job at keeping rivals like the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1 Series at bay. That's mainly thanks to the V40's great fuel economy, incredible safety record and stylish looks - it's not often a car can combine all three so well. It's so safe, in fact, that it's the safest car that experts at Euro NCAP have ever tested - and it's packed full of cutting-edge equipment. A low-speed collision avoidance system is standard on all models, and optional safety kit includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist and pedestrian detection. All of this means it won the Safety Award in our Car of the Year 2013 awards.
Two new models, the Volvo V40 Cross Country and the V40 R-Design, have been added to the line-up, too. The T3 R-Design is a sportier version of the V40, with a more aggressive look and improved handling - it's Volvo’s version of the BMW M Sport and Audi S line models. On the other end of the scale is the Volvo V40 Cross Country, which features higher suspension and a more rugged style, with minimal mechanical changes.
The Volvo V40 isn't cheap compared to some small hatchbacks, but when you look at its premium rivals it starts to look like pretty good value. With the Volvo V40's diesel engine returning an impressive fuel economy figure of 78.5mpg, it's not bad to run either.
Our choice: V40 D2 SE
Volvo might have a reputation for boxy designs, but the V40 doesn't follow that trend at all - it's one of the best looking cars in its class. It takes all the best elements from the rest of the Volvo range, with a smooth front end, projector-style headlights and a V60-style bonnet, as well a cool part-glass hatchback that echoes the old C30 hatchback.
It even manages to looks low and sporty, because it's one of the widest cars in its class. The interior can't quite keep up with the rival Audi A3 when it comes to quality, but it does feel light and airy inside. The in-car computer system is a bit of a mess, though, with endless menus and submenus making it a pain to navigate.
Standard equipment on al models includes 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless go, cruise control, heated door mirrors, Bluetooth and a leather-covered 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 this model costs an extra £1,000 over the equivalent V40 without these features.
Buyers can choose from three petrol engines and three diesels in the Volvo V40. Those after a petrol version can go for the 1.6-litre T3 with 148bhp, the 2.0-litre T4 with 177bhp and the range-topping five-cylinder 2.5-litre T5, which produces a strong 360Nm of torque.
Most buyers will be better off with a diesel engine, though, with even the 113bhp 1.6-litre D2 model having plenty of power for normal driving. The 147bhp 2.0-litre D3 engine is a bit better for overtaking thanks to the extra power, and the five-cylinder 175bhp D4 is particularly impressive when it comes to power.
The Volvo V40 shares many of its mechanical parts with the excellent Ford Focus, so it's great to drive, feeling agile and composed through the corners. Accurate and direct steering is another strong point, and body control over bumps is good too. Unfortunately the gearboxes let it down: the six-speed manual gearbox is a bit clunky, and the Geartronic automatic is not as smooth or efficient as the latest dual-clutch automatic gearboxes from Audi and VW.The ride is too firm as well, although wind and road noise is kept to a minimum.
When it comes to safety, the Volvo V40 is second to none - it received a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP tests, but with a 98 per cent rating for adult occupant and 100 per cent for safety assist, it's the safest car ever tested by the organisation. All models get a City Safety system as standard, which can detect a low-speed collision is imminent and brake the car accordingly. Plus, there's an innovative U-shaped pedestrian airbag that pops out of the bonnet when it senses an impact to soften the blow.
Volvo came in at eighth in the 2013 Driver Power reliability survey, showing that the car should prove to be very reliable - and the engines are well tested in other models and should prove very dependable.
Unusually for Volvo, the V40 sacrifices some practicality in favour of the new, stylish design. The car might be bigger on the outside than its rivals, but when you get inside it gets a bit tight, especially in the back. Headroom in the rear seats is not good enough for tall passengers and the 335-litre boot is a bit too tall and narrow to be truly practical. It's 45 litres smaller than the boot in the Volkswagen Golf, too.
However there is actually a false floor that means extra items can be stored out of sight, which is a neat feature. There's plenty of storage about the interior as well, with plenty of cubbies.
Keeping the cost of motoring low is a big selling point for many cars, and the Volvo V40 doesn't disappoint. The V40 D2 model emits just 94g/km of CO2, and it's economy figure of 78.5mpg puts it on a par with the excellent BMW 116d EfficientDynamics. Go for the D3 Volvo V40 diesel and you'll get a claimed 65.7mpg and emissions of 114g/km of CO2, and even the powerful T4 petrol version gets figures of 51.4mpg and 129g/km.
The Volvo V40 is good value compared with its rivals from BMW and Mercedes, and there's plenty of standard equipment (especially when it comes to safety) to justify the asking price. However, servicing and depreciation will both be higher than for the equivalent BMW 1 Series.