The V40 T4 is a compelling alternative to the traditional German models, with a fresh and bold yet practical design.It drives well, features quality materials and has plenty of space inside, but we’d take the manual transmission, as the dual-clutch is jerky and not suited to the engine. Price, kit and running costs make this a good-value car, too.
The Volvo V40 T4 SE Lux is the most powerful version of this new Audi A3 rival. Powered by a four-cylinder 177bhp turbo petrol, it’s packed with performance and safety kit and sits on 18-inch alloy wheels.
The cabin won’t shock anyone familiar with Volvos, but it builds on a proven formula: supportive leather seats, a three-spoke steering wheel, plus a stylish illuminated gearknob. Handy touches include a variable-height boot floor and a chilled glovebox.
Rear passengers benefit from more elbow room than in the C30 and S40, yet a six-footer’s head will brush the roof in the back.
The driving position is great, with good all-round vision, plus a reversing camera and safety systems such as Cross Traffic Alert. This uses radar to detect oncoming traffic when reversing onto a busy road. The clear, fully digital dash has dials that change colour for each driving mode: Eco, Elegant and Performance. The latter setting gives you a central speedometer with an integrated rev counter.
The electric power-steering has three modes, too, with a default Medium setting plus softer and sharper set-ups either side. They make a noticeable difference, but even in Medium the steering is well weighted with great turn-in.
The T4 soaks up bumps well, yet although its 177bhp engine is powerful, the six-speed dual-clutch transmission is poor. It shunts at low speeds and kicks back violently with even a minor jab on the throttle. In manual mode, the V40 is potent and fun, but in Drive this shunting really spoils the experience.
That’s a shame, as good body control is backed up by a sporty engine note and strong brakes.
The V40 is a refined cruiser. It’s also lavishly equipped, with Bluetooth and iPod integration, as well as plenty of safety gear: it boasts a world-first pedestrian airbag plus emergency braking.
Thanks to a standard stop-start system and regenerative brakes, the T4 returns 51.4mpg and will emit 129g/km of CO2. It’s priced at £25,480 for the manual and £26,965 for the dual-clutch.