The A-Class isn’t the only all-new contender in the premium hatchback class. The Volvo V40 is another stylish-looking five-door, and it has the right credentials to be a strong alternative to the sporty Mercedes.
On the outside, the V40 matches the A200 CDI for style. The bold nose and distinctive lines are neat, and a longer body means it looks sleeker than the squat Mercedes. The large black tailgate emulates the ageing C30 three-door, but even with twin exhausts it doesn’t look quite as neat as the A-Class. And the small wheels featured on the SE-spec car in our pictures don’t fill the arches.
Still, the interior can’t be faulted for its smart design. It looks modern, with Volvo’s familiar circular controls, keypad and climate control switches logically laid out on the slender centre console. Our car came with the optional TFT digital dials and illuminated gearlever (£350), which look smart.
Comfort is another highlight. The plush leather seats are supportive and, while rear legroom is tighter than in the A-Class, larger rear windows and light headlining mean it feels more airy. Heated seats, rain-sensing wipers and bi-xenon headlights are standard on SE Lux models, as is keyless entry.
Boot space is tight, with only 335 litres available – although both cars lag well behind the class-leading VW Golf and BMW 1 Series for capacity. Folding the rear seats raises this to 1,032 litres, which is 125 litres behind the A-Class, but useful touches include a folding boot floor, bag hooks and under-floor storage. Also, the V40’s rear loading hatch has a wider opening than the narrow Mercedes.
The 2.0-litre D3 diesel is powerful, and marked out by its distinctive five-cylinder soundtrack. However, our SE test car was held back by its skinny tyres, and was five-tenths slower than the A-Class from 0-60mph at the test track, with a time of 8.5 seconds. Despite having a useful 50Nm more torque, it also trailed in our in-gear tests. In the real world, the difference is barely perceptible, while the smooth and refined D3 diesel engine is less intrusive than the A-Class on the motorway.
Our model’s smaller wheels boosted comfort further, but we’d expected a bigger difference over the A-Class, with rough surfaces exposing a lack of composure in both cars. The V40 is also less planted in corners, with more body roll and steering that lacks weight and feedback.
Our £24,845 D3 SE Lux is £125 more than the A200 CDI Sport, but even the lesser SE has more kit and undercuts the A-Class – although a six-speed auto is a £1,485 option on both models.
We were disappointed with the V40’s test economy of 38.7mpg, as it was well short of the claimed figures. Overall, though, it’s a compelling package that takes a very different approach to the A-Class. Is it a winner?