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First drive: Volvo V40 D2. Image by Volvo.

First drive: Volvo V40 D2
Volvo's new V40 competes with the new Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Is it good enough?

 



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| First Drive | Verona, Italy | Volvo V40 |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

When Volvo unveiled the V40 in Geneva we were impressed with its gorgeous lines and high quality interior. Thankfully all that is backed up by a competent chassis, good refinement and - especially in the entry-level D2 model - impressive efficiency.

Key Facts

Model driven: Volvo V40 D2 SE Lux Nav
Price: £24,545 on-the-road (V40 line-up starts at £19,745)
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Audi A3 1.6 TDI, BMW 116d, Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI
CO2 emissions: 94g/km
Combined economy: 78.5mpg
Top speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 12.3 seconds
Power: 115hp at 3,600rpm
Torque: 270Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

In the Metal: 5 5 5 5 5

Volvo will draw buyers into its showrooms with the styling of the V40 - it's a fabulous looking car. All the current Volvo design hallmarks are present and correct, but there's real flair to the execution. The low bonnet and raked windscreen set the tone, while the strong shoulder line finishes in a quirky flourish in the rear door - said to hark back to the Volvo P1800 coupé. The rear view is just as interesting.

The interior of the new V40 isn't as design conscious, but its simplicity works really well. More importantly, its quality is comparable to Audi's and there's good space for passengers - certainly when compared to the A3 and 1 Series. The boot may have a useful split-level facility, but it's smaller than all of its rivals.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

Volvo bravely set a challenging mountain route for the V40 drive in Italy, with endless bends of varying camber and a seemingly infinite supply of hairpin corners. The car soaked it up with surprising ease. Body control is exemplary and the brakes survived a few difficult downhill sections unfazed. While not being as engaging as say the BMW 1 Series, the Volvo is a match for the Audi A3 and Golf. Admittedly the road surface was quite good, so we'll judge the V40's comfort when we drive it back home.

The V40 features three different modes for the steering weighting and if you gradually move from one to the other there's little difference, but switch from the lightest to the sportiest and it's more noticeable. In all there's a modicum of feedback and it's a pleasantly linear system. The turning circle is poor though.

Our test car featured switchable themes (Eco, Elegance and Performance), which altered the instrumentation graphics and throttle sensitivity, though this won't be standard. The D2 diesel engine is best described as adequate. The gearing is quite high, which can make the car feel a little flat-footed on steep hills, but overall it's a good efficient engine for the car - and noticeably hushed.

What you get for your Money: 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Prices for the new Volvo V40 start at £19,745 for the ES model with the D2 diesel engine. That includes 16-inch alloys, leather steering wheel and gear knob, climate control, electric windows, City Safety and the pedestrian airbag. The best-selling specification, SE, costs £1,600 more for extra chrome outside, electrically folding door mirrors, cruise control, upgraded upholstery, keyless start and audio controls on the steering wheel.

At the top of the line-up is the SE Lux, which costs £2,000 more again. It features a sumptuous leather interior, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and Xenon headlamps. Satnav is available on all versions for £1,200 extra.

Diesel engines are D2, D3 and D4 producing 115-, 150- and 177hp respectively, while petrol options include the T3 (150hp) and T4 (180hp) for now. Not all of the engines are available with the base ES trim level.

Worth Noting

All examples of the Volvo V40 feature the new pedestrian airbag - a world first. When sensors in the front of the car detect impact with a pedestrian an explosive charge in each hinge removes a pin, releasing the rear of the bonnet. At the same time the airbag is filled with gas, raising the back of the bonnet by ten centimetres. The airbag spreads across the base of the windscreen and up the A-pillars in a bid to reduce injury. This process takes just a few hundredths of a second though the system is only active between 12- and 31mph (Volvo claims that 75 per cent of all accidents involving pedestrians take place at less than 25mph). Because of it Volvo has been able to reduce the bonnet-line and hence the driver's seating position - more cushioning space is usually required between the bonnet and the engine.

Summary

The premium hatchback market is highly competitive. The BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 are very fresh and the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is just around the corner, while the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus are knocking on the door too. Despite all that, the new Volvo V40 stands apart as something different that deserves to be considered by the same buyers. It looks great, drives well and has a high-quality image on its side. It's the most promising new car from Volvo in a while.


Shane O' Donoghue - 21 Jun 2012









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2012 Volvo V40. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2012 Volvo V40. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2012 Volvo V40. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2012 Volvo V40. Image by Volvo.
 

2012 Volvo V40. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2012 Volvo V40. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2012 Volvo V40. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2012 Volvo V40. Image by Volvo.
 






 

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