Volvo V40 D3

13 Jul, 2012 6:00pm Paul Bond

We hit British roads in the stylish new Golf-rivalling Volvo V40


The V40 deserves to be a huge hit. Stunning looks and decent performance combined with safety innovations and low CO2 emissions make it a talented all-rounder. It’s not perfect, and the high pricing and quirky cabin may deter some buyers. But with bags of character and racy R-Design models in the pipeline, it’s set the bar high for new rivals on the way.

It's been more than 15 years since Volvo last sold a five-door hatchback in the UK, so the pressure is on for the new V40 to make an impact. It won’t be easy, though, with the new Audi A3, VW Golf and Mercedes A-Class also going on sale later this year.

The V40 would fare well in a beauty contest against its rivals, thanks to its sleek front end and tapered headlights – just like the S60 saloon’s. At the back, the glass section across the boot and curved tail-lamp clusters are inspired by the C30 coupe.

The bold design statements continue inside, most specifically with the floating centre console. The dashboard layout is a little cluttered, but plush materials and sturdy build quality make up for it.

This is a well equipped car: the entry-level ES gets Bluetooth, climate control and Volvo’s City Safety auto braking system as standard. Further eye-catching features include the beautiful frameless rear-view mirror and colourful TFT crystal dials – although the latter cost £350, even on top-spec versions.

There are areas where styling chic compromises practicality, though. A sloping roofline makes rear headroom for six-footers quite tight, and while the boot has a clever £100 optional false floor, the capacity could be more generous – it’s only 335 litres.

Our car’s 2.0-litre D3 will be the most popular engine choice after the sub-100g/km D2, and on the road it doesn’t disappoint. On cold starts it’s not as refined as one of VW’s TDIs, but the car quickly settles to a refined cruise.

With 148bhp and 350Nm of torque from a mere 1,500rpm, it feels really responsive in-gear, and quick bursts of acceleration are rewarded with a five-cylinder exhaust warble. The six-speed gearbox has a long yet accurate throw, and although the steering is not as communicative as in some rivals, it’s weighty and direct.

The V40 is the last all-new Volvo that will use Ford underpinnings – but as it shares its chassis with the Focus, it handles very well. Body roll is controlled, and on the demanding Welsh roads of our test route the D3 showed a remarkable resistance to ruts and bumps, shielding the driver from all but the worst imperfections.

Yet the most impressive thing (certainly for fleet buyers) is that, thanks to stop-start and regenerative brakes, even this sporty diesel emits only 114g/km and returns a claimed 65.7mpg.

Such figures make the V40 a hugely attractive alternative to mainstream hatches – and Volvo is rightly expecting strong sales.

Disqus - noscript

Nice car and Volvo deserve success after the Ford years.

Excellent car, the big surprise in the C-segment. It outshines the bland Audi A3 by far and looks more stylish then the new overpriced A-class, not to mention the extremly ugly 1-series. The V40 is packed with seafety features and excellent build quality, will wait for the XC 40 though.

It is still ford years with this tech underneath. And good at that. Damn it looks very cool in this colour, serious but swedish at the same time.

I really hope Volvo do well with this hatchback-
judging by the new Plug ugly Ford focus they will- Volvo wins hands down.Even if it may be Ford based, that is not such a bad thing- Fords are well made and reliable.
This is a uber cool Scandi car that many can buy... The overall look of it is very attractive.I think Volvo will sell a lot of them, and deservedly so... What would you want on the drive-this or a Focus? Nuff said..

Hey as a current BMW 1 series driver I'm feeling quite jealous, how is it Volvo can make something this pretty, yet BMW can't manage to design a desirable small family hatchback

I currently have an XC60, brilliant car, really do think that Volvo's are underrated as cars. So reliable, plush, the best seats and you know of and the new ones are very stylish.

I certainly agree that the new Focus is so ugly it should be ignored by all buyers, but I am still struggling to see who Volvo are now aiming at. They will never get people out of their Audis and BMWs, so they shouldn't aim at the 'sports saloon' market. Volvo's USP was always comfort and practicality, but they have abandoned this, as all tests report limited space, small boot etc. Even their new Estate cars have silly sloping roofs and small tailgates - so who is actually going to buy a Volvo? I don't get it.

The Ford haters seem to be out in force. What they seem to forget is that Volvo would probably have become extinct around the same time as Rover had they stayed independent. Volvo learned a lot from Ford (chassis technology, production technology, quality control procedures etc.) and managed to pull themselves back from the brink.

Key specs

  • Price: £24,595
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 5cyl turbodiesel
  • Power/torque: 148bhp/350Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62/top speed: 9.6 secs/130mph
  • Economy/CO2: 65.7mpg/114g/km
  • Equipment: Bluetooth, colour display, City Safety, 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise and climate control, keyless entry
  • On sale: Now