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Road Test: Volvo V40 D3 R-Design Nav Plus

By / 4 years ago / Road Tests / No Comments

Volvo’s volume seller remains a good choice, but it’s starting to show its age, reckons Alex Grant.

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SECTOR: Lower Medium PRICE: £26,785 FUEL: 74.3mpg CO2: 101g/kmThere’s a revolution happening at Volvo; a change marked by the arrival of striking new products such as the S90, V90 and XC90 both in showrooms and becoming increasingly visible on the roads. Good news for those in the market for an executive car, but it does pose challenges elsewhere.

The V40 is Volvo’s biggest-selling car in the UK. In 2016 – a record year – it accounted for more than a third of the 46,696 units sold here, just ahead of the XC60. This was the car that finally gave Volvo a five-door hatchback to rival the likes of the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class back in 2012, and five years on it’s still an important part of the range.

But it’s the last new launch of an old generation of products. The V40 is an evolution of the C30, which was developed under Ford ownership. Though it’s now using Volvo’s engines and gearboxes, and the mid-life update last year added the LED “Thor Hammer” headlights to match its newest stablemates, there’s no hiding the massive generation gap that’s appearing.

That’s not to say it’s a bad car, or devoid of desirability. It drives neatly and, in R-Design guise, with its sporty bodykit, large two-tone wheels and comfortable R-branded part-leather bucket seats, it has plenty of car park presence too. The cabin feels solidly put together, albeit not particularly roomy in the back, the digital instrument cluster and frameless rear-view mirror are still neat design touches five years on, and autonomous city braking is standard equipment too.

The 2.0-litre D3 diesel tested here produces 148bhp, which puts it in line with the user-chooser volume in this segment, and the V40 is both more fuel-efficient than its closest competitors and lower priced, even with the £1,800 uplift for the Nav Plus version tested here. This adds business essentials such as satellite navigation, cruise control and rear parking sensors – Volvo’s Sensus system also includes internet-connected navigation, apps and music streaming.

It’s not without frustrations, though. The infotainment screen is tiny and it’s not overly intuitive to use, burying features in menus accessed via a single control knob. Occupants also aren’t very well insulated from the gravelly diesel noise at low speeds and while accelerating, and the manual handbrake lever (remember those?) is large and badly positioned. You never really get away from the hallmarks of a car that’s older than it first appears.

Of course, everything new from Volvo bodes well for this car’s replacement, and in the meantime the V40 is a solid choice, despite lacking the wow factor of its newest stablemates. The biggest potential snag it faces is the forthcoming XC40 – a crossover on the latest Volvo platform, with the newer technology, styling and interior finishes. That’s the point where potential V40 customers might stop having to aspire to the brand’s latest products, and start actively looking elsewhere in the range.What we think:

Objectively there’s nothing really wrong with the V40; it still looks modern, drives well and it’s a competitive option in this segment. But it’s fairly obvious from Volvo’s new generation of cars that whatever replaces it will leave this version feeling very dated.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.