Engine: 2.0-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual
Power: 150 PS at 3,500 rpm
Torque: 350 Nm at between 1,500 and 2,750 rpm
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 53.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 114 g/km
Top speed: 130 mph
Acceleration (0-62 mph): 9.6 seconds
The first British customers won’t get their hands on Volvo’s V40 until September but the Swedish manufacturer’s Golf-sized hatchback has already won plenty of favourable reviews. Most of the attention has so far focused on the entry-level D2 model, which, thanks to its economical 1.6-litre diesel engine, achieves exceptional results in official fuel consumption and CO2 emissions tests, and is expected to be the big seller of the V40 range.
But for some buyers, particularly those who aren’t slaves to the UK’s emissions-orientated company car taxation regime, there is another attractive option. The D3, which costs just £1,250 more thn the base car, has a five-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel engine, Volvo’s own, in place of the D2’s 1.6-litre which is bought in from Ford. The D2 is sweet, smooth and slightly slow but the D3 really peps the V40 up. The D3 has more outright shove, of course, with 150 horsepower as opposed to D2’s 115, but there’s more to it than that. The D3’s extra cylinder gives it a wonderfully throbby note that makes it sound sophisticated, characterful and expensive, a real plus and a rare one in a car of this size and price in an age of engine downsizing. On paper, it delivers its maximum power quite low down, at 3,500rpm, but in practice, it is very revvy for a diesel and even has a slightly sporty character. In fact, at a stretch, a V40 D3, with its fluent Ford Focus-derived chassis and appealing five-cylinder thrum might even be an interesting slow-motion substitute for fans of the last-generation Focus ST, which had a five-cylinder Volvo petrol engine that was ditched for the latest model.
The V40 range also encompasses a more powerful diesel, the D4, which has a 177 horsepower version of the 2.0-litre Volvo diesel, as well as turbocharged petrol engines, but none is as pleasant as the D2 or D3. What all V40s share, though, is Volvo’s most attractive shape in years, and well-judged spec and trim levels. Also standard across the range; Volvo-typical safety features such as the world’s first pedestrian airbag, which inflates from the trailing edge of the bonnet, and City Safety, a system that automatically stops the car at speeds of up to 19 mph in response to hazards not picked up by the driver. And the V40 also lives up to Volvo’s reputation for excellent ergonomics, with very good seats and a new TFT instrument display which can be switched between different layouts according to the driver’s mood.
Back in the 1980s, before the German prestige manufacturers started to extend their ranges downwards, Volvo had the market for small cars with premium badges to itself with the 340/360 series. That lead was dissipated when customers didn’t take to the 340/360’s successors and competition intensified, but the V40 is good enough to claw back quite a lot of lost ground, even in the face of new strong rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.