I’ve always thought that white cars look great – and our sleek Volvo V40 is no exception. But there’s no denying that this bright finish is a pain to keep clean, especially at this time of year.
For instance, the dirt covering the car in these pictures represents just 10 days’ worth of build-up from the salt-encrusted motorways and mud-strewn country lanes that make up my daily commute to London. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear the Volvo hadn’t been washed for six months.
So as not to look lazy, once the V40 had posed for the camera, I broke out the bucket and sponge to give the car a well deserved deep clean. Thanks in part to the layer of Turtle Wax I applied last month, the Volvo was back to its shiny best in no time. Sadly, it only took a drive back to the office later that day to get back to its grubby and grimy worst.
To make matters worse, the car’s steeply raked rear screen is prone to attracting dirt, too. And while the wiper does a good job of clearing the filth, the washer jet squirts down almost uselessly on to a corner of the glass, not into the middle of the screen where it’s needed. I’m hoping that a few minutes with a pin is all that’s needed to get the spray back on target. At least the headlight washers are proving to be much more effective: they do a great job of keeping the standard xenon headlamps’ lenses free of muck and dirt.
Yet for me, it’s the interior of the V40 that impresses the most – and not just because you can’t see the dirt-caked exterior from behind the wheel. Few family hatchbacks have a cabin as classy and user-friendly as the Volvo’s. The seats are comfortable and the dashboard is stylish and well thought-out. I particularly like the crystal-clear Active TFT display screen (a £350 option) and the chunky feel of the easy-to-reach switchgear.
Sure, the rear seats are a bit cramped and the 335-litre boot isn’t massive, but it’s no smaller than most rivals’. Plus, the folding false floor (a £100 option) is useful, as it stops your shopping bags rolling around the boot.
There are certainly no complaints about the smooth D2 diesel engine, which offers plenty of shove when travelling two-up. But if you have three heavily pregnant passengers on board, like I did the other week, the diesel does need a bit of revving to really get going.
This certainly wasn’t an issue with the more powerful D3 version of the V40, which I tried recently. Not only does its five-cylinder engine have significantly more mid-range muscle than our car, it also boasts a more distinctive soundtrack. So, would I swap the D2 for its faster brother? Surprisingly, no.
Once you’re up to speed, the two cars feel almost identical. And while the D3’s smaller wheels gave it a slightly smoother ride than the larger 17-inch alloys fitted to our range-topping SE Lux, the difference was slight.
More importantly, the larger-engined V40 wouldn’t be able to get near our car’s excellent 48.3mpg fuel economy figure. And when you factor in free road tax thanks to its sub-100g/km CO2 emissions, the ongoing savings really start to add up.
So the only question remaining is what to spend all this cash I’m saving on. With more bad weather on the way, I’m thinking that a year’s supply of tokens for my local car wash might not be such a bad investment...
“If you don’t want the superb VW Golf, then the sleek Volvo V40 is a fine alternative. It’s got a great cabin, it’s good to drive and cost-effective to run.”
James Disdale, Road test editor
“Compared to a BMW 116d, the V40 is prettier, has a better interior, is more economical, and emits less CO2.”
Captain Morgan, via www.autoexpress.co.uk