2013 VOLVO V40 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small premium hatch
Engine/transmission: 187kW/360Nm 2.5 litre 5-cyl petrol / 6-speed auto
Price: $49,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.1 l/100km | tested: 10.3 l/100km
So, you’re looking for something compact, swift and a little tastier than the average hatchback?
Well, you’re in luck; never has the segment been so full of fresh, new contenders - all sharp at the wheel and with a strong focus on design and luxury.
Volvo brings its new V40 to the party. Having previously fielded a sedan, wagon and three-door in the category, this new car takes the place of all three.
At the top of the range the T5 packs Volvo’s strong in-line five-cylinder engine (you may remember it from the very rapid Ford Focus XR5) with the distinct sporty styling and handling upgrades of the R-Design pack.
The result is a worthy adversary from Volvo in the premium hatch category.
Quality: Top marks go to an interior that features rich materials, quality plastics and clever design. Soft-touch dash and door-trim plastics combine with elegant metal highlights for a high-class feel - topped off neatly by the novel LED-lit gear shifter.
Throughout, quality and attention to detail are evident.
Comfort: With electric adjustment, the front seats are easy to set, and in R-design specification, their sporty contours provided all the right support for my narrow frame.
Taller and wider passengers were also able to settle in comfortably.
In the rear, the sculpted outboard positions are just as habitable, but the swooping door-line means having to duck on entry. Once in, headroom isn’t too bad and there’s space for knees and feet.
Two-up, no worries; even three across is tight but ok, although the centre tunnel inhibits things.
Equipment: Standard T5 equipment includes power-adjustable front seats trimmed in suede-like Nubuck trim with perforated leather, dual-zone climate control, sports steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons, aluminium trim highlights, selectable ambient interior illumination and a frameless auto-dimming mirror.
There's also 18-inch alloy wheels, R-Design sports body kit with unique bumpers, sills and rear spoiler, TFT display digital instrument cluster, heated rear-view mirrors with powered folding, automatic lights and wipers and reversing camera with rear park sensors,
Infotainment (with seven-inch screen) includes navigation, MP3 playback, CD and DVD player, Bluetooth audio-streaming and eight speakers (upgradable to a premium system).
Storage: Boot space is a compact 335 litres, and loading up means having to lift over the relatively high load-lip. Rear seats fold 60:40 for extra space and there’s also underfloor boot storage.
Throughout the cabin there are plenty of storage nooks, also small door pockets and covered cup holders front and rear.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: As a unique point of difference, V40 is now the only contender offering a five-cylinder engine in the small-car class.
Different for the sake of it, perhaps, but that in-line-five turbo makes for a distinctive soundtrack and provides a gutsy 187kW at 5400rpm and 360Nm between 1800 and 4200rpm.
The sneaky thing is, due to its hushed and unruffled nature, the T5 is deceptively quick.
It’ll bolt away from the lights without fuss, and, because of the wide torque band, rapid rolling acceleration from any speed is just a flex of the right foot away.
For tackling hills and overtaking, confidence is absolutely assured.
Also a plus, the standard six-speed automatic transmission has its wits about it. Left in drive shifts are clean and subtle, while sport mode hustles things along with more aggression to the changes.
That said, it lacks the ‘zing’ of an Audi dual-clutch gearbox.
Refinement: Passengers are well insulated from any engine noise. Push hard and a little of the burbling exhaust note finds its way into the cabin, but it never intrudes.
Tyres are equally well muted, even on coarse tarmac. Wind noise was a little more noticeable on test, with the tops of the doors front and rear seemingly the culprit.
Suspension: R-Design equipped cars are lowered by 10mm and feature firmer dampers to compliment the MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension.
The ride is firm, but not bone-crunching; offering a terrific balance of sharp handling and urban ride comfort.
The missing link in the equation is the wooly electric power-steering. It just doesn’t provide the feedback or sharp turn-in to match the rest of the chassis.
Braking: Four-wheel disc brakes with vented front-rotors make short work of pulling the V40 up in emergency stops, but still offer a smooth and progressive pedal for use around town.
When braking autonomously though the optional adaptive cruise control, the deceleration is smoother than the sometimes over-eager intervention of other earlier systems.
ANCAP rating: 5-Star.
Safety features: Amongst the standard safety features are seven internal airbags (dual front, side and curtain, plus driver’s knee) as well as a pedestrian airbag that deploys from beneath the bonnet.
Front seatbelts feature load limiters and pretensioners, there are also height adjustable head restraints with whiplash protection in the front.
Volvo’s City Safety system is also standard, using a camera and radar to detect cars, pedestrians or solid objects in the vehicle’s path and braking to avoid them at speeds of up to 50km/h.
There are also a range of safety options including lane departure warning, road sign information,blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres with free roadside assist.
Service costs: V40 models include free scheduled servicing for three years/60,000km servicing, representing up to $2500 value depending on distance covered. Some conditions apply, consult your local Volvo dealer for full terms.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW 125i ($49,177) - Can’t match the power and torque of the V40, but comes with BMW’s terrific eight-speed automatic and peerless handling.
Acceleration to 100km/h is just 0.1 sec slower but claimed fuel consumption is markedly better. (see 1 series reviews)
Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport ($49,900) - A funky and high quality interior gives the Volvo a good run for its money, but power and torque are down.
Transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch providing crisp shifts, matched to an AMG fettled handling package. (see A Class reviews)
Dynamically the all-wheel-drive system of the R means it is better able to put its power down in all conditions, and the 2.0 litre turbo four feels more energetic when pushing on. (see Golf reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Despite its racey appearance, Volvo’s V40 T5 R-Design doesn’t fit the usual hot hatch mould. Think of it instead as more Gran Turismo in among the edgy small hatch ranks.
It’s loaded with Volvo’s impressive safety technology and premium comfort features.
And while the price may look high at first glance, the V40 T5 R-Design stacks up well against its logical competitors.
Those expecting a rude-riding, boosty turbo may need to adjust their expectations. Instead the V40 delivers refinement and comfort but with a very swift on-road streak for those who demand it.
Well worth consideration, and maybe just that little bit easier to get the other half to agree to.
Pricing (excluding on-road costs)
- D2 Kinetic $34,990 (manual only)
- D4 Kinetic $39,990 (man)
- D4 Kinetic $41,990 (auto)
- D4 Luxury $45,990 (auto only)
- T4 Kinetic $41,990 (auto only)
- T4 Luxury $45,990 (auto only)
- T5 R-Design $49,990 (auto only)