I’m not known as a keen bookworm, but our Volvo V40 has had me reading a lot more than usual. And it’s all because of the car’s encyclopaedic infotainment system.
I always like to try new gadgets ‘on the fly’, without resorting to the instructions. It’s a good way of working out if something is intuitive and easy to use. So whenever I’ve been stuck in traffic, I’ve whiled away the time scrolling through the menus that appear on the centre console screen.
They’re controlled by a dial, and while it’s not as straightforward as BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI systems, the number of menus, sub-menus and sub-sub-menus is virtually endless. There are screens for setting up the sat-nav, radio and phone, but most options can be found under the My Car button.
From here, you can turn the car’s many safety systems on or off, review detailed trip computer information, adjust the interior and exterior lighting, pick from over a dozen different in-car phone ringtones, play with the stereo’s graphic equaliser or even practise your best pronunciation for the voice control.
There’s even a huge Eco Driving section, with pages of hints and tips on how you can adjust your driving style to maximise your fuel economy. Some of it is pretty obvious – who doesn’t know you should remove excess weight to save fuel? – while our 113bhp D2 diesel doesn’t really have a drinking problem, as it’s returned 53.8mpg in our hands so far.
Another useful screen allows you to select which safety systems you want to use, while a second shows you what safety systems are in use at any given moment. In our first report, we listed all the safety kit on board, and while it’s reassuring to have, it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
The collision warning system has trouble telling the difference between stationary traffic and parked cars, especially if they’re stopped on the outside of bends. And it has occasionally flashed up a warning when the road ahead was empty. The parking sensors are quite trigger-happy, too.
There are hundreds of cyclists in central London, and the sensors sound a warning beep whenever one filters past when you’re stopped at a junction, which soon becomes a little wearing.
More disconcerting when you’re moving at speed is how the lane-keeping assistance actively puts resistance through the steering wheel if it senses you straying from your lane without indicating. However, find the right menu and the loading-up can be deactivated.
But overall, it’s great to have all these options. I’ve got all the interior lights set to a cool Glacier Blue and the graphic equaliser has the stereo sounding great, while the wing mirrors fold away and headlights stay on for 30 seconds when I lock the car. And no matter who drives the V40, the optional electric memory driver’s seat quickly returns to my preferred settings at the push of a button.
“The V40 is superb inside, with stylish flourishes like the floating centre console, TFT dials and light-up gearknob matched by seriously comfy seats.”
Tom Phillips, Web reporter
“The V40 is better to look at than the new Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series. It’s very economical, too, although it’s not a car for families – it’s not big enough.”
Ab, Netherlands, via www.autoexpress.co.uk