In the ever more popular segment of premium hatchbacks Volvo has a distinctly beautiful contender up its sleeve: the V40. We personally find it one of the most stylish cars in its class, both inside and out. But there is more. Volvo's are super safe, offer excellent seating comfort and are very inspiring to drive. We tested this Volvo with the very clever Powershift transmission, in combination with the very willing and frugal 115 hp Diesel engine. A very pleasant combination, just read further...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The Volvo V40 is styled with a masterful hand. The front end makes good use of the design freedom offered by the fact that the Volvo V40 sports a pedestrian airbag, and the shape of the grille and the sleek looking lower position has everything to become a design classic.
We also like the high and bold shoulder line, the upward sweeping sides, finishing in a very distinctive and harmonious rear treatment. This rear end gives the V40 a coupé like aura, incorporating also very tastefully the typical Volvo tail light shapes, which creates a typical and stylish Volvo lighting signature at night.
The inspiring scandinavian styling hallmarks are also found back in the interior. The instrument cluster and dashboard has sweeping and bold lines, and the "floating" centre console is also a styling element which we liked very much.
The seats are also beautifully shaped, and what's more, offer excellent support and comfort. Volvo has a decades long tradition here, and also earns very high marks with the V40. Volvo also focused on the rear seats, and positioned the outer seats slightly towards the centre, offering better forward vision to these passengers.
Rear passenger room is adequate, with somewhat less room left for the centre rear passenger.
What we also appreciated the inspiring electronic TFT instrument lay-out, where the driver has the choice between an "elegant" , "eco" and last but not least "sporting" mode. In keeping with the "feel" of the car, the responsiveness of the engine, chassis and gearbox, we selected more than often the "sporting" mode...
Driving pleasure and dynamics
Volvo's have always been true drivers' cars, and the V40 is no exception. The car steers with eagerness and precision into corners, driving it with verve on curving roads is a pleasant exercise.
Suspension is well balanced, offering a good compromise between comfort and surefooted handling. Volvo made good use of the Focus chassis, which is the platform of the V40. The car is also quite comfortable, and marvellously stable and quiet at high motorway speeds
Controls and steering wheel lie nicely into hand, thanks to the excellent ergonomics and seating position.
Adding to the driving pleasure are the very willing 115 HP (88 Kw) 1560 cc Diesel engine and the superb Powershift gearbox. With its excellent torque characteristics, the engine develops quite enough pulling power in any situation, greatly helped by the timely action of the gearbox.
The two units are very well matched to each other, resulting in a continuous and impressive power flow, which makes the car very dynamic in terms of performance and one hardly ever feels the need for more power. The maximum power is produced at 3600 rpm, and this makes it subjectively a VERY powerful engine in everyday use.
Torque is a healthy 270 Nm between 1750 and 2500 rpm, and the gearbox manages quite well to stay within this rev range when asked for power. Changes of this double clutch gearbox - which Volvo developed together with Getrag - are smooth and do not interrupt the power flow. The transmission functions like two parallel gearboxes. There are two wet clutches which function independently from each other. One clutch takes on the odd gears, while the second clutch handles the even gears.
The two clutches operate alternately, one engaging while the other disengages. A hydro-electrical unit operates the two clutches, ensuring that one clutch is shut while the other is open and vice versa. The fact that we have wet clutches here allows the gearbox to take up high torque loads, up to 450 Nm.
In the sporting display mode, the meter right to the central rev counter/speedometer indicaates the available extra power in any given situation...
Performance of the V40 D2 is therefore rather brisk, with the sprint from 0 to 100 absolved in a good 12 seconds, reaching a top speed of 190 kph. Like we said before, subjectively, the car feels even more powerful, with good power always being at hand under all driving situations.
The engine note is barely audible at constant speeds, rather more so under acceleration, without however ever becoming obtrusive.
Our test car proved quite frugal with an average consumption of 5,1 litres/100 km, which we find rather impressive, considering the car weighs 1,5 tonnes. C02 emissions are quoted by the manufacturer as being 102 g/km. We have to admit that – and this is true for all our tests – our driving style is quite “economic”, always anticipating as much as possible, avoiding strong accelerations and braking, coasting when we can…
Of course we should mention the many safety features of the car, offering not only pedestrian protection for example, but also emergency braking in city traffic situations, amongst a host of other things.
Already in the “Base” version, the Volvo V40 offers the famous City Safety system, with laser technology, preventing collisions at less than 50 km/h.
An airbag for pedestrians, a knee-airbag for the driver, SIPS airbags, integrated in the front seats, inflatable curtains, whiplash protection system, ABS with electronic brake force distribution, EBA (Emergency Brake Assistance) -
RAB (Ready Alert Brakes), DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) with Advanced Stability Control, Corner Traction Control en Engine Drag Control.
Last but not least we have also Hill Start Assist (HSA)…
For 2.000 Euro one can opt in Belgium for example for the Advanced Safety Pack, containing the so called BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) including Cross Traffic Alert & Lane Change and Merge Aid.
It also includes Collision Warning with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Full Autobrake en Adaptive Cruise Control, which in combination with the automatic gearbox is operational at all speeds.
One also gets the so-called Driver Alert System, a comfort system based on camera technology. This contains active headlamps, which prevents glaring, Road Sign Information (road sign recognition system), Driver Alert Control (warning system when loss of concentration is detected), Lane Keeping Aid (steering correction when car is veering off the road)
The V40 handles and drives quite well, looks very good, offers outstanding ergonomics, seating comfort and has an upmarket cabin "feel". A car to drive and live with, and truly enjoy, so much is certain. In fact, a true Volvo...
Hans Knol ten Bensel