Volvo V40 review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Volvo V40 brings low emissions, stylish looks and tonnes of safety kit to the German dominated premium hatchback market

Stylish design, low emissions, torquey diesel engines
Small boot, expensive flagship models, costly servicing

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The Volvo V40 is the Swedish firm's attempt at making a premium compact car similar to the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes A Class, Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf - thanks to its superb fuel economy, great looks and incredible safety record, it does a fine job of taking the fight to the German foursome.

The economical Volvo V40 1.6-litre D2 diesel is the smallest engine in the range, but it returns an impressive combined cycle of 83.1mpg and emission levels of 88g/km of CO2. Alternatively, buyers who want a more performance orientated V40 can opt for the range-topping R-Design T5, which tops out at 155mph.

Volvo offers the V40 with a wide range of trim levels, from the entry level SE range, to the sporty R-Design that, with its more aggressive look and sharper handling than the standard car, can be compared to the equivalent BMW M Sport and Audi S Line models. What's more, Volvo also makes a jacked-up version of its V40. The V40 Cross Country features an elevated ride height and plastic body protection to underline its soft-roader credentials.

The Volvo V40 is the safest car Euro NCAP has ever tested so unsurprisingly, it's packed full of cutting-edge kit. Volvo fits every V40 with a low-speed collision avoidance system as standard, while optional safety features include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist and pedestrian detection.

On paper, the V40 doesn't seem cheap compared to some small hatchbacks, but when you compare it to some of its other premium rivals and factor in its strong fuel economy and safety features, it starts to look like pretty good value.

Our choice: V40 D2 SE



With its distinctive looks, the Volvo V40 is one of the most handsome cars in the premium hatch class. Its designers have obviously drawn on the rest of the Volvo range, and have given the V40 a V60-style bonnet, smooth front end, projector-style headlights, plus a cool part-glass hatchback that echoes the old P1800 ES.

Thanks to its wide stance, the V40 gains a low and sporty appearance but sadly, while the interior feels nice and airy, it can't quite match the quality of that found in the Audi A3. Furthermore, the V40's in-car computer system is a bit of a mess, with endless menus and submenus making it difficult to work.

Volvo gives every V40 alloy wheels, a TFT display, keyless go, cruise control, heated door mirrors, Bluetooth and a leather-covered steering wheel as standard.



Volvo gives the V40 a choice of three diesel engine options - D2, D3 and D4 - and four petrol engine options - T2, T3, T4 and T5.

The three diesels are the pick of the V40 range, and the base 113bhp, 1.6-litre D2 engine has plenty of power for every day use. The D2 unit offers a combined cycle of 83.1mpg and 88g/km of CO2, while the slightly more powerful 147bhp 2.0-litre D3 offers a bit more pulling power thanks to the extra horses. The five-cylinder 187bhp D4 diesel is particularly impressive when it comes to power. It offers the grunt of a diesel hot hatch like the VW Golf GTD, yet emits a tiny 99g/km and returns 74.3mpg. The new four-cylinder D4 engine is worth paying particular attention to as it'll feature in a wide range of new Volvos, including the long-awaited XC90 4x4. 

For petrol buyers, Volvo offers the T2 and T3 units on all trim levels apart from the V40 Cross Country, while the T5 is only available on R-Design and Cross Country cars. In R-Design guise, the 250bhp T5 can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.1s – fast enough to worry the top hot hatchbacks.

Volvo V40 interior

The Volvo V40 shares many of its mechanical parts with the excellent Ford Focus, so it's good to drive, and feels agile and composed through the corners. The steering is a little stodgy and lacking in feel, but given the whole car majors on comfort rather than the overt sportiness of say, a Mercedes A-Class, it's a worthwhile compromise.

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 Volkswagen. The ride is too firm as well, although long-distance credentials are improved by wind and road noise being kept to a minimum in the well-insulated cabin.



Volvo has always had a reputation for making safe cars, so unsurprisingly, the V40 is no different. In fact, it's second to none.

The V40 was awarded a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP tests, and with a 98 per cent rating for adult occupant and 100 per cent safety assist, the littlest Volvo is the safest car ever tested by the organisation.

Volvo gives every V40 a City Safety system as standard, which detects whether a low-speed collision is imminent and brakes the car accordingly. There is also an innovative U-shaped pedestrian airbag that pops out of the bonnet when it senses an impact to soften the blow.

In our 2013 Driver Power survey, Volvo ranked eighth, showing that the V40 should be very reliable. As it shares engines with other Volvo and Ford models, those found in the V40 should also prove to be very dependable.



The V40 keeps in line with the Volvo safety heritage, but it rather strangely chooses to go for style over practicality.

It may be bigger than its rivals on the outside, but the Volvo V40 is deceptively small on the inside, especially in the back. Headroom in the rear is not good enough for tall occupants, and the 335-litre boot is a tad too tall and narrow to be truly practical.

While the boot size is 45-litres smaller than that in the Volkswagen Golf, Volvo gives the V40 a neat false floor, meaning extra items can be stored out of sight. There's also plenty of storage and cubbies doted about the interior.

Running Costs


While the Volvo badge may not carry as much clout as that found on a Mercedes, BMW or Audi, the V40's selling point of low cost motoring does it a massive favour.

The 1.6-litre V40 D2 diesel offers a combined cycle of 83.1mpg and 88g/km of CO2, which puts in on a par with the BMW 116d EfficientDynamics diesel. The D3 Volvo V40 diesel returns a combined economy of 65.7 mpg, and 114g/CO2 of emissions.

The powerful petrol T4 Volvo V40 is also pretty economical, with CO2 levels of 129g/km, and a combined economy of 51.4mpg. However, while the most powerful petrol engine, the T5, can achieve a top speed of 155mph, it returns a reasonably poor 34.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 189g/km.

When compared with its rivals from BMW and Mercedes, the Volvo V40 is good value - 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.

Private Volvo V40 buyers will be concerned by 43.8 per cent residuals. While competitive in isolation they are competitive, this still sees the Volvo V40 trail rival cars such as the SEAT Leon and Lexus CT. Over three years a Volvo V40 SE D2 is likely to lose £11,687 in depreciation, almost £2,000 more than the Lexus.

Compared to the SEAT Leon, the Volvo V40 is also expensive to service, with the first three dealer visits adding up to £815, compared to £507 for the Leon.

Disqus - noscript

costly servicing??? £300 for 3 services seems a steal for this type of vehicle to me....

To anyone that's considering buying a Volvo, then good on ya, for staying away from the prestigious BMW/Merc/VW/Audi brands. It's good to see something different on the road. It's all personal choice, but me though, I couldn't live with the looks, and in particular... that dash. Sorry but it's awful.

and if you go for Ford engines it's ripp off

I'm delirious about my '53 S60 D5, which I've had for 150k miles. I love the looks of the new Volvo's but would never trade my "proper" Volvo for one of these pretenders. My next, and probably last, Volvo will be a '58 S60 D5. Then I'll probably go for a BM or Merc. Looks aren't everything.

The other day I saw a V40 in metal and realised that its not all that photogenic. Its quite a good looking car. The best Volvo I have ever set my eyes on. I still think its too expensive and that limits its appeal.

Apart from visibility which is not its strong point, an otherwise GREAT car in every aspect. Looks, quality made, efficient engines, upmarket feel, leading safety technology etc etc. What Golf?

Why do car manufacturers compete to see who can build a car with the smallest windows?

We had a V40 D2 coutesy car for a month (long story involving our XC90 diesel woes). We have 3 kids, and the car was generally a bit small for our family needs. Rear visibility is a joke and it is easier to park and drive the massive XC90 than this V40. Space in front and rear is also tight and just feels too small.

2 main problems though: Firstly the D2 1.6 diesel engine, we just could not get on with it in terms of lack of power low down, especially when pulling away from junctions. Worst of all is if you are approaching a roundabout for example in 2nd gear then try and go quick without stopping, there just is not enough torque to get you moving. Stop, first gear, set off again etc...

The above wouldn't be so bad, if you got anywhere near the claimed 72mpg! Over one month of a mixture of town, A roads and motorways we averaged just over 40 mpg. Which is not enough trade off for the rubbish performance.

We were very glad to get our 12 year old, 150k XC90 back. That still feels like a quality car. My wife certainly would not have swapped it for a brand new V40.

I rented one last month when in the UK, it only takes one suitcase in the back and the front headromm is very poor, i banged my head several times on the front upper screen portion. Reversing is poor, you rely entirely on the door mirrors.

modern Volvos are Ford and not a patch on proper Volvos.
Our 740se is 25 years old still going strong...built like a tank looks like a tank, guzzles petrol (26/28 long journey and 20 locally) but incredibly comfortable. Amazing to recall daytime driving lights caused consternation at the time.No other car had heated seats, heated wing mirrors, heated rear screen as standard!

Vauxhall V40?! (in the video as a header)

I have owned my new V40 D2 R-Design since April and I have to say I haven't experienced any of the problems with performance or poor fuel economy of others here. I think how you drive the car makes a big difference to economy. My favourite thing about my car is that I don;t think I've ever seen more than two other V40 on any journey I've ever been on! (Yet interestingly in the Netherlands it is the best selling car), I think a b ig part of the reason is badge snobbery (wanting to be one of the BMW, Merc and Audi "club")

Last updated: 15 Apr, 2014
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