Volvo V40 D2 R-Design

29 Jan, 2013 9:45am Jack Rix

Is the sporty new Volvo V40 R-Design a match for the BMW M Sport and Audi S line models?


First things first, the V40 R Design definitely looks the part with expensive-looking trim inside and out and subtly enhanced bodywork. These changes add some attitude and should appeal to younger buyers, plus if you opt for the optional sports suspension, it will handle corners with more verve, too. But the V40 is still the most sensible member of the premium hatchback crop, so ultimately the fact that the R-Design retains the refinement, comfort and class-leading fuel-economy of the standard car is what will draw customers in.

Buyers want it all nowadays – sporty looks with rock bottom running costs, which is why factory-fit styling kits are becoming crucial for maximising profits. The BMW 1 Series is offered in M Sport trim, the Audi A3 is available as an S line and now Volvo has applied its R-Design treatment to the V40 range - and it expects 25 per cent of customers to take the bait.

In the past, the problem with sporty trim levels like this was that if you wanted the big wheels and bodykit, you got the backbreaking sports suspension as standard, but Volvo has sidestepped this mistake. You can order a sports chassis, which uses firmer spring and dampers and lowers the suspension by 10mm, but it's a £540 option.

What you do get for £2,300 more than the ES model on which it's based (or £4,050 for the R-Design Lux, which also adds xenon headlights, full leather seats, cruise control and keyless start) is an exterior design pack that includes a silk metal finish around the grille, the diffuser and on the wing mirrors. There's also a lower front bumper with vertical LED running lights, 17-inch wheels and the option of Rebel Blue paint for £275.

Inside, there's part-leather, part-suede sports seats embossed with the R-Design logo as standard, which are actually better-looking and grippier than the full-leather seats in our R-Design Lux test car. The rear seats are more sculpted, too, although there's still space for three back there if needs be. Another R-Design logo is applied to the steering wheel while an aluminium-effect stripe runs down the centre console. Add in the floating centre-console and illuminated glass gear lever, and it's a masterclass in tasteful Scandinavian design.

Every engine is offered as an R-Design model, right up to the 250bhp five-cylinder T5. The engine we drove though is by far the biggest seller - the 113bhp 1.6-litre D2, which accounts for a staggering 62 per cent of total V40 sales. With fuel economy of 78.5mpg and emissions of 94g/km, it's a massive hit with fleet buyers - so if R-Design kits are all about bringing sporty design to the masses, this is the model that defines the brand.

Our D2 test car wasn't fitted with the lowered sports suspension, but we did sample it in another model and were impressed by the results. You feel slightly closer to the road and the improved body control in a series of tight B-road turns is appreciable. It doesn’t ruin the ride either, although we suspect it would be a different story on the optional 18-inch wheels.

The standard chassis is still more than capable, though, and the D2 does itself proud. Getting up to speed is a bit of a struggle, but once up to cruising velocity the smooth in-gear acceleration is adequate. Compared to a BMW 1 Series it feels like the steering, clutch, brakes and throttle have been wrapped in cotton wool, detaching you from the experience, but Volvos have always been a more grown-up choice – forcing you to drive in a relaxed way.

Price is crucial though in this massively competitive segment, and the V40 fares well - costing around £550 less than the BMW 116d M Sport. But be careful as our test car was fitted with a host of options, including an electric drivers seat (£600), lane departure warning (£700) and a park assist system (£850), which took the total price to a less-palatable £27,820.

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Another lack lustre design by Volvo.
Always the bridesmaid...

Surely at a price of £27 grand it's better to buy a 3-series sized car instead?

I'm sorry Sven can't agree with you I think it looks good so much better than a BMW 1 series and as for an A3 or Golf well all I can say is Dull Dull Dull,(is the paint still drying) be different for once!!

This is a quality alternative. I understand a car is an expensive item for many so it is logical that most people will want to get the most with the least amount of money possible (in the particular sector they are looking at). Sometimes you have to buy a nice car without relying on facts and figures, in the same way that "if you buy a house using facts and figures, you will end up in Dunfermline, because you get a lot more for your money."

I like the analogy of Dunfermline. Very creative.
Although similar cash will buy you a Mercedes A-Class or a BMW 1-Series.
You can't exactly call them Dunfermline.
More like Mayfair and Chelsea, I suppose.


But you could have a 150hp VW Golf GTTDI which goes like the clappers and is sporty. Why would you pay the same for a slow volvo?

Buying a car without relying on facts and figures is exactly why there is many Audis and BMW's out there. Very average cars with woeful spec lists for the money, amazing what a badge can do. Its like a London postcode, looks great on your letters and for letting people know you have a bit of money but know it means you will probably be stabbed.

Still better than anything the germans offer!

Because Golfs are too small for young families with massive prams and everything that goes along with it, this isn't.

The Volvo also looks a hundred times better inside and out (never thought i'd say that!).

More like Mayfair and Tottenham! ;)

Have a 2004 TDCI 110BHP and 194.000km driven never had a turbo problem or never give a alert yet.Still the same turbo factory plugged the same turbo can drive another 200.000km and why people buys A VOLVO many can give 100 answers for this. For last A VW can never be a volvo, you can always feel-drive safe in a volvo chasis.

Can't agree more - current Volvo cars do look pretty and refreshing. If you prefer a boring looking Golf then by all means go ahead, I'd happily drive around in a nice car that not much knows about.

I believe it's only the basic platform and engine that is shared,above that I'm sure the build quality and switchgear etc is much better? But I tend to agree still is a bit expensive but aren't all cars now. Best we all buy a Dacia ;) great value

Well said JohnJoe. Volvos look absolutely terrible inside and out - they are some kind of weird oddity, whilst the Golf is stylish with wonderful lines -a lovely looking car. It's higher quality puts it a class ahead of the Volvo. Why anyone would choose a Volvo over a Golf defies belief. I do applaud Volvo drivers though for trying to be different, but unfortunately they are not using their heads.

Nearly there.... I'd say Basildon & Tottenham. LOL!

Absolutely not! - assuming you're referring to hatches in general, and not just this Volvo. Your suggestion, with regard to size (never mind quality, as I'm sure you're inferring by mentioning the 3 series) is incorrect:

Because it so annoying how ignorant people can be over issues like this, I've taken the trouble to go to the manufacturers web sites and get the dimensions. So, here are the size comparisons (mm):

Interior Width (front) Golf 1469, 3 series 1451, Volvo 1396 (shoulder room)

Interior width (rear) 3 series 1458, Golf 1440, Volvo 1352 (hip room)

Head room (front) BMW 1023, Golf 975, Volvo 953 (BMWs usually have a low seated position - which some like, but others hate - it's an attempt to make the car "feel" bigger)

Headroom (rear) Golf 967, 3 series 957, Volvo 932

Exterior width Volvo 2041, 3 series 2031, Golf 2027

Length 3 series 4624 (long bonnet), Volvo 4369, Golf 4349

So, the Golf is 18mm wider in the front than the 3 series, whilst the 3 series is just 18 mm wider than the Golf in the back. At the end of the day, these are all similar sized cars, aside the BMW's long bonnet which is responsible for it's extra length. However, the hatchbacks will easily carry much more luggage - they are practical, whilst a saloon is not.

The hatch backs can seat 5 people comfortably and will have all the gadgets of a larger car. Also, there's no way you'll get as much luggage into the boot of your saloon, as you would in a hatch. Do you really think that bigger means better and/or higher quality? Sorry, but you're wrong. There are many people driving around in big cars that cost much less than many smaller cars, and yet somehow think they are higher up the social ladder than people who choose not to drive big cars - they are called snobs. These hatch backs are ideal and have as much, if not more room than a 3 series. It's difficult to think why anyone would choose a saloon over a premium hatch back of a similar price.

....the Volvos internal widths are "shoulder room" and "hip room" of which I've taken the widest figures in each case (which probably makes the Volvo figures appear wider than they really ought to be in comparison to the other cars... but they're they only figures I could find on the Volvo site.

... and in a little defence of the BM's length, I think most would agree that long bonnets are attractive, and of course it's not helped by it's longitudinal engine layout which forces the bonnet to be extended.

Someone needs a trip to Specsavers me thinks :)

I've had first V50 in 2.0D for four years, then now comming up to 3 years on my second V50 1.6D R-Design, and looking to go for V40 D2 R-Design this time. I always liked Volvo but the missmatch on price against same classed car has always been there. I think Volvo lovers thinks they are as Lux brand as Merc's in some what, and there's no way you can convince Volvo lovers to opt for Audi, BMW, Mercedes, where you see same ones in same colour drive passing you by every 3 cars down the M1. But hey, V40 is just a costly option over Ford Focus Platfom or even that Mazda 3 guys.

.....Still, I think these three looks far better than on going GOLF though.

I've only just seen the rebuttle. A Golf Stylish? Its got to be in the top 5 worse looking cars on the road. It has no lines, no features, nothing. Its just a box of blandness that would never even get an invite to a design awards ceremony. A Golf says one thing about its owners, I've given up.

Do you think Golf GTI or Golf R owners "have given up"? I would definitely think that relates more to someone who defends the styling of this Volvo.

Yes. You know what they say about GTi owners, they are GiT's. They buy on a badge that used to mean something, now its just another spec level on a fat car. The 'R' is a bit better, just too safe. Give me an ST or VXR anyday over the VW.

Key specs

  • Price: £24,245
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • Power: 113bhp
  • Torque: 270Nm
  • 0-62mph: 11.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 118mph
  • Economy: 78.5mpg
  • CO2: 94g/km
  • Equipment: 17-inch alloys, leather upholstery, Bluetooth, leather steering wheel, sports seats, sat-nav
  • On sale: Now