2013 Volvo V40 T4
Safe, sharp and sexy – this is the Volvo that’s going to change your mind
By Fraser Martin
Just let’s say at the outset that if any manufacturer invites the Press to test a new car in Italy generally, and in the area around Verona in particular, you can be reasonably assured that they are pretty bloody confident that the car is good. The roads to the north of Romeo and Juliet’s home city are spectacular and twisty, as they work their way up through the hills in a series of hairpins, and over towards the shores of Lake Garda. It’s a beautiful part of Europe, though tricky to see if you are pressing on.
And Volvo’s representatives on this event were right to be confident – the new V40, a premium 5-door hatchback, is such a departure from the ‘historical’ Volvo that it hardly seems like a Volvo at all. Sleekly designed and with just a hint of heritage, (aficionados of the marque will easily spot the P1800 kick line below the rear side window) the new car takes on a much more aggressive, though hardly threatening stance: it’s a big brother to the quirky C30, and much more mature.
Four years of work went into the chassis design and dynamics of this car (see earlier story: Interview with Joakim Rydholm) and boy, have they paid off. Pressing on through North Italy’s rollercoaster roads, you find yourself thinking Golf GTi. Turn-in is completely faithful, balance is brilliantly neutral and there is no hint of understeer, unless you are really pushing the envelope of your own ability. Volvo is aiming this car squarely at the 1 series BMW and in my view, they’ve got it right – and with better looking results.
There are three diesel engines on offer, none of which I drove, and two petrols. The launch car for the Middle East will have the smaller of these, a 1600 Turbo, mated to the slick 6-speed Powershift gearbox. Wait a minute, I hear you say, a 1600? Let me assuage any concerns you might have straight away: I have driven, and quite recently too, a number of 2-litre cars that would be left in the wake of this engine: it is perky, willing, and deceptively quick but suffers no turbo lag that I could detect. When I first drove it, I didn’t bother to check the badging or refer to my notes and was totally shocked to learn that it was not at least 2-litres! It is a cracker of an engine, and with the dynamic chassis it’s bolted to, a quite exceptional package in the normal way of things this size.
Being a Volvo, it is of course packed with active and passive safety gear – the handout in the Press kit on Safety features alone, ran to six densely packed pages, with more acronyms than you could shake a stick at: all the Volvo City Safety gear we are familiar with is there, with improvements in some areas.
There’s Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Information, Lane Keeping Aid (with a vibration in the steering wheel if you wander to far), Collision Warning and Adaptive Cruise Control, and another World First from Volvo, a pedestrian airbag which, should you be unlucky enough not to avoid running someone over, will pop up at the back of the bonnet and cover its trailing edge and two thirds of the windscreen, along with the A pillars. It is, quite frankly, brilliant, and you can expect this to start appearing in other cars in the not too distant future. The Volvo V40 is quite simply the most intelligent and safe car available.
Inside, the V40 features a still obviously Swedish Design feel, though the IKEA and Lego cleverness of much of the interiors of the past have been softened and disguised in new finishes, fabrics and fittings. It’s a very nice place to be in, this new car, and with the three-quarter length glass roof, remarkably airy. There’s loads of room in the back and with split folding rear seats, as well as hidden floor space in the boot, bags of room for clutter. In the usual way of Volvo accessories, you can order plenty of clever restraining straps, clips and fasteners for securing everything from a bicycle to your Grannie.
The car, due here in our region towards the end of February 2013, is a thoroughly good job and will wake a few competitors up a bit. It is a benchmark car for Volvo and marks a new direction without compromising on the manufacturers traditional values. I could only find one single niggle in the two days I drove it: like most front-wheel-drive Volvos, it does not enjoy a particularly tight turning circle but I’m sure that is something that a long term owner would learn to compensate for.
And talking of a long-term ownership proposition, those familiar with this reporter will know that if I am giving serious consideration to looking at the V40, when it comes, as the only worthy replacement for my trusty Honda Jazz, it must be a pretty good car, and well worth waiting for.
Prices have yet to be finalised, but the rumour mill suggests that ‘competitive’ will be the watchword.
Price: AED120,000 ($33k)
Engine: 1.6-litre, 180bhp @ 5700rpm, 177lb ft @ 1600-4000rpm + 22 overboost
Performance: 0-100kph 8.5 seconds, top speed 225kph, 6.2L/100km
Transmission: Six-speed auto, front-wheel drive