Volvo V40 first drive

Volvo V40 Volvo is aiming their new C-segment five door V40 hatchback fairly and squarely at premium car buyers and many will be those downsizing in these economically difficult times from, larger models.

These buyers still want all the gadgets and comfort but in a smaller package and lower running costs and if possible still with a posh badge.

The V40 replaces Volvo’s S40 and V50 ranges and the new line-up is pitched against the new Audi A3 Sportback, latest BMW 1 Series, new Mercedes A-Class, Lexus CT, new VW Golf as well as top specification models in the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra ranges.   Even with downsizing customers from D to C-segments, the family car sector is still a tough place to be and discounting is rife as manufacturers struggle to retain market share.

Volvo in the UK expect to sell around 2,500 V40s in the last four months of this year and 12,000 in a full year. They need the V40 to succeed as their UK sales are down by seven per cent so far this year. Their path to recovery could be the fleet and business user sectors and it is likely a large proportion of V40 customers will choose the D2 1.6-litre diesel variant with low CO2 emissions of 94g/km and so Benefit-in-Kind tax is 13 per cent. This engine with SE specification, seemingly the most sensible fleet car, sells for £21,595.

But there are currently 22 other variants in the V40’s line-up priced from £19,995 and more to come early next year.  The additional lines due in early 2013 are the flashy V40 R-Design costing from £22,295 and the V40 Cross Country compact 2WD SUV lookalike priced from £22,595.

Volvo V40 However the mainstay of the line-up will be the V40 five door hatchback and there is a wide range of turbocharged engine options, all with Start/Stop fitted as standard. There is a wide choice of engines with capacities from four cylinder 1.6-litre petrol and diesel to four cylinder 2.0-litre petrol and diesel and a five cylinder 2.0-litre diesel.  Petrol units are classified as T3 and T4 and diesel as D2, D3 and D4 which I find gives customers no idea of the engine capacity. What is a V40 D3?  Power outputs range from 115 to 180hp with CO2 emissions from 94 to 129g/km and because they are tax friendly in terms of emissions, company car drivers will enjoy the relatively low ratings of 13 to 16 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax.  There are ES, SE and SE Lux levels of specification and each of these can have the extra Nav level which of course is a sat/nav option.

I have just slotted myself behind the wheel of V40 D3 SE Nav manual priced at £24,045 and it in true Volvo traditions, even though the brand is now owned by the Chinese Geely automotive conglomerate, it is packed with safety equipment and indeed it is the safest car Euro NCAP has ever tested with it having the edge over others because of its pedestrian safety features including a cushioned bonnet.

Volvo V40 This version is powered by Volvo’s unique but aging, throaty sounding, 2.0-litre, five cylinder turbodiesel engine with the standard fit Stop/Start function and producing 150hp (148bhp) with meaty torque of 258lb ft from a low 1,500rpm.  Top speed is 130mph and zero to 62mph takes 9.6 seconds. The CO2 emissions are a relatively low 114g/km so road tax is £0 for the First Year rate and then only £30 per annum for the second year onwards.  This means company car drivers get away with 16 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax and officially fuel consumption is quoted as 65.7mpg for the Combined Cycle. Not realistic of course and my test car returned a more likely par for the course 51.2mpg for  my usual driving requirements of some motorways combined with country A/B roads and some stop/start commuter stints.  In standard form this unit, as fitted to my test car, has a six-speed manual gearbox but the gearchange is notchy and slow and the clutch lacked feel. For those who prefer an auto transmission, it would appear to be the better choice; there is a £1,485 six-speed auto option.

The quality of ride comfort is generally good because it is on soft and compliant side. But large potholes will still send shudders through the bodyshell and road noise is always an intrusion. Generally there is plenty of grip from the front driving wheels during cornering and the car feels well balanced but the steering is vague and lacks feedback.

Volvo V40 The V40 I think is the best styled model in their current range. It certainly has kerb appeal and it cannot be mistaken for anything other than a Volvo.  For safety requirements, including the pedestrian impact airbag under the bonnet there is a high chunky look at the front. The side styling has a rising waistline and a reducing coupe styled roof line and at the rear is a unique design of tailgate which looks like a version from the treatment given to the very pretty C30 coupe. Indeed it takes its rear end styling cues back further to the iconic Volvo P1800ES of the 1970s which is no bad thing but rear quarter visibility for the driver is not a strong point.  The falling roofline does lessen the headroom for rear seat passengers although knee and legroom is acceptable.  The boot isn’t that large either with 335-litres of space increasing to 1,032-litres with the seats folded. There is a £100 adjustable load floor option which is worthwhile having but it doesn’t get away from the fact that the V40 is limited for boot space something down-sizers will not appreciate.

Inside there are high quality materials, smart clean lines and very much in keeping with its Swedish brand values. There is the floating centre console introduced with the highly rated S60/V60 range button some of the buttons and controls are confusing and not easy to read, especially the audio and heating/ventilation controls. In typical Volvo style there is lots of safety equipment and airbags galore.  My car had radar controlled blind spot indicators, the collision warning full brake control function, adaptive cruise control with distance alert and self-parking function, all nice to have and no wonder it achieved the highest marks ever within the Euro NCAP five star rating. All other items of specification such as air conditioning, electrically operated windows and mirrors are of course included.

Volvo V40 There is no doubt the V40 is a quality product, but so are its main competitors. Traditional Volvo owners will love it, apart from the boot space, but I’m not sure that the high safety rating alone will be enough of a pull to get buyers away from choosing a competitor BMW or Audi model which just offer a better drive. There are some really good, brilliantly handling cars in this sector and I’m not convinced the Volvo V40 is going to lure the new and younger generation of premium brand car buyers away from the German competition.

MILESTONES. Volvo V40 D3 SE Nav 150 5-Door manual.  Price: £24,045. Engine/transmission:  2.0-litre, 5-cylinder, turbodiesel with Start/Stop 148bhp, 258lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 130mph, 0-62mph 9.6 seconds, 65.7mpg (51.2mpg on test), CO2 114g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £30 per annum, BIK company car tax 16%. Insurance group: 28 tbc. For: Smart styling inside and out, high quality, lots of safety equipment and highest ever Euro NCAP safety rating, low CO2 emissions so low taxes and good mpg. Against: Lack of feedback from the steering and clutch, notchy gearchange, rear seat headroom is limited, smallish boot.   Miles Better News Agency

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