What's it like?
Based on our short drive, superbly capable.
Waiting in line for the start of our run up the hill, it was impressive just how quiet the T5 engine is. It feels smooth as we pull up to the line, and as the marshall lifts his hand for the off there's a surge of acceleration after a slight – but noticeable – pause as the eight-speed transmission selects its first gear. This car can reach 60mph in six seconds, faster than a 1.8-litre TFSI Audi A3 quattro and just quicker than the BMW 118i Sport.
The engine doesn't feel hurried though and even as it approaches the red line it doesn't sound particularly strained. The automatic transmission does a good job of selecting the right gear, and in Sport mode there's a noticeable decrease in cog-change speed. We'd like to see wheel-mounted paddle shifters added as standard, just like you'll find in the new V60 Polestar, rather than as an option - and without them the manual override seems a little pointless. Fortunately, the gearing seems to be well spaced and the car is rarely lost for pace.
At the end of the run – in considerably more time than Nick Heidfeld's record-breaking climb in 1999 – the V40 settles down to an idle, coasting happily along at close to 1500rpm.
In terms of handling, the V40 feels agile but never unsettled. Its electrically assisted steering is light and accurate, and despite clocking in at 1447kg (52kg heavier than the BMW and 120kg more than the Audi) it moves along the road with polished ease. In short, it feels exactly as a premium hatchback should to drive.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely. This is a premium Volvo with a newly refined engine, and even after a short drive we're confident the Swedish car maker is on to a winner. There's more good news, too, because Volvo eventually wants to replace its entire bought-in engine line-up with Drive-E units.
For your money you'd be getting a well-equipped, good-looking and economical car. Volvo says the new model can achieve up to 47.9mpg on a combined cycle – and up to 58.9mpg on the motorway – coupled with C02 emissions of 137g/km.
There are very few drawbacks. You could find fault with an interior which, while feeling solid and well made, is beginning to look a little aged. Swap that button-festooned centre console and display for a touchscreen and the Volvo V40 could become a class-leading hatchback.
Volvo V40 Drive-E T5
Price £31,900; 0-62mph 6.3sec; Top speed 149mph; Economy 47.9mpg; CO2 137g/km; Kerb weight 1447kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1969cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol; Power 242bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 1250-4800rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic