Volvo V40 D2 ES

25 May, 2012 10:52am Andrew English

We get behind the wheel of the new Golf-rivalling Volvo V40 ahead of its UK launch in September


The new V40 has a style of its own, plus a finesse that should set it apart in this crowded market. With its safety, economy, style and dynamics, this Volvo should be popular with private and company car drivers. It’s far from cheap, but with an estate and maybe four-wheel drive on the way, the V40 has laid down a marker down in the premium compact sector.
You wait all day for a small family hatchback with a posh badge to come along, and four arrive at once. Not quite, but with the Mercedes A-Class, Audi A3 and VW MkVII Golf all arriving this year, the new Volvo V40 will have its work cut out.

On the outside, the five-door is squat and low – 1.8m wide and 1.4m tall. This goes against the class’s trend for higher-roofed designs. The 4.4m-long body is handsome, with a shiny black grille that hides a number of safety cameras.

Inside, it’s roomy in the front, with easily the most comfortable seats in the class, but there’s not much storage space and the door pockets are small. At 335 litres, the boot is smaller than a BMW 1 Series’, but an adjustable floor system allows luggage to be mounted on two levels. The load lip is a bit high, however.

Rear seats are comfortable and spacious, although six-footers will find their heads close to the roof with the optional panoramic roof fitted. There’s also a curve on the door sill, so access isn’t as easy as in some rivals.

Interior quality is good, with a refreshing design that uses familiar Volvo features such as the ‘floating’ centre console panel, which hides a storage bin. It also gets an all-new digital instrument binnacle that changes its appearance according to which of three throttle and steering settings (Eco, Elegance or Performance) is selected.

As you might expect, the V40 pushes class safety standards, with a city braking system that stops the car from up to 31mph if an impact is predicted. It also has radar and camera-based pedestrian detection systems, which apply the brakes if someone steps into the path of the car. The V40 even has an airbag under the bonnet to cushion any impact.

There is also a rear-end cross-traffic detector to warn of oncoming cars when you are reversing, and auto cruise control applies the brakes in slow traffic.

Three petrol engines and two turbodiesels are available. The UK’s best seller is likely to be the 115bhp 1.6-litre diesel. Based on a Ford engine, it claims 78.5mpg and emits a road tax- free 94g/km of CO2. There’s not much grunt at low revs, but things improve above 2,000rpm.

The new V40 is built by Volvo at its Ghent factory in Belgium, with the chassis and suspension derived from the Ford Focus. Volvo has made tweaks, as well as adding a stronger steering column and higher-quality dampers. It shows, and the smooth ride is up there with the best in class.

The electronically assisted steering is accurate but lacks feedback, so you’ll still have more fun in a BMW 1 Series. But agile handling, strong grip and sophisticated dynamics mean it should be a match for the new Audi A3. It’s a strong contender in this growing class.

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Do you really consider the Golf as a premium contender? It's righ there with the Focus, Astra etc, but the A3 is VAG's contender in the premium market.

Otherwise and exciting car this. Could you say more about the way it drives and especially refinement? I can't stand noisy cars...


Nice face ugly butt

There is no Ford/Volvo group, they are separate now since Volvo was sold off, they still get to use the platform as part of an agreement in the contract though!

Very nice car with a lot of new safety features and excellent fit and finish, this car was the big surprise of the Geneva motorshow this year. It will be a class leader among the premium compacts. The car is in real life much nicer than on the photo's, especially the rear end is very nice. The first Volvo without the influence of Ford and that is the best thing about the V40, quality is for Volvo on the agenda again, at last.

The greatest about Volvo cars is that they do not update their models every year. Unlike BMW, Mercedes or especially Audi where you can tell the year of make by the look. Volvo seems the only remaining brand that can compete in the middle sector with the German trio and can match their power-ranges. All other manifacturers went clinical in downsizing and cut their high-spec models. V40 looks fresh and classy, it is also offered with a meaty 2.5 five cylinder turbo petrol engine, >250bhp and 400NM overboost torque. This is what the good stuf is all about.

Too expensive for what it is. Volvo used to be similar to VW and Ford on price, now they are playing in the Audi/BMW league. This may well put potential customers off, as those who do not want to pay the higher price will move down to a Golf or Focus and the V40 may not have the kudos to attract significant numbers of Audi and BMW buyers. Incidently, as a Volvo owner for 20 years I can state with some confidence that Volvo quality improved significantly under Ford ownership. Without Ford, there is no doubt in my mind that they would have gone the same way as Saab.

I thought when they brought out the C30 that was supposed to be a rival to said mentioned group??

... but don't count on it, in the UK at least!

I run a leasing company and I can confirm that about half of the Golf's and A3 Class vehicles are chosen by females, and usually, drivers. Once they have set their mind on a badge then very little is going to change their minds - at my end of the deal that is a very frustrating thing to face. The new Mercedes A Class might do that, but I'm not sure the Volvo badge will - for some it still means old, stodgy, just a Skoda is (for the badge snobs) still has bad connotations. And it's NOT an Audi! Seriously, for some that is all it's about.

However, I suspect that there are some who will be getting tired of having the same vehicle in the car park as all of their colleagues, and that is where the new V40 and A Class will score. The good news is that both Volvo and MB are supplying vehicles on a better timescale than both VW and Audi in particular - these two are just taking the p1S5 in this respect, and I am amazed that too many are desperate enough to hang that medallion round their necks and wait for the cars. The record for us was 13 months for a Golf TSi R. Err, it really isn't THAT good.

If, and it's a big if, Volvo and MB can get both their marketing and their pricing right then the VAG Group will be getting the fright of their lives in this sector. I for one really hope so.

Is there to be an S40 or will those who value a really separate boot, practically (rear-passengers not subjected to draught or rain when boot accessed; full overhang giving compartment a decent length) and aesthetically, be required to look elsewhere yet again?

I wish they'd drop this fetish of the false black glass on the rear panel (on the C30, too). There are only a few of us left who are old enough to remember the reference point, the P1800S (?) that The Saint (?) used to drive, and that was a disaster on all fronts, particularly sales. Let it go, Volvo, nobody cares!

Would be a lot more attractive to me as a buyer if it retained more Volvo values - comfort, space, convenience. I wish Volvo would stop trying to be sexy - there is too much competition for that market, and with sexier badges. They are putting off people who liked trad Volvos but not attracting the Audi/BMW buyer. A Volvo that is not very roomy and difficult to get into and out of is just a waste of time!

At last a Focus size car with grown up design. The V40 has some delicious design lines for those that know what design is about. Clean, minimal, functional and quietly pleasing. Like a very fine sherry. More than can be said for the fizzy drink designs of most modern mid sized cars which have stronger references to a teenage toy box than adults paying £20k for an expensive mode of transport eating up 25% of their net monthly income. Alfa are the only other company that competes in the design sector. But as Chizzy57 wisely said (see above) those who don't give a damn about driving will drive a tin of beans if its the right price. Pray that the V40 is a success, it will prompt the other makers to dump the ugly toy box themes they seem to be besotted with. Or can it be true we are living in a truly dumbed- down age of child-like decadence. Something which in the past has always spelt the end of a civilisation.
Anyone got a Chinese dictionary?????

Looks like the comments about the suspension and steering have been cut and pasted from a previous Volvo V70 road test. The rear tailgate glass isn't false, it is clear glass (with a dark tint option) and aids rear vision when reversing.

I'm employed by a Volvo dealer and this is the first model since the XC90 that customers are willing to order in numbers before they have seen the car in the metal. I put this down to the strengthening manufacturing image and competitive contract hire rentals.

What an ugly Rss end!

I agree with the comments above. It looks a good looking car thats different from many designs, but the rear is ugly. Reminds me of the old Volvo 480. At least its different.

All style and tiny boot. And V50 1.6 Drive wasn't very economical - at he bottom end of the eco class, so don't expect this one to be. All that 99g/km rubbish - nearer 130-140g/km in real life, so won't be £0 VED for much longer!

Key specs

* Volvo V40 D2 ES
* Price: £19,745
* Engine: 1.6-litre, 4cyl turbodiesel
* Power/torque: 115bhp/270Nm
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* 0-60mph: 11.7 seconds
* Top speed: 118mph
* Econ/CO2: 78.5mpg/94g/km
* Equipment: City safety braking, pedestrian bonnet airbag, Bluetooth, climate control, cooled glove box, 16-inch alloys
* On sale: September