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Volvo V40 D2 SE Nav (2012 onwards)

Published: July 17, 2012 | 11:52 am
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Model: Volvo V40 D2 SE Nav
Bodystyle: five-door hatch
Engine: 1.6 D2 turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual
Date of test: July 2012

What is it?

Let’s start with what it’s not. The last V40 was an estate so was its successor, the V50, but this isn’t, it’s a five-door hatchback and it represents a move away from Volvo’s oddly contrary product planning of the past. For the first time in a long time, this is a compact Volvo that meets the challenge from BMW and Audi head on.

The D2 version of the V40 is the entry-level diesel model, equipped with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that’s destined to sell big thanks to sub-100g/km CO2 emissions and fuel consumption to shame your lawn mower.

Volvo V40 D2 (© Volvo)

Where does it fit?

In recent times, Volvos have tended to sidestep conventional market segments. The old S40 and V50 saloon and estate siblings were built on the same platform as the Ford Focus family hatch but were apparently set up to compete for business against larger compact executive models like the BMW 3 Series.

It was a similar between-the-lines tale for the Swedish brand’s larger S60 and S80 models but with this new V40 hatchback Volvo is directly squaring up to the German competition. Brave? Foolish? That depends on the V40s talents but it’s definitely about time.

The car’s a direct rival for five-door premium hatchbacks like the BMW 1 Series and Audi’s A3. The Lexus CT200h hybrid will be on its radar too as will the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and B-Class, but Volvo is also hoping to nab mainstream hatch owners who fancy moving upmarket. That means people currently driving a Focus, Astra or Golf.

Like the old S40/V50 model line it replaces, the V40 shares a platform with the current Ford Focus, a result of the car’s development cycle being well under way by the time Ford offloaded Volvo to Chinese manufacturer Geely.

The 115hp D2 model is expected to account for over 30% of total V40 sales and is the only four-cylinder diesel in the line-up, the D3 (150hp) and D4 (177hp) being of five-cylinder configuration.

Is it for you?

Historically, Volvo has been at its best when it offers an alternative to the German premium brands rather than following slavishly in their wake scoffing bratwurst in its metaphorical lederhosen. That’s why the V40′s focus on safety, Scandinavian design and comfort is so encouraging.

The car’s distinctive, sculpted shape is a breath of fresh air in a premium hatch sector that has grown conservative from a design perspective and inside there are adventurous styling touches aplenty.

Safety provision is predictably excellent. All V40s get the latest edition of Volvo’s CitySafety technology which can detect an impending front end collision with a car or pedestrian, applying the brakes to lessen its effects or prevent it completely.

There’s also the world’s first pedestrian airbag which explodes from under the bonnet to cushion hard-points at the front of the car in the event of a collision with a pedestrian. It’s ingenious stuff and full marks to Volvo for fitting all this as standard but it’s by no means the extent of the V40′s safety armoury. The options list is bristling with more leading edge kit from Lane Keeping Assist to the Blind Spot Information System, radar-guided cruise control and road sign recognition.

Prices open under £20,000 for the D2 in ES trim and are generally on a par with the V40′s German rivals but Volvo stresses that once the car’s generous standard equipment is taken into account, it has the edge on value-for-money.

Volvo V40 D2 (© Volvo)

What does it do well?

The V40′s links to the Ford Focus promise great things from a ride and handling perspective and for the most part, the Volvo delivers. It has a solid, weighty, reassuring feel on the road. At low speeds this can border on the cumbersome , compounded by a less than tight turning circle but once you get moving the suspension is firm but supple and the car is impressively composed.

The steering works particularly well and can be varied between three levels of electrical assistance. The quicker you go, the better it feels, relaying a good level of feedback through its rim.

As for the D2 engine, it might be the least powerful diesel offered but it’s smooth enough and turns in adequate performance across a wide power band. It will do 118mph all-in and feels perfectly at home cruising the motorways but a 0-60mph time of 11.7s reveals certain limitations.

It might be tempting to step up the more powerful D3 or D4 models but being lighter than these five-cylinder alternatives, the D2 engine actually gives the V40 a more nimble, responsive feel on the road.

Volvo V40 D2 (© Volvo)

What doesn’t it do well?

What you don’t get is the seductive five-cylinder snarl of the V40′s other diesel engines. Instead, pushing the revs higher just cranks up the volume on the D2′s dull roar. At high speed, there’s prominent tyre noise in the cabin too but take a more relaxed approach and refinement is pretty good.

The gearchange from the six-speed manual ‘box could be slicker and the plastic top section on the optional illuminated shifter feels (and looks) a bit cheap. That said, it’s bundled into an options package with the excellent TFT adaptable instrument display which is worth the £350 price tag alone. It’s clear, beautifully designed and can be set to different modes according to you driving style.

What’s it like to live with?

Volvo is rightly proud of its Scandinavian design heritage but while the exterior is hard to fault, the interior has its hits and misses.

While the aforementioned instrument cluster, the frameless rear-view mirror and the wide, well-cushioned seats are highlights, the centre console is basically the same design we’ve been seeing on Volvos for years. It looks quite stylish but the controls are small and confusingly laid-out. The indicator stalks are also drawn from the Volvo’s venerable parts bin and don’t quite work with the solidity you want.

Elsewhere you get a respectable 402-litre boot that has quite a narrow opening but is well designed. With the rear seats down, capacity increases to 1,032 litres and with the rear seats up, there’s rear passenger space that’s a match for the premium hatch rivals, if not the roomier mainstream alternatives.

Volvo V40 D2 (© Volvo)

How green is it?

With its 78.5mpg combined cycle economy and 94g/km emissions, the D2 is set to be the darling of the company car fraternity. It’s helped to those sparkling figures by a standard Stop/Start system that works very fluently.

Would we buy it?

It’s hard to imagine this car being anything other than a major success for Volvo. By not having a compact hatchback for so long, the Swedish marque has missed out completely on a crucial sector of the market but it’s here now and the V40 looks more than capable of making up for lost time.

The D2 model will be leading the charge and although its modest power output often prevents you getting the most from the V40′s talented chassis, in other situations it’s lightweight actually makes the driving experience preferable. As an all-round proposition, it’s probably the pick of the range and is definitely the destination for the majority of the fleet business that Volvo seems set to hoover up.

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