What is it?
You might not believe it at first glance but this is the updated version of the V40, Volvo’s answer to the Audi A3 Sportback and BMW 1 Series.
So what’s new? Externally, you get the choice of eight new alloy wheel designs, five new body colours and a new grille with an updated Volvo badge. Most noticeably, Volvo’s LED ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights now feature, too.
No matter which of the new trim levels you go for (Momentum, Inscription or R-Design), those lights are standard, making this the first car in the segment to get such technology across the range. We’ve tried the petrol-powered T3 in sporty R-Design trim.
What's it like?
The revised V40 will be familiar to those who knew it before its nip and tuck. Considering the model's popularity, it could be argued that this was the safest option. In the case of our test car, you still get the same 150bhp from the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor, which is enough for adequately brisk performance.
Thanks to an architecture derived from the Ford Focus, there is a multi-link independent rear end that helps the V40 to handle pretty tidily. Roll is well contained and any understeer is dealt with smartly by a lift of the throttle. It’s not outright fun but it’s more enjoyable than you might think.
The steering acts precisely, with weighting that may feel heavy to some but gives a feeling of heft that seems in keeping with a Volvo's character. Certainly, it isn’t a chore to twirl the wheel, even at parking speeds. As you might expect, though, it’s not a particularly talkative rack. Likewise, the gearshift is slick and easy but nothing to savour.
There is, however, a big problem with how the V40 drives. The ride in our R-Design test car, running on 17in wheels, felt unsettled. No matter how smooth the road appeared, you always felt yourself moving up and down in your seat. At least it never banged or crashed, even over the worst bumps.
Inside, you still get plenty of high-quality materials, comfortable seats and Volvo’s quirky floating centre console. Unfortunately, this just means you can’t see what you’ve stashed in the cubbyhole behind it. The infotainment screen is also a little small and the vertically mounted dial control takes some getting used to.
During our drive, we struggled with the closely set cluster of buttons on the centre console, including an old-school telephone dial pad. With various menu shortcuts spread around these buttons, we often found ourselves having to look to see the thing we wanted to select. Considering the XC90 shows how good a Volvo infotainment system can be, it's disappointing a similar system wasn't used here. That'll have to wait for the next-generation V40.
This V40 also trades practicality for style. The curving roofline makes head room tight for anyone approaching six-foot tall and the boot is considerably smaller than that of an Audi A3. At least rear leg room is pretty generous for adults.
Should I buy one?
If you were thinking of buying a V40, there’s now even more reason to do so. Although the changes aren’t ground-breaking, this car remains likable in many ways.
For all that, though, it’s falling even further behind in this constantly evolving class. An Audi A3 Sportback is better still, and it's a car that's just had a far more comprehensive facelift in time for summer. It’s a shame, then, that the V40 hasn't been more thoroughly reworked.
Volvo V40 T3 R-Design
Location Oxfordshire; On sale Now; Price £24,695; Engine 4 cyls, 1969cc, turbo, petrol; Power 150bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 1300-4000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1417kg; Top speed 130mph; 0-62mph 7.8sec; Economy 51.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 127g/km, 22%