Road Test: Volvo V40 D2 SE Lux
Sector: Lower Medium Price: £23,595 Fuel: 78.5mpg CO2: 94g/km
The V40 joins a rapidly changing premium C-segment, and like some of its rivals Volvo is plugging a large gap with its newcomer.
Until last year, buyers wanting a small Volvo were confined to the C30 and its booted S40 and estate V50 siblings. They’re by no means bad cars, but the range lacked the five-door hatchback version that makes up the vast majority of European C-segment sales.
The V40 is pitched squarely at filling this gap. So while it shares its platform and some of its engines with the C30 – Volvo’s modular engines and architecture are on the way – this feels like a very different car.
Still instantly recogniseable as a Volvo, this takes its design lead from the larger S60, V60 and XC60 both inside and out. The interior has taken huge strides forward, similar in design and materials to the plush S60, with silver-lined controls and the chronograph-style instrument cluster new to Volvo’s larger cars.
Featuring a frameless rear view mirror and the option to add an illuminated, transparent gearknob as found on the V60 Plug-in Hybrid and replace the instruments with a futuristic TFT screen, there’s evidence of thorough attention to detail throughout.
While the latter may sound gimmicky, it’s actually very useful, offering sport and economy-focused displays which let the driver know how efficiently they’re driving, or how much of the available power they’re using. It also adds to the upmarket, design-rich interior feel.
All of the bits which can be traced back to the C30 are positive. The 115bhp 1.6-litre D2 diesel engine is tried and tested with fleets, found in Ford, PSA and Mini models, and suits the V40 perfectly. It’s quiet, responsive and easily averages 60mpg on motorway trips – a little short of the claimed 78.5mpg, but the 94g/km CO2 emissions should keep tax bills down for the foreseeable future.
Ride quality is firm, particularly with the large wheels on the SE Lux, and the steering can feel a little slow to respond around town, but the V40 strikes a good balance between small car dynamics and solid large car stability. It’s a good car to drive.
Not all rivals offer a choice of sport and luxury-focused models at this end of the range, but the SE Lux trim is priced similarly to its rivals with the added bonus of the sector’s lowest non-hybrid CO2 emissions and standard-fit leather upholstery. Satellite navigation, at £1,200, is an expensive must-have, though, and residual values are still behind the German premium brands.
This was a vital model for Volvo to get right. The V40 brings their range in line with key rivals, but makes no attempt to feel Germanic in the process. Drivers with an eye for stylish details will love it, just as they did the unusual C30, and two extra doors mean Volvo has never had broader appeal in this sector.
The V40 has all the right ingredients to be a great premium hatchback – it drives well, it’s efficient and well-equipped too. Volvo’s biggest hurdle will be a sector which continues to get more competitive, joining newcomers such as a resurgent A-Class and low-tax CT 200h now joining established big-sellers.