From £18,740
The Volvo V40 represents a huge leap forward for the company, and comes close to offering everything that the more established rivals manage

Our Verdict

Volvo V40

Volvo tilts at the hatchback elite and aims to woo business drivers

What is it?

The most important model for Volvo in 20 years. So say those running the company, and we wouldn’t disagree. With the upheaval of a change of ownership, and years of models that are not quite good enough behind them, Volvo needs the V40 (which replaces both the V50 and S40 model lines) to compete with the established competition in every objective way rather than relying on Scandinavian chic to get it sales.

On paper things are looking good for the V40. It has the crucial low-emission-model in the fleet-friendly 94g/km D2 variant, and there is an array of more powerful four and five-cylinder diesel and petrol engines to satisfy those with a desire for something a bit more vigorous.

We’re testing the most powerful diesel model, the 175bhp five-pot D4 complete with the standard six-speed ‘box.

What's it like?

Something of a revelation for Volvo. It may be a Ford Focus underneath but you’d not know it from the sleek, stand-out looks and the plush-feeling interior in our SE Nav test car. You immediately feel cocooned and supported by the impressively squidgy, comfortable seats, even if you will just as quickly be perplexed by the fairly complex if beautifully clear digital readouts behind the wheel. You have the option of three ‘themes’ — performance, elegance, and eco — and there are also three different steering settings as standard, each accessed via another branch of the sub-menu, all controlled via the indicator stalk.

In practice, the variable steering doesn’t make a huge amount of difference but regardless of that the dynamics are one of the biggest steps forward with this car. Mind you, the steering is not the stand-out element. It’s a little numb and has an odd rubbery resistance around the dead-ahead that only serves to emphasise the artificial feel. But it responds well and weights up nicely, and most importantly it allows you to make the most of the neutral, grippy dynamics. It’s easy to place the nose precisely and the V40 is impressively resistant to both understeer and torque-steer, making this a gratifyingly smooth and rapid steer even on the most challenging of B-roads.

However, there are some niggles, in particular with the D4. Our test car rode on standard 17-inch wheels and it did fidget over some of the typically British, undulating Tarmac, even if it remained free enough of substantial thumping and jarring. That said, we doubt that anybody will be particularly put-out by the occasional dive and shimmy at higher speeds. 

The motor itself is also a little frustrating if you want to use it to make progress along more challenging roads. It’s perfect for cruising, when the V40 also makes for refined and soothing transport. But this motor suffers from a very boosty power delivery and offers little of the finesse and elasticity of the best diesels found in the class. Peak torque of 325lb ft arrives in a great stampede between 1750 and 2750rpm and then runs out of energy fairly soon. More frustrating is that the ratios too often leave you needing a down-change in order to exit the basement of unresponsiveness at the bottom end of the rev range and get you back into the turbo zone.

Taking all this into account, plus the low emissions and very competitive spec that includes Bluetooth and some elements of the company’s new safety tech as standard even in base models, the Volvo V40 is a clearly a comprehensive package. But, sadly, it is not a class-leading one.

The lower-powered D3 goes a long way to solving the uneven power delivery that blights the D4 somewhat, and is our preferred model in the range, but regardless, the powertrains in the V40 don’t match up to those in the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series. Equally, the user interface is not as intuitive, and the boot suffers from a high load lip and is a slightly awkward shape.

Should I buy one?

Having clarified that there are objective shortfalls in the V40’s arsenal, we would still vouch for it wholeheartedly. This new model represents a huge leap forward for the company, and is a very promising one given that it is the first model to be launched under Chinese ownership. It is close to offering everything that the more established rivals manage in terms of dynamics, efficiency figures and purchase and residual values. Crucially, Volvo has managed to intensify further that ethereal and unique character and sense of occasion that has set it apart over the years. It remains one of its strongest assets.

Unfortunately, the Volvo V40 remains a car that you will buy because you want to be different rather than because it is the best of its kind. But with this new model that decision brings with it only marginal compromises that are wholly acceptable in the name of having a car that, subjectively, has such huge appeal.

Volvo V40 D4 SE Nav

Price: £24,795; Top speed: 137mph; 0-60mph: 8.2sec; Economy: 65.7mpg (combined); CO2: 114g/km; Kerb weight: 1484kg; Engine type: 1984cc, 5 cyl in-line, turbodiesel; Power: 175bhp at 3500rpm; Torque: 325lb ft at 1750-2750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
28

13 July 2012

Last weekend I drove a V40 SE Nav D3. It looked great inside and out, was very comfortable (in the front) and drove nicely. That D3 engine is a peach.

It wasn't perfect, though. Rear room was mediocre at best and way behind the likes of a Golf and the boot was not only oddly shaped (not helped by those stupid adjustable floors) but was also small. 330 litres just isn't enough for a family car and as it doesn't even have a spare wheel I don't know what Volvo's excuse is.

Other niggles were the same as the V50; the hand brake is on the wrong side and sticks up in the air, getting in the way and it is still possible to hit the buttons on the centre console when changing gear.

Overall I thought it was a very nice car, as long as space is not a priority. I'm hoping they bring out an estate version.

13 July 2012

I've found the auto box works extremely well with an otherwise peaky Volvo 5 cylinder turbo diesel - downshifting by itself below the boost zone and upshifting as it tails off.   

Nice car, very nice.  Stylish, different and not a BMW or Audi - and I'll accept the space sacrificed for the smart looks, thanks.

13 July 2012

Big S wrote:

I've found the auto box works extremely well

I didn't try the auto so I can't comment but what I did notice was that the auto version was getting on for 10mpg more thirsty that the manual. When some of the competition, particularly BMW can get better mpg from the auto, that just isn't good enough.

13 July 2012

It's a nice car, lovely interior. But I struggle to see it as a £25-30K car (after a couple of options are thrown in). Maybe 19K.

13 July 2012

Pity you cant have the 215 bhp version of the engine in this car, I m sure that would answer any power delivery problems

13 July 2012

Predictable review from Autocar towards this manufacturer.  It is also interesting to see how quickly they change their tone, as only recently Steve Cropley gave the D2 model four and a half stars (more than any A3 or 1 Series has achieved).  I don't know whether this is a case of Vicky Parrott being biased (which is quite possible, as she has never given a Volvo product a reasonable review before) or the publication having changed their mind as a whole about this car's potential to be 'class leading'.

It is frustrating to see that no matter how hard Volvo try, they don't upset the German arsenal in the eyes of the reviewers.  I think the best thing for people to do in general is to take whatever these road testers say with a pinch of salt. 

 

13 July 2012

Volvophile wrote:

Predictable review from Autocar towards this manufacturer.  It is also interesting to see how quickly they change their tone, as only recently Steve Cropley gave the D2 model four and a half stars (more than any A3 or 1 Series has achieved).  I don't know whether this is a case of Vicky Parrott being biased (which is quite possible, as she has never given a Volvo product a reasonable review before) or the publication having changed their mind as a whole about this car's potential to be 'class leading'.

It is frustrating to see that no matter how hard Volvo try, they don't upset the German arsenal in the eyes of the reviewers.  I think the best thing for people to do in general is to take whatever these road testers say with a pinch of salt. 

Have to say, I agree.  

"The creative adult is the child who survived."

13 July 2012

"Unfortunately, the Volvo V40 remains a car that you will buy because you want to be different rather than because it is the best of its kind".

I refuse to be a lemming and automatically flock to Audi, BMW, Mercedes or Volkswagen like others. I know and have known many owners of German cars, they are either unreliable, ugly, clinical, or undrivable in winter or heavy rain. Autocar seem to love German cars.... but I suppose that purely depends on how much they spend on advertising. Though I am sure Autocar wouldn't lower themselves to that level. Would they? The Audi and Mercedes advertising makes me think they would!


 

 

 

14 July 2012

Come on Volvophile you wouldnt happen to have a Volvo prejudice would you before casting aspersions at Autocar for a German prejudice .

I would also take a this car in preference to the German default options because it isnt German . Oh and Volvos also depreciate heavily so as a nearly new buy they offer a much better deal than the German competition .

I still think the sweetspot in the V40 range is the D2 though .

14 July 2012

Old Toad wrote:

Come on Volvophile you wouldnt happen to have a Volvo prejudice would you before casting aspersions at Autocar for a German prejudice .

That's the downside of having a username with 'Volvo' in it, I put myself up for these sort of responses.  In hindsight I was silly to choose it when I registered on this site over three years ago.

Quote:

I still think the sweetspot in the V40 range is the D2 though .

It depends what sort of driving you do.  If your motoring primarily consists of driving in towns and doing 7-8k miles a year, then no, the V40 D2 model would be a completely pointless buy (although Autocar continue to recommend diesels to the whole public anyway).  Not long down the line you will be receiving repair bills for the DPF among other things.

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