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Volvo V40 D3 SE Nav

Click to view picture galleryVolvos new five-door hatchback,
V40, will appeal to premium car
particularly those down-
  sizing from larger models who want
  all the gadgets and comfort only in a
  smaller package with lower running
  costs and wearing a posh badge...

THE V40 REPLACES VOLVO'S S40 AND V50 ranges and is pitched against the latest Audi A3 Sportback, new BMW 1 Series, recent Mercedes A-Class, Lexus CT, and new VW Golf, as well as top spec Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra models.

A large proportion of V40 customers are likely to choose the D2 1.6-litre diesel variant —
it comes with sub-100g/km CO2 emissions (of just 94g/km) which, for business users, keeps Benefit-in-Kind tax at a low 13%. This engine, and with SE trim, costs 21,595 and will definitely make the most sensible fleet car.

However, there are currently 22 other variants in the V40 line-up with prices from 19,995 —
and more to come early in 2013. The additional models due are the top-trim V40 R-Design and the V40 Cross Country 2WD SUV lookalike.

“Officially the Combined
Cycle consumption
is quoted as 65.7mpg —
over a mix of roads my
V40 returned a
more likely par for the
course of 51.2mpg
The mainstay models are fitted with a wide range of turbocharged engines and all are equipped with Start/Stop as standard. Four-cylinder engines come in both 1.6 and 2.0-litre capacities (petrol and diesel) plus there's also a 2.0-litre five-cylinder diesel. Power outputs start at 113bhp and top out at 177bhp; emissions are between 94 and 129g/km.

And the tax-friendly emissions across the range mean company car drivers will enjoy relatively low BIK ratings of 13 to 16%. Equipment levels are ES, SE and SE Lux, and with each of these customers can tick the options box for the 'Nav' level which, of course, adds SatNav.

I've just driven a 24,045 SE Nav V40 D3 with a manual gearbox. In true Volvo tradition —
even though the brand is now owned by the Chinese Geely automotive conglomerate — this model is packed with safety equipment and indeed it is the safest car Euro NCAP has ever tested. Its pedestrian safety features (including a cushioned bonnet) are an added bonus.

This version is powered by Volvo's unique —
but ageing — throaty-sounding 2.0-litre, five-pot turbodiesel unit with standard-fit Stop/Start. It produces 147bhp (150PS) allied to muscular torque of 258lb ft from 1,500rpm; top speed is 130mph; zero to 62mph takes 9.6 seconds. CO2 emissions are 114g/km so road tax is 0 for the first year and then only 30 per annum in subsequent years. And company car drivers get away with paying 16% Benefit-in-Kind tax.

Officially the Combined Cycle fuel consumption is quoted as 65.7mpg. Not realistic, of course —
my test car returned a more likely par for the course 51.2mpg over a mix of roads; some motorways combined with country A/B roads and some stop-start commuter stints.

“Generally there is plenty
of grip from the front
driving wheels during
cornering and the car
feels well balanced
In standard form this unit is fitted with a six-speed manual 'box but the gearchange is notchy and slow and the clutch lacks feel. For those who prefer an auto (it would appear to be the better choice) you'll need to pay an extra 1,485 for a six-speed automatic transmission.

The V40's quality of ride comfort is generally good — on the soft and compliant side. However, large potholes will still send shudders through the bodyshell and road noise is always an intrusion. Generally there is plenty of grip from the front driving wheels during cornering and the car feels well balanced although the steering is a tad vague and lacks feedback.

Looks-wise I think this new V40 is the best styled model in Volvo's current range. It certainly has 'kerb appeal' and it cannot be mistaken for anything other than a Volvo.

For safety requirements (including the pedestrian impact airbag under the bonnet) there's a high, chunky look at the front. The side styling has a rising waistline and a reducing coupe-styled roofline, while bringing up the rear is a unique design of tailgate which looks similar to the treatment given to the very pretty C30 coupe. Indeed, it takes its rear-end styling cues back further —
to the iconic Volvo P1800 ES of the 1970s (which is no bad thing) but rear-quarter visibility for the driver is not a strong point.

The falling roofline does lessen the headroom for rear seat passengers although knee and legroom is acceptable. The boot isn't that large either, with 335 litres for luggage, but with the seats folded this increases to 1,032 litres. There's a 100 adjustable load floor option which is worthwhile having but it doesn't get away from the fact that the V40 is limited for boot space

“The V40 is true to the
Volvo safety tradition
with lots of safety
equipment and airbags
galore — no wonder it
achieved the highest
marks ever within
the Euro NCAP
five-star rating
Inside there are high quality materials, smart clean lines and it's all very much in keeping with its Swedish brand values. There's the so-called 'floating' centre console first introduced with the highly-rated S60/V60 range even though some of the buttons and controls are confusing and not easy to read, especially the audio, heating and ventilation controls.

The V40 is true to the Volvo safety tradition with lots of safety equipment and airbags galore. My car also had radar controlled blind spot indicators, the collision warning full brake control function, adaptive cruise control with distance alert, and the self-parking function — all reassuring to have. No wonder it achieved the highest marks ever within the Euro NCAP five-star rating. All other items of specification such as air conditioning, power windows and mirrors are included.

However, there are some really good, brilliantly handling cars in this sector and I'm not convinced the Volvo V40 is going to lure the new and younger generation of premium brand car buyers away from the German competition.

Against? Lack of feedback from the steering and clutch, notchy gearchange, rear seat headroom is limited, and a smallish boot.

But on the plus side you do get smart styling inside and out, high quality, lots of safety equipment and the highest-ever Euro NCAP safety rating, low CO2 emissions, low motoring taxes and 50+mpg.

While I'm not sure that the high safety rating alone will be enough of a pull to get buyers away from choosing a better-driving competitor BMW or Audi, there's no doubt the V40 is a quality product and (apart from the boot space) traditional Volvo owners will love it. —
David Miles

Volvo V40 D3 SE Nav | 24,045
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 9.6 seconds | Overall MPG: 51.2mpg
Power: 147bhp | Torque: 258lb ft | CO2 114g/km