Volvo's fastest V40 hatch is comfortable and fast, but it's left lacking thanks to a bland equipment list, questionable refinement and a high price

What is it?

The Volvo V40 T5 is a car that Volvo’s UK marketing department describes as eclectic and unique in its class. Both are true. What we have here is the most potent version of the appealing V40 hatchback, equipped with a 242bhp petrol turbo version of the company’s all-new Drive-E motor.

The T5 designation might have you thinking that this is a sonorous five cylinder, but instead it’s the company’s all-new fuel-saving four-pot, available only with an eight-speed automatic.

And there’s your clue to the nature of this beast, which despite its athletic R-Design styling is what used to be known as an executive express – a fast, well-kitted car that’s about effortlessly brisk cruising rather than bulls-eyeing bends.

There are premium hatches offering comparable power for the price, but all are decisively more sporting. Among them are Audi’s £31,265 296bhp S3 sportback Quattro, and Mercedes’ £30,910 A250 AMG 4-matic. And though it’s far more of a driver’s car, it’s hard to ignore the excellent three-door BMW M135i at £31,375. Especially since the two-wheel drive Volvo costs slightly more than all three, and does without the all-wheel drive of the Audi and Merc.

But these strongly flavoured sports models are not what this V40 are aimed at, which is why the company reckons the model is “almost unique”. Instead, the T5 has been devised for people looking for accessible performance almost lazily delivered, says Volvo, and a subtle car that’s not about status.

Subtle it may be, but it’s hardly slow, serving 6.3sec 0-62mph sprints and a 149mph top speed. Standard kit highlights include reconfigurable TFT instruments, leather trim, lowered R-Design suspension, 17-inch alloys, sat-nav and active-bending xenon headlights – not an especially generous count at this price.

What's it like?

That the V40 is front- rather than four-wheel drive is immediately evident if you flatten the throttle, the V40’s nose snaking with an inebriation of torque. Four-wheel drive would tame that, and you can have it with the slightly pricier 251bhp T5 Cross Country.

Despite this it’s easy to control, especially as the torque steer soon eases as the transmission works through its many ratios. Back off and you’ll enjoy an engine that’s fairly quiet unless you rev it, this activity likely to provoke nostalgia for the (much thirstier) five-pot, this four sounding very ordinary despite its 242bhp.

The T5 handles with a tidy lack of drama, its secure grip and the weight of its steering generating a reassuringly Volvo-like aura of security.  But lowered suspension or not, the T5 is not a car that invites you to fling it at bends, its dynamic character too subdued for that.

The choice of sports suspension for this more comfort-oriented performance model is curious – although it rarely turns uncomfortable, choppy roads produce the same result inside, undermining the lopingly potent character this car might otherwise present. Its potential civility is further undermined by the hum of road noise on many surfaces.

Should I buy one?

Volvo reckons that less than one percent of V40 buyers will choose this model – that’s about 200-300 buyers. Yet the idea of a comfortingly powerful, highly refined and subtly finished V40 has some appeal, particularly with its Volvo branding.

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Trouble is, there’s not enough of the necessary refinement to convincingly play this role, even though this car is an easy drive. Couple that to an unexceptional equipment count and a price that seems too high, especially against the value offered by the more sporting alternatives mentioned earlier, and that low sales forecast seems wise.

The V40 is more appealing and a better buy when you spend less on it, but if you want a range-topper, the all-wheel-drive Cross Country makes a shrewder choice.

Volvo V40 T5 Geartronic R-Design Lux Nav

Price £31,715; 0-62mph 6.3sec; Top speed 149mph; Economy 47.9mpg; CO2 137g/km; Kerb weight 1583kg; Engine 4cyls, 1969cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol; Power 242bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 258lb ft between 1800-4800rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic


Add a comment…
alaoor 28 September 2014


Volvo is amazing car good and hard steel but they should do something with the prices should be bit cheaper in order to make sales
fadyady 28 September 2014


I've been saying since Volvo launched their V40 that it is a good car but far too expensive to steal sales from BMW, Audi and Mercedes. This version is no different. However the V40 is a larger car on the outside at least.
earlofsodbury 28 September 2014

Misunderstandings on both sides

Given the car illustrated in this article is not even to R-Design spec, I really wonder how much effort was made to understand the potential specifications available for the car? The option list is large - a rival to the most comprehensive out there. I speak as a V40 R-Design D4 manual owner whose car is a mobile manifestation of the options list almost in its entirety!

All that said, Volvo seem to have their eye off the ball with this car - the unavailability of the excellent 6-speed manual in the T5 is absurd, as is only offering AWD in the otherwise less sporty and higher-riding XC40. Schoolboy error!

Similarly, it puzzles me that they have taken what is in essence the Ford Focus's excellent dynamics and somehow diluted both handling *and* ride quality a little. IME these are still both superb, and I'm entirely happy, but they can and need to be better with such able rivals.

Price is, avowedly, over-ambitious - I understand Volvo's intent to claim premium market segment, but it has been hurt in every review by its choice, undermining it further by releasing its large HQ fleet into the used market when just a few months old - hurting its dealers too!

Get a grip Volvo - we want you to succeed too!