Volvo V40 D2

 

Price: £19,745
Engine: 1,560cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbodiesel, 115bhp
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance:118mph, 0-62 in 11.7sec, 78.5mpg, CO2 94g/km

What is a Volvo? Solid, square, safe. That was the stereotype at one time, although in the 1980s and 1990s there were some wonderfully subversive variations on this theme with mad turbocharged engines and remarkable pace. Then Volvo went all Scandi style, playing down the safe and sensible because by then it was a given – but its new "sporty" veneer was not borne out by the driving experience. Now Volvo is owned by the ambitious Chinese car-maker Geely, but the Swedish company still buys in some components and expertise from former owner Ford. The first product from the new era is the V40 you see here, the company's first five-door hatchback since the 440 of 1988.

The V40 is quite curvy. But they are mainly tight, spare curves, and the effect is both modern and convincingly Volvoid. The thick "shoulders" contain a scooped-out section below the rear side windows meant to evoke a similar motif on the old P1800 coupé, Roger Moore's chosen transport as Simon Templar in The Saint, while beyond the tapering window outline is a striking, zig-zagging tail-light. These rear lights book-end a deep rear window redolent of that found in the 1800 ES, the sporting- estate version of Templar's car.

Inside, the look is typically Volvo, with simple, clean shapes and an almost Audi level of tactile satisfaction. So far, then, the maker's identity is very clear. Under the skin, though, the V40 is a close relative of the Ford Focus just as the outgoing C30 (coupé), S40 (saloon) and V50 (estate car) all were. The V40 is deemed both racy enough and practical enough to replace all three.

Close Focus relative it might be, but how the V40 feels to drive is the work of Volvo's own engineers. More robust front suspension struts and detailed recalibration of the electric power-steering give a crisper, more transparent and more natural steering feel, and the V40 also rides a little more fluently than the Focus, and the way the car interacts with its driver makes it a great companion on a twisty mountain road.

That's if powered by one of the four-cylinder engines, at least. The most parsimonious of these is the D2 turbodiesel with 1.6 litres, 115bhp, as little as 94g/km CO2 and a smooth, willing if not ultimately very energetic gait, matched to a precise and easy six-speed gear change. Otherwise there are two 1.6-litre, turbocharged petrol engines with 150 or 180bhp, named T3 and T4; I drove the latter, with its optional double-clutch automatic, and it proved enjoyably vigorous.

Volvo has stayed with its characteristic five-cylinder engines for the more powerful diesel V40s, two 2.0 litre units with 150bhp or 177bhp and D3 or D4 tags. The automatic D4 I drove was not great, partly because the heavier engine takes away some of the delicacy but, worse, the automatic gearbox option is matched badly to the engine. The initial accelerator response is too violent, making the transmission surge and smooth driving almost impossible.

Safety kit includes the world's first pedestrian airbag, which raises the back of the bonnet and cushions the base of the windscreen, and an improvement to the City Safety system, which can automatically stop the V40 from up to 31mph if it detects an obstruction ahead.

Before I drove the new Volvo V40 I thought it would be competent but forgettable. I was wrong; it's much better than that, and the way it handles bends and bumps might just be best in class.

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Portfolio Analyst - Prince2

    £45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client, a glob...

    Project Co-ordinator - Birmingham - Permanant

    £20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    Head of Maths

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Head of Maths position at a prestigious ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week