Volvo V40


Debut: 2012
Maker: Volvo
Predecessor: S40 / V50 (2004)



 Published on 6 Jul 2012 All rights reserved. 


Perhaps I am a little tired of German premium cars, I found the new Volvo V40 especially refreshing. Unlike the German, the Scandinavian interpretation of premium cars does not pretend to be luxury and sporty. Instead, its quality is revealed from the thoughtful design, such as a distinctive yet easy-going appearance, a natural-looking and highly ergonomical cabin, a driving dynamics that never sacrifices comfort and finally a socially responsible manner. While Audi, BMW and Mercedes are preferred by those desired to show their individual characters to others, Volvo drivers are satisfied to remain low-key while enjoying the true qualities of their cars. See the difference?

However, sporty is the market trend, and Volvo is not going to ignore it completely. In the recent S60, we saw how the Swedish manufacturer managed to bland a taste of sportiness into its traditional philosophy. Judging from the market reaction and motoring press verdicts, I would say it is a big success. The new V40 continues to develop in this direction, just in a smaller and less expensive package.



The V40 project started as far back as 2006, when Volvo was still a subsidiary of Ford. Like the last generation S40 / V50, it is derived from the Ford Focus platform – this time the C1. Volvo called its version P1 instead, but it is basically the same thing. Owing to financial constraints (as it was developed during the credit crunch while Ford was seeking to offload Volvo) the development program was delayed by 2 years, and its coverage was narrowed to a 5-door hatchback only. As a result, the existing S40 sedan will die without a replacement. The same can be said to the V50, too. Despite of the name V40, the new car is purely a family hatchback instead of a station wagon, so it is not going to be a direct replacement of V50. This will inevitably limit its exposure to the global market. The company said as much as 85 percent of the 90,000 V40s planned to be built annually will be sold in Europe, leaving a small fraction to overseas market like China, Japan and Australia. The lack of sedan version means USA and Canada are out of the scope. Considering China has been increasingly important to Volvo since its acquisition by Geely, will it build a 3-box version eventually? Maybe in longer term, but at the moment this is not in the plan.

Despite of its close connection to Focus, the small Volvo looks nothing like its cousin. Its exterior is far more tasteful. An especially long and slim nose contributes to an aerodynamic appearance, whereas Volvo's trademark stepped shoulders enhance the sense of rigidity. Some styling elements are said to be inspired by the classic P1800ES shooting brake of the 1970s, such as the kick at rear fender and the hexagonal tailgate (also like C30). However, even without knowing the history we can already tell it is a very handsome and distinctive design. If you like the driving dynamics of Ford Focus but hate its bulldog mouth, the V40 is probably the best solution. 



The V40 shares the same wheelbase with Focus, so it is not among the roomiest in the C-segment field, but compare with BMW 1-Series, Audi A3 and even the new Mercedes A-class the amount of space it offers is slightly more generous. Its 335 liters boot is average in the class, but it has an adjustable floor to split the luggage compartment into 2 levels – a nice touch that the German lack. Moreover, the rear seats fold flat to form a large loading area.

The Focus-derived chassis is benefited from a few revisions, including stronger piston rods at the MacPherson-strut front suspensions (to resist lateral force better), higher spec monotube dampers on the control-blade multi-link rear suspensions (for faster response) and a more rigidly mounted steering column (for uncorrupted steering). There is even a sport suspension option with stiffer setup and 10 mm lower ride height, but it is better to stick with the standard suspension as it provides a truly smooth and quiet ride that marks the V40 out of its German rivals as well as anything in the class. At the same time, it provides good body control, grip and agility like the Ford Focus. Moreover, it steers with even sharper response than its cheaper cousin. That makes the V40 both fun and comfortable to drive. It is really a surprising achievement to Volvo!


There is a wide range of engines to ensure you can find one suitable. Half of them come from Ford, such as the 1.6-liter Ecoboost (direct-injected turbo) engines with 150 hp (T3) or 180 hp (T4) and the PSA-sourced 1.6-liter turbo diesel with 115 hp (D2). They mate with either 6-speed manual or Ford's Powershift twin-clutch gearbox. The rest of the engines are all Volvo's trademark 5-cylinder units, including the 2.5-liter turbo petrol with 254 hp (T5) and 2.0-liter turbo diesel with either 150 hp (D3) or 177 hp (D4). The T5 mates with 6-speed Geartronic automatic only, while the diesels are available with both the 6-speed manual and Geartronic.

As much as we love the characterful noise and extra punch of five-pot engines, they make the V40 a little nose-heavy and less agile. There is also a bit torque steer if you rush the power to the front wheels. Therefore the 180 hp T4 is our pick of the bunch. It is flexible, smooth and willing to rev, as we found on many Ford models, and suits the refined character of V40. Performance is quite brisk, too, with 0-60 mph achievable in 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph. That said, the best selling engine is likely to be the 115 hp 1.6 diesel. It might lack bottom-end response – something exaggerated by long gearing, but once you rev it beyond 1800 rpm it becomes usefully gusty. All engines get automatic stop-start function and a smart alternator for brake energy regeneration, but the 1.6 diesel is clearly the greenest, posting a spectacular 78.5 mpg in combined cycle and only 94 grams of CO2 per kilometer! That is even greener than BMW 116d EfficientDynamics and Mercedes A180CDI.



The green credential shows Volvo's commitment to social responsibility. The same goes for its sophisticated safety technologies. Ordinary cars – even as safe as Mercedes – protect only their occupants, but the Volvo extends its protection to pedestrians. Its City Safety collision avoidance system can brake the car to stop if its radar and camera detect a pedestrian step in the way and is predicted to be hit. This work with the car travelling at up to 31 mph (50 km/h) thus could avoid the majority of pedestrian collisions happened in busy urban area. At higher speed where collision is unavoidable, the V40 has an innovative pedestrian airbag that inflates from the trailing edge of the bonnet – which pops up slightly in a fraction of a second – so to cushion the pedestrian from hitting the hard points of the car. The V40 is set to be the first car that get praised by non-motorists.

The cabin of V40 is a good example of Scandinavian design, being tasteful yet functional. It is not terribly rich of expensive materials, but the plastics are high quality and various places are nicely decorated with chromed surrounds. As usual, the whole environment looks clean and tidy. Controls are well positioned and easy to use. The thin "floating console", which made its first appearance 8 years ago on the last S40, returns with a classier finish. The storage cubby behind the console complements the otherwise lack of storage spaces. Another stylish touch is a frameless rear-view mirror, which shows its great attention to details. Equally outstanding is the new (optional) TFT instrument, which offers a choice of 3 themes (Elegance, Performance and Eco), each with different color, layout and information displayed. This makes the V40's cabin more interesting than its German rivals. As expected, Volvo's seats are comfy and excellent for long-distance travel. There is really nothing to complain about its cabin.



All in all, the new V40 is a remarkable product. Stylish, tasteful, practical, comfortable, well-built, dynamically accomplished and socially responsible, it is as great a premium hatchback can be. It makes the new Audi A3 boring and BMW 1-Series horribly ugly. If anything it lacks, that must be the keener pricing of the half-premium Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Volkswagen Golf. If you think yourself deserve a premium brand, then nothing could be better than this one.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
V40 D2
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4369 / 1802 / 1420 mm
2647 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1560 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
115 hp
199 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: control-blade multi-link
-
205/55R16
1401 kg
118 mph (c)
11.7 (c)
-
V40 D4
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4369 / 1802 / 1420 mm
2647 mm
Inline-5, diesel
1984 cc
DOHC 20 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
177 hp
295 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: control-blade multi-link
-
205/50R17
1498 kg
134 mph (c)
7.8 (c)
-
V40 T4
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4369 / 1802 / 1420 mm
2647 mm
Inline-4
1596 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
180 hp
177 lbft (overboost 199 lbft)
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: control-blade multi-link
-
205/50R17
1399 kg
140 mph (c)
7.3 (c)
-




Performance tested by: -





AutoZine Rating

General models



    Copyright© 1997-2012 by Mark Wan @ AutoZine