What is it?
Having spent the first half of the year making the S60 and V60 better cars, Volvo’s latest Drive-E powertrain family is now being offered in the smaller V40; the immediate effect of which is to turn the D4 model from a middling contender into a serious challenger.
With the new 187bhp 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine aboard, the car delivers 99g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds and 74mpg combined. That makes it every bit as parsimonious as a BMW 116d EfficientDynamics – and a shade quicker than a Volkswagen Golf GTD.
That’s with the standard six-speed manual gearbox (tested here); there’s also the option of Volvo’s new eight-speed Geartronic auto, which still manages 109g/km CO2 and 67.3mpg. The oil burner’s petrol-powered equivalent migrates too, making the latest T5 a presumably spirited 243bhp alternative.
What's it like?
Just like a V40 in most respects. It huddles round its new engine like an affluent Swedish uncle; plain-spoken, practical and accommodating in equally reassuring measure.
The ride is intermittently a little harsh, and we wouldn’t mind if it steered with a mite less stodginess, but overall it’s dependably pleasant.
That was sufficient to see it safely to 3.5 stars when road tested in 2012; two years on, and the car’s newfound ability to sweep you handsomely along produces a much more compelling prospect. Outright speed has its own charm of course, but it’s the diesel engine’s breadth of performance which impresses.
This is a V40 now more than capable of the quiet, effortless sort of brisk that its cabin deserves. Overtaking is utterly painless. The gear change and clutch are heavier to operate than a VW Group product, but not disappointingly so.
In fact, the extra heft seems appropriate when extracting ratio-long wheezes of front-wheel lunge in ‘I’m late for work’ mode.
It’s so spirited out of second gear in fact that you’ll occasionally find yourself merging at roundabouts sooner than you expected. Blame 295lb ft of torque from 1750rpm for that – although it’s also worth mentioning that despite the fluttering traction control light, the V40’s safety-first chassis rarely feels overawed by the abundant twist.
Nor the cabin overwhelmed by its presence; the traditional vibrations being absent at low speed, and engine noise thoroughly hushed up come 70mph. By then, only the trip computer will betray the oil burner; we rarely saw less than 50mpg returned, no matter how hard the Volvo was driven.
Should I buy one?
At £25,770 for the SE trim plus sat nav, Volvo isn’t giving the V40 away – but nor should it have to; this is a poker-faced rival for all the usual suspects.
Put simply, there is nothing else to compete with the D4’s mixture of duty-free status and real-world shove. There are better hatchbacks to drive, certainly, but you’d have to make that your primary concern to not think Volvo’s latest worthy of consideration.