Volvo V40 review
The Volvo V40 brings low emissions, stylish looks and tonnes of safety kit to the German dominated premium hatchback market
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.
The three diesels are the pick of the V40 range, and the base 118bhp, 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 175bhp D4 diesel is particularly impressive when it comes to power.
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.
The Volvo V40 shares many of its mechanical parts with the excellent Ford Focus, so it's great to drive, and feels agile and composed through the corners. Accurate and direct steering is another strong point, as is body control over bumps.
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 wind and road noise are kept to a minimum.
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.
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.